OAKLAND -- Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani did a little bit of everything against the A’s on Wednesday, including smacking his 19th homer of the season, dropping down his third bunt hit of the year and stealing his 10th base. Oh, and he’s set to start on the mound on Thursday and has a 2.85 ERA in nine outings.
Ohtani’s incredible showing came in an 8-4 loss, however, as reliever Tony Watson couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the sixth and allowed all six batters he faced to reach as part of a six-run inning. The fourth-place Angels (33-35) came into the three-game series on a six-game winning streak, but they were swept and now trail division-leading Oakland (43-27) by nine games in the American League West.
So while Ohtani has been heating up at the plate, he couldn’t help but lament the fact that his production has come in pivotal losses to the A’s.
“I’m feeling pretty good at the plate,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But especially last night, I wish I would’ve come through with runners on base.”
After the Angels scored three runs in the first, Ohtani padded the lead with a solo blast in the second off lefty Cole Irvin. It went a Statcast-projected 435 feet into the second deck in right field and had an exit velocity of 110.9 mph. It was his second homer in as many days, both coming against lefties. It was his eight homer off a left-hander this season, as he's shown he can mash against southpaws.
In his next at-bat, Ohtani showed off his speed, executing a perfect bunt single down the third-base line to lead off the fifth. He reached 29.8 feet per second on his way to first, which is just under the 30 feet per second mark that is considered elite by Statcast. He also became one of only six players this year with three bunt hits.
"I just thought I had a better chance getting on base there instead of going for a home run,” Ohtani said. “The game was close at the time. I was leading off the inning, so I wanted to get something started."
He then promptly stole second to become just the fourth player this year to reach double digits in both homers and steals, joining Washington’s Trea Turner, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. But Ohtani was stranded at third, and the Angels couldn’t add to their lead.
"It was 1985 baseball all over again," Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Ohtani in the fifth. "What he was doing as a leadoff hitter getting on base was very unselfish, profound. Whenever I talk about his instincts or baseball acumen, there it is. He's a real thinking man's baseball player. And to me, I think the bunt was more impressive than the 600-foot homer."
The Angels’ failure to tack on proved to be important, as Maddon lifted Griffin Canning after 69 pitches and five innings in favor of Watson. Canning has struggled after reaching the 75-pitch mark this year -- batters are hitting .375 against him after reaching that pitch count -- but for the second straight game, the move to the bullpen didn’t pan out. On Tuesday, it was veteran Steve Cishek who faltered in relief of Andrew Heaney, and on Wednesday, it was Watson, who failed to record an out and was charged with all six runs in the inning.
“These are guys we’ve been counting [on],” Maddon said. “Quite frankly, I felt good in yesterday’s game with [Cishek] and felt good today with Tony going to [Cishek]. So when it doesn’t work out, you don’t lose your confidence in these guys. These are our guys and they’ve been doing a great job. It’s tough because they won all three games, but once again, with a little bit of adversity, we played well against them.”