Everyone thought Ohtani had completed historic cycle. Until ...

In shakiest start of the season, two-way superstar still nears never-before-seen feat

April 28th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- It takes a special kind of player to be on perfect game watch as a pitcher and on cycle watch as a hitter in the same game.

But it’s exactly what two-way superstar did in the Angels’ 8-7 victory over the A’s at Angel Stadium on Thursday afternoon, as he opened his outing with three perfect innings and fell just a few feet short of becoming the first player since 1888 to hit for the cycle in the same game he pitched on the mound, per Elias Sports Bureau. He had to settle for picking up his fourth win of the season despite giving up five runs over six innings, while going 3-for-5 with a single, a double and a triple at the plate.

Angels manager Phil Nevin admitted he had both the perfect game and the cycle on his mind after the third inning, when Ohtani was 2-for-2 with an infield single followed by an RBI double and had retired the first nine batters he faced, including five by strikeout.

“Those three innings, he was dominating, and it was the best three innings I’ve seen in a long time,” Nevin said. “I’ll be honest, after the third inning -- after he had the single and double -- it started entering my mind. And almost a perfect game and a cycle. You’re thinking those things every time he’s out there. It’s not out of the realm.”

Ohtani came to the plate with one out in the eighth and the chance to make history, as the last player to hit for the cycle and pitch in the same game was Jimmy Ryan of the Chicago White Stockings, who pitched in relief and hit for the cycle against the Detroit Wolverines on July 28, 1888.

Ohtani ripped a first-pitch slider to deep right-center, but Esteury Ruiz made the catch on the warning track to keep him from recording his second career cycle and just the 15th natural cycle in AL/NL history. The fans thought it was gone, but Ohtani and everyone in the Angels’ dugout knew based on the sound off the bat that it wasn’t going to be enough.

“It was off the end, so I knew it wasn’t gone off the bat,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I just wish it would have gone out, because we had runners on base. That’s all I was thinking about.”

Ohtani said he was pleased with the way he’s been feeling at the plate recently, as he went 2-for-5 with a homer on Wednesday and is slashing .278/.343/.526 with six homers, four doubles and 17 RBIs in 25 games this year. The last starting pitcher to fall a homer short of the cycle was Astros right-hander Danny Darwin in 1987.

“I actually felt the best I’ve felt all year at the plate,” Ohtani said. “I gave up those five runs, but [I] still felt pretty good, pitching-wise. Overall, it was a good day.”

Ohtani looked unhittable through the first three frames. But after the Angels put up five runs in a lengthy third inning, he surprisingly lost his command in the fourth, giving up five runs to tie the game.

There was an issue with the PitchCom device to open the inning, and Ohtani didn’t have much time to warm up after doubling and scoring right before the end of the third. Ohtani couldn’t find the plate, as he suffered through a rough inning that saw him hit two batters, uncork two wild pitches, walk two batters and surrender his first two homers of the season.

“He’s human,” Nevin said. “He’s going to give up runs. You could sense it in the whole stadium, like, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ But nothing was wrong with him. You have to throw it over the plate. And Major League hitters take swings, and sometimes they hit them.”

To Ohtani’s credit, he was much sharper in the fifth and sixth innings, as he corrected his control issues. It saved the bullpen and also showed how skilled he is at making in-game adjustments. Ohtani said he was too passive with the lead in the fourth but was able to lock back in to improve to 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in six starts this season.

“The first three innings, it was probably the best I felt all year,” Ohtani said. “The fourth inning was regrettable, but I felt really good coming back for the fifth and sixth innings and shutting it down. I’m going to use this as a learning experience. The biggest thing for me pitching-wise was I was able to finish with two strong innings to help the bullpen.”