'Megastar' Ohtani (12 K's) joins Nolan Ryan in Halos history

July 14th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- There's been no stopping two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani over the last month.

Ohtani, who was selected as an All-Star as both a hitter and a pitcher for the second straight season, has been absolutely unbelievable both on the mound and at the plate, and he continued it with another incredible showing in a 7-1 win over the Astros on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Ohtani struck out 12 over six innings and he also helped himself at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a two-run triple in the second inning.

His run of dominance on the hill began on June 9, and he improved to 6-0 with a miniscule 0.45 ERA over his last six starts. He's racked up 58 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings over that span.

“I've said it the last three or four times, but he puts us on his back,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “He knows what's in front of him. The last few starts, we've lost a couple coming into it and he takes that personally.”

Ohtani became just the second Angels pitcher to register at least 10 strikeouts in four straight starts, joining Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Coincidentally, Ohtani became the first Angels starter to hit a triple since Ryan on June 27, 1972, at Minnesota.

"Obviously, it's a huge honor to be in the same sentence with someone like Nolan Ryan,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But more than strikeouts, I'm looking to put up zeros and shut opponents out."

Ohtani's performance notably came in front of Astros manager Dusty Baker, who will manage the American League team at the All-Star Game on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. Baker said Ohtani, who still hasn’t decided whether he’ll participate in the Home Run Derby until he knows how he’ll be used in the Midsummer Classic, is one of the pitchers he's considering to start. It would mark a second straight season for Ohtani as the AL’s starter if he were to receive the nod.

“He’s not just an All-Star, he’s a megastar,” Baker said. “One of the top offensive players and one of the top pitchers. And he’s smart -- I can tell the way he plays the game, he’s talented, but he’s smart.”

Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, has struck out 46 over his last four starts and has allowed just one earned run over that span. He's just the sixth player since earned runs became official in 1913 to strike out at least 45 over a four-game span while allowing one earned run or fewer, joining Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Chris Sale.

Ohtani improved to 9-4 with a 2.38 ERA in 15 starts this season. He’s struck out 123 in 87 innings and again joined Ryan as the only Angels pitcher with at least 120 strikeouts through the first 15 starts of a campaign, as Ryan accomplished that feat in 1977.

He said he’d like to be considered to start the All-Star Game on the mound, but understands there are other top candidates, such as Tampa Bay ace Shane McClanahan.

"It's a special spot to start in the All-Star Game and it's something I shoot for and I'd like to do,” Ohtani said. “But there are some guys with better numbers than me and are more deserving. I tried my best to match up to them tonight. Ultimately, it's up to Dusty Baker."

Ohtani entered Wednesday without having allowed an earned run over his last four starts, but he saw that streak come to an end after an RBI single from Yuli Gurriel in the fourth. Ohtani’s streak reached 31 2/3 innings, which is the longest by an Angels pitcher over the last 50 years. The previous high was John Lackey's 30 2/3 innings in 2006.

On his game from the start, Ohtani scattered just four hits and two walks. He registered 24 swings and misses among his 105 pitches, including 14 with his slider, five with his fastball, three with his curveball and two with his cutter. He notably whiffed Jose Altuve with a 100.6 mph fastball in the third, which was the third-hardest strikeout pitch he's thrown in his career.

“He has a lot of good pitches,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. “He attacks guys differently. He has really good stuff. His fastball is really hard and his slider is sweepy. Split and curveball, too.”

Ohtani's triple came off Houston starter Cristian Javier as part of a three-run second inning. He later singled and scored as part of a four-run sixth. He’s been heating up offensively, slashing .291/.395/.602 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 29 games since starting his incredible run on the mound on June 9.

“He does something different each day,” Nevin said. “Tonight, he had the big triple. He knew it out of the box and that was a big hit to put us up three."