Ohtani's fastball velo returns in a big way

May 19th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Shohei Ohtani brought his best stuff to the mound on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough as the Angels lost 6-5 to the Rangers in 10 innings at Globe Life Field.

During his last start on May 11 against the Rays, Ohtani’s fastball topped out at just 93.3 mph in his final inning and averaged 96 mph, down from his season average of 97.2 mph at the time. But against the Rangers, his four-seam fastball averaged a career-high 98.6 mph and maxed out at 100.8 mph.

“I didn’t really change much,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But maybe my arm’s just getting used to all the stress.”

Overall, Ohtani turned in six innings and allowed six hits and two runs while walking two and striking out seven. He said he felt like there were some flaws in his mechanics throughout the outing that didn’t lead to good results. Three of the hits he gave up were to Jonah Heim, who seems to have a leg up on the reigning American League MVP.

“When that happens, of course the pitcher knows that and the hitter knows that, so there's more confidence on that side,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Believe me, Shohei understands that, and he’s competing right there.”

The Rangers' catcher is now 5-for-5 with one double, a grand slam and seven RBIs in two meetings with Ohtani this season. Heim went 3-for-3 with two RBIs against Ohtani and tied the game at 2 in the sixth on Wednesday.

“He’s definitely a good hitter,” Ohtani said. “I feel like I made my pitches against him, and it just went his way tonight.”

Heim, who hit a grand slam off Ohtani in their last meeting on April 14, had a chance to be the hero in the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. Before his encounter with closer Raisel Iglesias, in which he struck out swinging, there was some drama as Maddon was ejected while pulling José Suarez from the game.

“You couldn't walk him right there intentionally, so I just argued with the umpire instead,” Maddon said.

While Heim was having a night, it was a different story for Ohtani on the offensive side. The two-way star was 0-for-5 at the plate and struck out twice and went 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts in the series.

In the 10th, the Angels regained the lead (5-4) on a Mike Trout RBI fielder’s choice and Ohtani had an opportunity to tack on an insurance run with two on and no outs. He struck out on a foul tip before Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh, who homered twice and tied the game in the ninth on a two-run shot, were retired in order. The one-run lead ultimately wasn’t enough of a cushion as Nathaniel Lowe walked it off with a two-run homer off Iglesias in the bottom of the inning.

The loss marked the first time the Angels have been swept this season. After losing the first two games of the series in part to rough outings from starters Noah Syndergaard and Reid Detmers, Maddon described Wednesday’s loss as something more all-around.

“We will get our bullpen right; I have a lot of faith in these guys. It’s been a very difficult moment,” Maddon said. “We could have also scored more runs, so it’s not always about the pitching. [The Rangers] played us well, they beat us fair and square, so give them credit.”