Ohtani's historic night ends on bizarre play

Angels star OK after exiting in 5th on collision at plate

April 5th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way did it all in a historic showing on national television on Sunday night against the White Sox, striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings while reaching 100 mph nine times, smacking a 451-foot home run and getting involved in a scary play at home plate at the end of his outing.

But Ohtani is fine after his collision with the White Sox’s José Abreu in the fifth inning and his record-setting night came in a 7-4 win capped by a walk-off three-run homer from Jared Walsh at Angel Stadium. Ohtani hit and pitched for the first time in his Major League career, becoming the first pitcher to bat second in a game since 1903. And he made it worthwhile with a towering homer on the first pitch he saw in the first inning that left the bat at an astonishing 115.2 mph to become the first AL starting pitcher to homer against an AL team since Roric Harrison on the final day of the 1972 season -- and the final regular-season day without a designated hitter in the junior circuit.

"What he did tonight was pretty special," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "You're going to see a lot more of that season-in-progress. It was fun to watch and had everybody entertained. It's what he signed up to do and he had a chance to do it tonight."

But it almost ended on a sour note, as he walked two batters to load the bases with two outs in the fifth inning and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. He remained in the game and struck out Yoán Moncada on a 3-2 changeup, but it got past catcher Max Stassi and his throw to first was wild. The throw home to the plate to Ohtani was high and he landed awkwardly on Abreu, with two unearned runs scoring on the play to tie the game and costing Ohtani his chance at getting the win.

Ohtani, though, was pleased that Maddon left him in to face Moncada and even asked to remain in the game despite the fall on Abreu. But Ohtani was pulled at that point and finished with a final line of allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits and five walks over 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

“Overall, I feel like I made a lot of good pitches,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “In the fifth inning, I wish I would’ve gotten out of that. I’m really grateful to Joe for letting me face that last hitter. I think it'll prepare me for future outings.”

Early in the game, Ohtani didn’t disappoint with a scoreless first inning on the mound and his fastball touching 100 mph three times, including topping out at 101 mph before finishing off Adam Eaton with a 92 mph splitter for his first strikeout of the season.

He followed that up by absolutely crushing a solo homer off right-hander Dylan Cease in the bottom of the inning. It left the bat at 115.2 mph, which was the hardest hit homer by an Angels player since Statcast was introduced in 2015, topping Mike Trout's 115 mph blast on June 11, 2018. He now holds the hardest pitch thrown this season by any player at 100.6 mph and the hardest-hit homer by any player at 115.2 mph. And he’s the first player to hit a ball at least 110 mph off the bat and throw a pitch at least 100 mph in the same game tracked by Statcast.

"It was everything we thought he could be," Maddon said. "That's a complete baseball player. He throws 100, hits well over 100 mph and hits it well over 400 feet. That's what we're talking about. He just needed the opportunity to do it."

Ohtani had previously been held out of the lineup on the day before, the day of and the day after his starts, but this year the club is being more aggressive with him, and he communicates with the coaching staff about when he wants to be in the lineup. The club experimented with him pitching and hitting in the same game twice in Spring Training, and Ohtani also did it during his time in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

But it’s a rare feat in the Majors. He was the first pitcher to bat second since Jack Dunleavy did so for the Cardinals on Sept. 7, 1903. And only two pitchers have hit for themselves with the designated hitter available since Ken Brett did it twice in 1976. Andy Sonnanstine hit for himself in 2009 because of a mistake on the lineup card, while Madison Bumgarner batted for himself in an Interleague start against the A’s in 2016.

Ohtani will continue to pull double-duty this season as long as he’s feeling good and was pleased to get his first opportunity on Sunday. He said he felt “almost perfect” at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a 109.7 mph lineout to center, and that he was energized by the crowd.

“I’m glad I got this game under my belt,” Ohtani said. “It will lead to more confidence. There's a huge difference with the fans, it helps me concentrate at the plate and on the mound. I feel like I get that extra push and that extra gear."