Ohtani: 9 K's, 3 runs scored, 2 RBIs, W, history

April 27th, 2021

Angels two-way star made more history on Monday night, becoming the first player in nearly 100 years to start a game on the mound while also entering the day leading the Majors in home runs.

Ohtani struggled with his command early and gave up four runs in the first, but he settled down on the mound and helped his own cause at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored, and the right-hander struck out nine over five innings. Ohtani was again the star in a 9-4 victory, picking up his first win since May 20, 2018.

“That was a pretty complete game of baseball,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I had to put the hold sign on him. He wanted to steal, too. The first inning was a bit rugged, finding his command and [Nate] Lowe grabbed one off him. Otherwise, he would’ve given up zero or one at the most. He kept getting better, that’s what he does. On offense, he did everything, including bunting for a hit. If you weren’t entertained watching him tonight, you can’t be entertained by the game of baseball.”

Ohtani entered his start as a pitcher as the MLB co-leader in home runs as a hitter with seven, which was something unseen in nearly a century. You can probably guess who the last player was: Babe Ruth. The Bambino was the Yankees' starting pitcher on June 13, 1921, against the Tigers, while also leading MLB with 19 home runs. That was the last time the feat took place, per the Elias Sports Bureau … until Ohtani.

Ohtani scored a run before he even got to the mound, drawing a walk in his first plate appearance and coming around to score on an RBI single from Jared Walsh. It was part of a two-hit, three-run performance that was the first by an American League pitcher since Minnesota’s Jim Perry on May 1, 1971, against Boston. Add in his nine strikeouts, and Ohtani is the first pitcher in either league to have at least two hits and three runs scored with nine punchouts since Cleveland's Luis Tiant on June 11, 1961, against the A's.

"I try to separate pitching and hitting while I'm doing both, but putting those runs on the board does lead to confidence,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But that first inning I had, I need to not repeat that again, and I need to adjust and work on that before my next outing."

Much like his last start, Ohtani had trouble throwing strikes early, as he walked two and hit a batter as part of a 29-pitch first inning. He also gave up a three-run homer to Lowe, just his seventh career long ball allowed in 15 starts.

Ohtani helped the Angels get back into the game in the second with a two-run double to right that had an exit velocity of 113.8 mph. He also scored on a single to left from Mike Trout to tie the game and showed off his speed in the process at 29.3 feet per second, or just under the 30 feet-per-second threshold considered elite by Statcast.

“That definitely helped him settle back in,” Maddon said. “That’s a reboot right there.”

As Maddon noted, it seemed to help Ohtani calm down on the mound: He retired 13 in a row before surrendering a two-out single to Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the fifth. Ohtani had a stretch of five straight strikeouts (and seven of eight). He also showed good velocity with a fastball that touched 99.3 mph to go along with his splitter that registered six swings and misses and four called strikes.

"I'm happy for the team victory and my teammates gave me a lot of run support, which led to confidence,” said Ohtani, who was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks. “But personally, that first inning was terrible, so I can't be fully satisfied. I think it's mechanics, more than anything. And I felt like my mechanics were better from the second inning on."

Ohtani batted for himself in the fifth, reaching on a bunt single and scoring on an RBI double from Walsh. He’s now batting .300/.341/.675 with 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 21 games with his RBI (sixth) and run scored (fifth) totals ranking among the best in the Majors.

But the Angels decided to pull him after 75 pitches. He was starting to develop a blister on the inside of his right middle finger, which is different from the one that has limited him to only three starts, with a 3.29 ERA, this season. Ohtani, though, believes it’s minor -- and he wants to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. His next pitching start is tentatively set for Monday against the Rays.

"I'm not worried at all," Ohtani said. "It's different from my last one and was barely starting to form. I felt like I could've gone another inning."