ANAHEIM -- Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani continues to do things that have never been done before in Major League history.
Ohtani stole his 15th base of the season in Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the A’s, becoming the first player to ever have at least 37 homers and 15 stolen bases before the end of July, per ESPN Stats & Info. And that doesn’t include the fact that on the pitching side of things, he has a 3.04 ERA in 15 starts with 100 strikeouts in 80 innings.
“I didn’t realize that -- but he always likes to run,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Every couple days we hear Shohei has done something that’s never been done before.”
With the swipe, Ohtani also became just the fifth Angels player with at least 35 homers and 15 steals in a season, joining Mike Trout (2014 and ‘18), Vladimir Guerrero (‘04), Don Baylor (‘79) and Bobby Bonds (‘77). Trout won the AL MVP Award in both '14 and '18, while Guerrero won in '04 and Baylor in '79.
Dating back to 1900, Ohtani's 100 strikeouts as a pitcher are the most -- by a wide margin -- by a pitcher with at least 15 stolen bases in a season. Win Mercer had 39 strikeouts and 15 stolen bases in 1900, while Zaza Harvey had 27 strikeouts and 16 swipes in 1901.
The last player with at least 15 stolen bases and 15 pitching appearances in a season was Bullet Joe Rogan with the 1922 Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League, while the last AL or NL player to do it was Harvey in 1901.
The only other pitcher with at least 35 homers and 15 stolen bases in a season was Babe Ruth with the Yankees in 1921, when he hit 59 homers and stole 17 bases, while also pitching nine innings (two appearances).
Ohtani's 15th stolen base of the season came in the fifth inning, when he walked against A’s right-hander Frankie Montas for a second time and then promptly nabbed second. He improved to 15-for-20 in stolen base opportunities this season and has already set a career high, as his previous best was 12 in '19.
“He's a great hitter,” said Montas, who struck out Ohtani looking in the first. “I'm just trying to get the man out. Just trying to throw him quality pitches. He's a great hitter. I've got to give him credit."
The A’s, however, didn’t appear willing to pitch to Ohtani in the series opener, as he went 0-for-1 with three walks. It was his fourth three-walk game of the season, and Maddon believes teams could start to pitch around him with so many of their regulars injured. Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh are all on the injured list, with Phil Gosselin serving as the club’s No. 3 hitter on Thursday.
“We’ve been talking about that,” Maddon said. “I’ve tried to protect him as much as I could. That’s why I had Walsh hitting behind him. But now if there’s a right-handed hitter pitching to him, they’re going to be more careful. I think we’ll see more of that. I’ve seen hitters get that kind of treatment in the past. It’s just part of the game.”
The offense couldn’t get much going against Montas, who threw seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. It led to a tough loss that has the Angels trailing Oakland by six games for the second AL Wild Card spot heading into Friday’s 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline. The Angels fell to 3-10 against the A's this season, which has hampered their postseason chances.
“We haven’t played them poorly, we just haven't hit well against them,” Maddon said. “We haven't stayed toe to toe with them offensively. We've actually pitched OK for long stretches, and then they get us late. But more than anything, we just have to figure out their pitching staff. That's a game where we pitched well enough to win."