ANAHEIM -- Shohei Ohtani didn't have his best stuff against the Mariners on Monday night, but the right-handed two-way star still found a way to get through six strong innings.
Ohtani gave up two runs on seven hits -- including a solo homer to Jesse Winker in the first -- but he struck out eight in a 6-2 loss at Angel Stadium. Ohtani has now pitched 117 innings this year, which qualifies him to be among the league leaders. He has struck out 165 batters, tied for the fifth-most in the Majors, and his 2.69 ERA is the 11th-best mark in MLB and sixth-best in the American League.
Additionally, Ohtani's 165 strikeouts are the third-most in Angels history through 20 starts behind only Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1977 (211 strikeouts) and ‘73 (182). And Ohtani has struck out 35 percent of the batters he's faced, the highest mark among qualified starters.
“I thought he pitched great,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “He threw a lot of fastballs, including his two-seamer, which he’s been working on. He made a lot of really good pitches.”
Ohtani didn't factor into the decision, however, and the Angels made a series of defensive miscues as part of a four-run ninth that sealed it for the Mariners. The inning featured a throwing error into center field from catcher Max Stassi, Carlos Santana reaching on a walk on a ball thrown on a 2-2 count, a failed rundown between third and home that led to a run and a drop from Stassi on a throw home that led to another run.
"It was awful," Nevin said. "We just made some bad decisions, some bad throws. We didn't execute a rundown. Yeah, it wasn't good."
Ohtani didn't have his slider working as well as it usually does, as he mostly relied on his four-seam fastball to get ahead of hitters. He threw his four-seamer 38 times, compared to 23 sliders, after he threw 36 sliders and only 15 four-seamers in his previous start against the A's. He also said he mixed in the two-seamer for the first time this season.
“The biggest flaw for me today was throwing too many balls,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I was messing with my [two-seamer] playing catch and in bullpens and felt it was time to break it out.”
Winker's solo homer in the first came on a 3-2 slider from Ohtani and put the Angels in an early hole. But the Halos tied it in a hurry with Luis Rengifo hitting a solo homer off right-hander Luis Castillo in the bottom of the inning. Rengifo was aided by Mariners outfielders Julio Rodríguez and Mitch Haniger, who collided while trying to make the catch against the wall. The ball popped out of Rodríguez’s glove and went over the fence for a homer.
Ohtani nearly gave up another homer in the third, when Rodríguez hit an 0-2 splitter down the right-field line. It was initially called a homer, and Rodríguez rounded the bases before the umpires convened and ruled it was foul. The Mariners challenged the call, but it was upheld. Two pitches later, Ohtani struck out Rodríguez on a slider.
But Ohtani had trouble with two outs in the inning, as he gave up a single to Winker and walked Haniger before giving up a go-ahead RBI single to J.P. Crawford on a 3-2 slider.
The Angels kept Ohtani from getting the loss with Jared Walsh coming through for an RBI single on an 0-2 fastball from Castillo in the fourth. Ohtani finished strong by retiring seven of the last eight batters he faced, including three via strikeouts.
Ohtani dialed up his velocity against his last batter, as Sam Haggerty came to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Ohtani's fastball reached 99.2 mph in the at-bat, before he got Haggerty to fly out to right on a 2-2 slider.
"He ran his pitch count up in the fourth inning, and really in the first inning, too," Nevin said. "Winker got into one, and those things are going to happen. But he ran his pitch count up a little bit, and by six innings, he was done."