NEW YORK -- The anticipation and expectations were high for Shohei Ohtani in his first start at Yankee Stadium, but the two-way star struggled and recorded just two outs before being removed in the first inning on Wednesday night in an eventual wild 11-8 win that saw the Angels erase a four-run deficit in the ninth.
Ohtani, who had crushed three homers against the Yankees over the first two games of the series, simply didn’t have his control -- he walked four and hit a batter -- which was a surprise considering he had walked a combined five batters over his last four starts and entered with a 2.58 ERA in 11 outings. But he was charged with seven runs, bringing his ERA to 3.60 on the year.
Ohtani said he didn’t have any nerves pitching in the Bronx for the first time, but he had trouble locating his pitches and finding consistency with his release point.
"I didn't really feel the pressure of Yankee Stadium," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I had hit there the last two days, so I was used to that. Pitching-wise, my body felt great and had good arm action, but I was letting the ball get away and yanking pitches."
Ohtani’s control issues were evident right away, as he walked the first three batters. Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres followed with consecutive RBI singles to tie the game at 2. After striking out Rougned Odor and getting Miguel Andújar to ground out to bring in a run, Ohtani then hit Clint Frazier with a pitch to reload the bases before walking Brett Gardner on four pitches to force in a fourth run.
Angels manager Joe Maddon removed Ohtani after he had thrown 41 pitches, only 20 for strikes. The skipper brought in reliever Aaron Slegers, who promptly gave up a three-run double to DJ LeMahieu to give the Yankees an early 7-2 lead, with all seven runs charged to Ohtani.
"Once he hit 40 pitches, it was too much," Maddon said. "I didn't want him to go any further. I explained to him that if I took him out, it would also permit us to use him as the DH tomorrow. I considered putting him in the outfield, so he could get one more at-bat, but it was hot again and he was sweating profusely. I thought the benefit is now we can use him tomorrow."
The short outing also hurt because Ohtani served as the Angels' leadoff hitter. With Ohtani hitting for himself, the club was playing without the designated hitter spot. Scott Schebler served as a pinch-hitter in the top of the second but struck out with two runners in scoring position, while right-hander Dylan Bundy struck out looking in the fourth. Reliever Tony Watson also struck out looking in the sixth, while Max Stassi entered as part of a double-switch and walked in the ninth.
But it all worked out in the end, as the Angels made up for Ohtani allowing seven runs in the first by scoring seven in the ninth in the victory. Jared Walsh tied it with a grand slam, and Luis Rengifo provided the go-ahead two-run single. The Angels used 19 players in the win, and Ohtani was pleased his teammates were able to pick up the slack.
"The postgame high fives were the loudest of the year," Ohtani said. "Obviously, I personally didn't have the results I wanted. But my teammates were able to pick me up."