Ohtani hampered by stomach bug in finale

August 21st, 2022

DETROIT -- When  pitched at Comerica Park in mid-August last year, it was one of the most memorable outings of his AL MVP campaign, as he threw eight strong innings and crushed his 40th home run of the season.

But the two-way star couldn’t replicate it on Sunday against the Tigers, as he dealt with a stomach virus and turned in a rare rough outing during a 4-0 loss in the series finale. Ohtani allowed three runs on five hits over four innings, setting a season high with four walks and tying a season low with two strikeouts. It was the third-shortest outing of the season for Ohtani, who had worked at least 5 2/3 innings in each of his previous 11 starts. He fell to 10-8 with a 2.83 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 121 innings in 21 starts this year.

“I was penciled in to start today and just because I was sick, I wasn’t going to avoid it,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It was already set. I didn’t feel too well in the beginning of the day, and during my bullpen, I started feeling worse.”

Ohtani’s velocity was down a bit, especially in the first inning, but it improved as the game went along. He left the game in the fifth inning with  pinch-hitting for him with two runners on and one out against lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, which indicated that something was wrong with Ohtani. Suzuki flied out to center and Ohtani finished his day 0-for-1 with a walk at the plate. The team announced in the seventh inning that Ohtani had left the game with a stomach virus.

Interim manager Phil Nevin said he wasn’t aware Ohtani was sick until after Ohtani threw his pregame bullpen, so it was too late to make a last-minute switch.

“He came in from the 'pen and wasn’t feeling great. He was a little bit nauseous, but he wanted to give it a shot,” Nevin said. “He knew it was going to be a little bit of a grind, and it was. After the fourth, he didn’t feel good enough to hit, so I had to get him out of there.”

Ohtani struggled from the start, as his first pitch of the afternoon left the ballpark to put the Angels down early. Ohtani threw a 94.3 mph fastball and Riley Greene deposited it a projected 448 feet to right-center field, making it the longest homer Ohtani had surrendered in his career.

Ohtani pitched around a walk in the first inning, but his fastball averaged just 94 mph in the frame, down quite a bit from his season average of 97.3 mph. He gained velocity as the game went along, and saw his fastball reach as high as 98.5 mph, but it was clear that he didn’t have his best stuff or much command.

“I know we call him Superman all the time, but it just shows he’s human,” Nevin said. “But grinding through four for us was huge with all the games we’re playing in a row. He was just taking more time between pitches and trying to catch his breath. But he was adamant about staying in. His stuff was there. The first pitch of the game, Greene jumped on that one, but his velocity kicked up like it usually does.”

Ohtani dealt with a bases-loaded jam in the second, keyed by a leadoff double from Willi Castro on a 1-2 splitter over the middle of the plate and a two-out walk to Greene. But Ohtani got out of it by getting Victor Reyes to ground out to second on a 3-2 fastball that registered 97.9 mph.

“I think he wasn’t feeling well, and you could see it,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “But we made him work. He wasn’t as effective as he can be because we didn’t chase.”

Ohtani allowed a one-out single in the third but otherwise had a clean inning. He wasn’t as fortunate in the fourth despite two quick outs to open the frame. He walked both Akil Baddoo and Greene with 3-2 sliders off the plate to set up a two-run triple from Reyes on a 2-2 slider below the zone. He escaped further trouble by getting Javier Báez to fly out on a first-pitch fastball that marked the 85th and final pitch of the day for Ohtani.

“Looking at the results, maybe you could say [being sick affected me],” he said. “But even though I didn’t have my best stuff, I was down to one run with two outs in that inning and if I kept it at one run, it would’ve been much better.”