Ohtani matches a Babe Ruth feat at Fenway

May 5th, 2022

BOSTON -- Every time  steps into the batter’s box or takes the mound, it’s hard to imagine there are any records left for the Angels’ two-way player to sniff or break.

But on Thursday afternoon in the series finale against the Red Sox, Ohtani achieved something that hasn’t been done in more than 100 years.

Hitting third and making his first start on the mound at Fenway Park, Ohtani became the first starting pitcher to bat in one of the top four spots in a game at the historic ballpark since Babe Ruth did so on Sept. 20, 1919.

Ohtani scattered six hits across seven scoreless innings, falling one shy of a career best with 11 strikeouts before he was relieved by right-hander Mike Mayers in the Angels’ 8-0 win over the Red Sox.

“Unbelievable. No words,” said teammate Jared Walsh, who hit his second homer in as many games.

Following a brief delay after forgetting to remove the batting gloves from his back pocket, Ohtani got to work against Boston’s lineup. Leadoff man Trevor Story stepped into the box, getting a good look at Ohtani’s arsenal with the right-hander throwing his fastball, slider and splitter in a seven-pitch at-bat. Ohtani ultimately won the battle, striking out the second baseman for the first of four times with an 89.4 mph splitter. Four of Ohtani’s 11 strikeouts came on the splitter, three on the slider, three on the fastball and one on a curveball.

“He’s the best player in the league,” said Red Sox veteran lefty Rich Hill. “I think that’s one thing everybody can pretty much unanimously agree upon. It’s pretty special to see somebody like that come along. I think everybody should be really appreciating what we’re seeing, because it’s something we haven’t seen in 100 years, and we may never see it again for another 100 years.”

Throwing a season-high 99 pitches, Ohtani set a career high in his seven-inning outing by generating 29 swings and misses. His previous high was 26 on Sept. 19, 2021 vs. the A’s. Ohtani threw his fastball 48 times, averaging 97.2 mph and topping out at 100.3.

“The way that guy competes, his stuff, he’s got 100 in his back pocket it seems like any time he needs it. It just blows me away,” said Walsh. “I’m playing behind him and I’m like, ‘I want no part of that splitter, that curveball, that 100 mile-an-hour fastball.’”

On the other side of the ball, Ohtani went 2-for-4 with hard-hit singles in the fourth and eighth. The singles accounted for two of the game’s top five highest exit velocities.

As far as making his first start at one of baseball’s cathedrals?

“That’s one of my favorite ballparks,” Ohtani said. “I was looking forward to pitching here, and I felt like it left a really good impression on me.”

Ohtani returned the favor, leaving his impression on the Monster with a 103.7 mph single that drove in Andrew Velazquez during a five-run eighth inning. The ball was hit hard enough to knock his number off the manual scoreboard.

“I hope we don’t start taking that for granted, like it’s old hat,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just so unusual, it’s otherworldly. On this level, of this game, which I think is the most difficult game to play all week, a little bit of an issue with the leg, cold weather, playing ‘til about 11 o’clock last night, and then come out today and maybe throw his best game of the year.

“I just hope that people understand how unusual it is what you’re seeing, and please never take it for granted.”