'He can't quench his thirst': Ohtani's latest act another marvel

Two-way star earns 5th win in as many games after fanning 10, hitting decisive single

July 7th, 2022

MIAMI -- Baseball is a game of statistics, of which there can only be so many for one player to break. Yet  continues to make history with every start, especially when he takes the mound.

Fittingly, it was Ohtani who stole the show in Miami on Wednesday, earning his fifth win in as many pitching starts for the first time in his career with a 5-2 victory over the Marlins at loanDepot park. The two-way phenom is the first Halos pitcher to tally five wins in as many starts since Hector Santiago in 2016.

“There can't be many [records to set] left, right?” acting manager Ray Montgomery said postgame. “I mean, he has most, if not all of them by now. He competes at everything. And he's relentless. He can't quench his thirst for what he does. It's really fun to watch.”

Ohtani, currently in a tight race to start the All-Star Game on July 19, allowed one unearned run over seven innings while racking up 10 strikeouts -- retiring 15 in a row at one point -- while also driving home the go-ahead run. Though he saw his scoreless-innings streak end at 21 2/3 innings with the first-inning run, Ohtani has not allowed an earned run in 28 2/3 frames.

“It’s special, it’s historic, it’s elite,” catcher said. “He’s a frontline guy. He’s established himself as one of the better arms in baseball -- everybody else knows that -- and you’ve got to fear him at the plate the same day, too. He’s a superstar pitcher and he’s a superstar hitter.”

Ohtani went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, one walk and a run scored on Wednesday. With the bases loaded in the fifth, Ohtani threaded a two-run single through the left side to end an 0-for-7 streak and give the Angels a 3-1 lead, providing himself with an insurance run.

That go-ahead RBI ultimately ended Los Angeles’ four-game losing streak, ironic given that it was an Ohtani start that ended the Angels’ 14-game losing streak at the beginning of June. That start (June 9) was also the first win of Ohtani’s current five-win streak, and was the last time he homered during a pitching start.

Ohtani also stole second base as part of a double-steal with in the seventh, making Ohtani the fourth Angel with multiple seasons of 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases prior to the All-Star break.

Here are three notable stats from Ohtani’s outing:

• Ohtani is the first player since RBI became official in 1920 to record 10 strikeouts as a pitcher, two RBIs as a batter and a stolen base all in a single game.

• Ohtani’s 111 strikeouts over 81 innings pitched make him the first Angels pitcher to record 110 K’s in the first half in fewer than 100 innings. He’s the first to 110 K’s in the first half since Garret Richards in 2014.

• Ohtani is the eighth Major Leaguer since earned runs were official (1913) to record 40-plus strikeouts and zero earned runs in a four-start span.

A big reason Ohtani has been so successful, and why he only gets harder to hit the deeper he pitches into a game, is his baseball IQ and ability to adjust mid-game -- whether to adjust his mechanics, his body or his game plan.

“It's another magnificent outing,” Stassi said. “It was just amazing. He navigated through seven innings; he threw sliders, he threw splits, he threw fastballs, threw in some curveballs [and] called it a day.”

Ohtani has been masterful on the bump this season. That’s nothing new. Entering Wednesday’s matchup, his 33% swing-and-miss rate was the fourth-best in the American League (among pitchers with a minimum of 70 innings pitched). Meanwhile, three of his pitches (his splitter, curveball and slider) have a whiff rate above 43%. It was Ohtani’s splitter and slider that recorded the most whiffs vs. the Marlins (six whiffs and 11 whiffs, respectively).

And Ohtani only gets better the longer he’s in a game. He recorded just one strikeout his first time through the Marlins’ lineup, while he struck out five his second time through and four his third. That ability to get stronger as he progresses deeper into a game just goes back to his in-game adjustments and knowledge of the game.

“The line of communication that we have throughout the game [is awesome]," Stassi said. “He tells me what he likes and what he's feeling, and then I'll give him some reads on some hitters and then we'll kind of talk about that. He didn't do it this outing, but last outing he threw a 71 mph curveball, and then the next pitch [was] 81. So not only does he have all the pitches, but he can add and subtract velocities.

“Sometimes I have to take a step back and be like, ‘Whoa. This is special. This is unique. And this will not be done again. That level will not be done again.’”