ANAHEIM -- He imposed his dominance early, unleashing a lethal barrage of sizzling fastballs and diving splitters that rendered the A's hitters helpless. Matt Joyce, Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie all went down swinging in the breezy first inning, a trio of strikeout victims that signaled the beginning of more
ANAHEIM -- He imposed his dominance early, unleashing a lethal barrage of sizzling fastballs and diving splitters that rendered the A's hitters helpless. Matt Joyce, Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie all went down swinging in the breezy first inning, a trio of strikeout victims that signaled the beginning of more magic from a 23-year-old rookie phenom who continues to captivate the baseball world with his seemingly bottomless fountain of talent.
And so began Shohei Ohtani's first start on the mound at Angel Stadium, an outing in which he flirted with perfection and once again asserted himself as the Japanese incarnation of Babe Ruth. Ohtani retired the first 19 batters before Semien singled with one out in the seventh to break up his bid for a perfect game. Ohtani then walked Lowrie on four pitches, but it proved to be the extent of the damage against him.
"I was conscious of the no-hitter, but I wasn't really thinking about the perfect game," Ohtani said. "I figured they were going to get a hit sooner or later. Once I gave up that hit, I was going to react and try to reset everything."
He did, racking up 12 strikeouts over seven brilliant innings to headline the Angels' 6-1 win over the A's in their series finale on Sunday afternoon. Ohtani allowed only one hit, walked one and threw 91 pitches (59 for strikes), extending the incredible run of success he's enjoyed as both a pitcher and hitter during the Angels' first 10 games of 2018.
"Amazing," Angels catcher Martin Maldonado said. "He was nasty."
Eight of Ohtani's 12 strikeouts came via his devastating splitter, whose nastiness Maldonado could only compare to Zack Greinke's slider. His fastball averaged 96.6 mph, and it hummed with more ferocity as the game wore on, topping out at 99.6 mph. Ohtani induced 25 misses over 44 swings overall for an eye-popping 57 percent miss rate.
"He had the stuff, I feel, to go the whole way," infielder Zack Cozart said. "It didn't look like they had a chance up there, the way he was throwing. They got the hit, but it didn't diminish how he pitched. He was lights out."
Every A's batter except for Jonathan Lucroy struck out at least once against Ohtani, who wasn't tested until Oakland managed to put a pair of runners on in the seventh. Still, Ohtani worked out of the jam by inducing a groundout from Khris Davis and striking out Matt Olson swinging on a splitter to cap his outing.
Ohtani was visibly fired up after finishing the inning, pumping his fist as he walked off the field with the Angels leading, 6-0. He received a standing ovation from the 44,742 fans in attendance, the largest regular-season day game crowd at Angel Stadium since it underwent renovations in 1998.
"I wasn't sure if that was my last batter or not, but I had two guys in scoring position, and I wanted to keep a clean zero on the board," Ohtani said. "One hit would be two runs, and that's a huge difference. I wanted a strikeout, and I got it."
Asked if it was the best game he ever pitched, Ohtani joked that he'd peaked at a much younger age.
"Probably my best outing ever was when I was in elementary school," he quipped.
Sunday marked Ohtani's second victory against the A's, whom he also defeated with six strong innings in his pitching debut at the Coliseum one week ago.
"He looked even better today," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's got a deliberate delivery, and it makes his fastball play even better. And he has a really good [split-finger fastball]. The difference in speeds between his split and his fastball and when he locates his split down in the zone, it's very tough to pick up."
Superlatives almost feel inadequate to describe what Ohtani has accomplished over his first week in the Majors. He is now 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over his first two pitching appearances, and he's been equally impressive at the plate, going 7-for-18 and homering in three consecutive games as the Angels' designated hitter.
Ohtani is the first Major League player with two wins and three home runs in his team's first 10 games since Jim "Grunting Jim" Shaw for the Washington Senators in 1919. Ohtani admitted that he's surprised even himself with his run of early success.
"Especially how my Spring Training went, I wasn't really imagining being this good, to be honest," Ohtani said. "But I feel better every day. I feel like I'm getting more used to everything more and more each day. It's just the first week. Everything went well, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to hit a wall somewhere on the road. Once I hit that wall, then that's where I need to start working harder and figure out how to get past that wall."
That might very well happen, but until it does, the Angels and the rest of the world are more than happy to enjoy the Sho.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.