TORONTO -- Alek Manoah blinked first. Shohei Ohtani didn’t blink at all.
The Angels’ two-way star dazzled in his Saturday start, shutting out a powerful Blue Jays lineup and prevailing over Manoah for a 2-0 Halos win at Rogers Centre.
Ohtani pitched seven innings and allowed just two hits and one walk, striking out nine batters on 109 pitches. Los Angeles needed every single one of them, too, mustering just four hits against Manoah, who struck out eight and walked two over seven frames of his own.
It had all the makings of an instant classic.
“I love to see him pitch on big stages,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin of Ohtani’s start. “It was a game where [any] little defensive play was going to make a change, and it actually did.”
Manoah and Ohtani put up zeros until the sixth inning, when Luis Rengifo singled to bring in David Fletcher. That was the only damage allowed by either starter on Saturday.
The Angels took advantage of what little offensive leeway they got from the Blue Jays’ pitching staff, capitalizing on small mistakes to small-ball in their first run. Andrew Velazquez launched his second homer in as many games to provide some welcome insurance in the ninth and guarantee a series win on the road.
But this one was always going to be remembered for the pitching.
“I enjoyed it,” said Ohtani, through a team interpreter, of his matchup with Manoah. “I would like to avoid it, if possible, because he’s a great pitcher. Less chance of getting good results at the plate. But I did enjoy going pitch-for-pitch with him.”
Ohtani’s performance was an important bounce-back after a rough go in his previous start, in which he pitched just four innings while allowing three earned runs to the Tigers. Against the Blue Jays, however, just about everything was working.
His four-seam fastball topped out at 99.6 mph with an average of 98 mph in the game, a considerable uptick from his 97.2 mph average this season. Ohtani relied on his slider to put away Toronto hitters throughout the game, generating eight of his 17 whiffs with the pitch.
Ohtani didn't fall into rhythm immediately out of the gate, as his pitch count had risen into the mid-40s by the end of the second inning. But he adjusted accordingly, holding on for his sixth shutout start this season and his second in August.
“It’s kind of a feel thing for him,” said Nevin. “He’s really, really good at seeing what hitters are doing, how they’re adjusting to him and then adjusting back. I’ve seen him do it time and time again. And today, he put the foot down in about the second or third inning and you just kind of see a change in how he was going about it.”
In a game decided by details, the victorious starter didn’t surrender an inch. And as different as Ohtani and Manoah may be in terms of build and repertoire, the competition level proved a unifying factor at Rogers Centre.
There were no wasted pitches and no small moments.
“Obviously, I knew [Manoah] was a great pitcher coming in,” said Ohtani. “I was expecting a pitchers’ duel and didn’t want to give up that first one. I’m sure it was the same for him. I thought I was able to do a good job in that regard, but it felt like I could have done a little more work at the plate.”
Ohtani walked twice in the game, while also displaying some elite baserunning in the sixth inning, when he sprinted from the box to first base in 3.97 seconds to beat out a double play after an eight-pitch at-bat against Manoah.
In times of offensive scarcity, though, reaching base more than once was big for the Angels.
“Well pitched and well defended,” said Nevin. “That was the way either team was going to have to win it with the two pitchers battling like that.”
By blanking the Blue Jays on Saturday, the second time in as many days the Angels have accomplished the feat, Los Angeles reached 16 shutout wins this year -- a mark that ties the Mets for most in the Majors.
“I think the pitching staff as a whole, we’ve been fighting as one the whole year,” said Ohtani through a team interpreter. “Some guys are gone now, guys got traded, some guys couldn’t make it to Canada, but otherwise all the young guys are stepping up and trying to work as a team.”