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Halos drop first road set as Tanaka bests Ohtani

Richards shaky on 30th birthday, issuing 5 walks in 2 1/3 IP
MLB.com @mi_guardado

NEW YORK -- The early buzz on Sunday centered on the impending matchup between right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who started at designated hitter and batted cleanup against his Japanese countryman in the Angels' series finale against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Ohtani hadn't faced Tanaka since 2013, when he went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, a walk and a hit by pitch as an 18-year-old rookie in Nippon Professional Baseball. Their first MLB clash generated serious interest in their native Japan, with national public broadcasting station NHK carrying a live broadcast of the game at 2 a.m. local time on Monday.

View Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- The early buzz on Sunday centered on the impending matchup between right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who started at designated hitter and batted cleanup against his Japanese countryman in the Angels' series finale against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Ohtani hadn't faced Tanaka since 2013, when he went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, a walk and a hit by pitch as an 18-year-old rookie in Nippon Professional Baseball. Their first MLB clash generated serious interest in their native Japan, with national public broadcasting station NHK carrying a live broadcast of the game at 2 a.m. local time on Monday.

View Full Game Coverage

Those who tuned in saw Tanaka retain the upper hand, as he struck out Ohtani twice and walked him once en route to firing six innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 win for the Yankees, handing the Angels their first series loss on the road this season.

Video: LAA@NYY: Tanaka fans Trout to win 10-pitch battle

"I knew he was a good pitcher," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I think he proved that today on the field, but I'm more upset that we lost."

The Angels, who were without middle-of-the-order hitters Justin Upton and Albert Pujols, were blanked through the first five innings before Andrelton Simmons homered with one out in the sixth to spoil Tanaka's bid for a shutout.

Video: LAA@NYY: Simmons launches a solo home run to left

Tanaka departed after allowing just three hits, walking three and striking out eight. He is now 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in six career starts against the Angels.

"He's always tough on us every time we see him," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It looks like he's able to change his speeds and keep us off balance. I thought we did a good job laying off some pitches. We got his pitch count up a little bit, but he pitched six good innings for those guys."

Video: LAA@NYY: Tanaka strikes out 8 in 1-run outing

The Angels couldn't overcome a shaky start from right-hander Garrett Richards, who battled control issues and was chased after allowing three runs over 2 1/3 innings. Richards, who turned 30 on Sunday, threw only 36 of his 70 pitches for strikes and walked five in the abbreviated outing. He is 0-5 with an 8.42 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees.

"Obviously, he wasn't comfortable out there," Scioscia said. "He lost his release point. Just a bad day for G."

Richards worked around a pair of baserunners in the first and second innings, but he couldn't avoid damage in the third. Aaron Judge led off the inning by blistering a first-pitch fastball to center field for a single. The ball had an exit velocity of 119.9 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball of the season.

Video: LAA@NYY: Judge knocks the hardest hit ball of season

Richards struck out Giancarlo Stanton for the first out of the inning, but he then issued back-to-back walks to Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius to load the bases. After Aaron Hicks walked to force in the first run of the game, Scioscia decided to lift Richards in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarez.

Alvarez hit Greg Bird to bring in another run, and the Yankees extended their lead to 3-0 after Miguel Andujar grounded into a run-scoring fielder's choice.

"This team covers a lot of the plate," Richards said. "You can't make mistakes, so maybe it was a combination of being too fine and not being exactly 100 percent comfortable up there. Obviously, I've got to be better than that. We'll look at some stuff and try to make some adjustments for the next one."

Video: LAA@NYY: Richards strands two with help from Valbuena

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ohtani and Tanaka were initially expected to oppose each other on the mound, but those plans were scrapped when the Angels decided to push Ohtani's start back for "workload management." The schedule change set up an even more direct confrontation between the two Japanese stars, allowing Ohtani to bat against Tanaka for the first time in five years.

Tanaka fell behind, 2-0, to Ohtani before coming back to strike him out swinging on a splitter in their first encounter in the first inning. Ohtani then worked a walk in the fourth before striking out on another splitter in his final plate appearance against Tanaka in the sixth.

Video: LAA@NYY: Tanaka strikes out Ohtani for 2nd time

"I'm not in any position to say if he got better or worse, but I feel like he threw more breaking balls this time around than when he was in Japan," said Ohtani, who went 0-for-9 with three walks in this series. "It felt a little different because the American pitchers throw mostly fastballs, but he kind of pitched me backwards."

Said Tanaka: "Obviously, he's not an easy out. He has a good eye, and he's very selective. I was able to get two outs out of him today, but it's not something that I can say was easy."

UP NEXT
The Angels will head to Detroit for the final leg of their 10-game road trip and open a four-game series against the Tigers on Monday at 10:10 a.m. PT at Comerica Park. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (3-3, 3.11 ERA) will battle Detroit lefty Matt Boyd (2-4, 3.29) in the Memorial Day matinee. Skaggs is 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA in two career starts against the Tigers. Ian Kinsler is also set to return to Detroit for the first time since the Tigers traded him to the Angels in exchange for prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery in December.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards