HOUSTON -- Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is dealing with arm fatigue that will cause him to skip his next start on the mound, but it didn’t stop him from hitting his American League-leading 41st homer of the year to help lead the Angels to a 2-1 win over the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Ohtani, who was slated to start on Tuesday in Texas, will now have his outing pushed back to a start against the Reds at Angel Stadium on either Aug. 21 or Aug. 22. Nevin stressed that he isn’t injured, but that Ohtani had asked on Saturday to skip just one turn through the rotation.
His homer in the sixth inning off lefty reliever Parker Mushinski, which traveled a Statcast-projected 448 feet over the batter’s eye in center field, proved he’s feeling just fine at the plate and proved to be the difference in a one-run victory. He leads the AL with 41 blasts and is only one behind Atlanta’s Matt Olson for the MLB lead.
“He really got into that one today,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought the swings were great. This has nothing to do with his hitting. It’s not an injury. He’s just tired. If you were to sign me up for him missing only one start throughout the season, I’d be the first one to raise my hand.”
Lefty Patrick Sandoval will start the series opener in Texas on Monday and right-hander Lucas Giolito will be moved up a day to start on Tuesday. Wednesday's starter has yet to be announced but could be right-hander Griffin Canning, who was reinstated from the injured list on Sunday.
Ohtani, the heavy frontrunner to win American League Most Valuable Player honors for the second time in three years, has been pitching well recently. He hasn’t allowed an earned run over his past three starts, totaling 19 innings. Ohtani left his start with cramping in his right middle finger after having thrown four scoreless innings against the Mariners on Aug. 3, but he bounced back to allow one unearned run over six innings in a win over the Giants on Wednesday.
Ohtani was visibly agitated throughout that outing against San Francisco, however, and said after the game he was frustrated with his start. Nevin also said he could tell Ohtani was tired during his outing. So when Ohtani told Nevin on Saturday that he thought skipping a start would be best, Nevin quickly agreed.
“Like I've told you guys many times, he knows his body better than anybody,” Nevin said. “I trust him when he talks about it. He assured me there’s no pain, no injury. He's got some regular arm fatigue that pitchers go through at times. I trust him when he tells me this and that he’ll be ready for his next time out.”
Ohtani, 29, has made 22 starts this season, posting a 3.17 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings. Last season, Ohtani threw a career-high 166 innings over 28 starts and had a 2.33 ERA with 219 strikeouts. He was on pace to throw roughly 180 innings this year, as he’s pitched on five days’ rest more often, but now that total will come down a bit with his skipped start.
Nevin added that Ohtani won’t need any time off at designated hitter, especially with an off-day coming on Thursday. He hit second in the lineup behind Mickey Moniak in Sunday's series finale and connected on his first homer since Aug. 3 with his solo blast off Mushinski in the sixth to put the Angels up 2-0. It backed rookie right-hander Chase Silseth, who threw five scoreless innings and has a 1.59 ERA in four starts since joining the rotation in mid-July.
Ohtani also drew a leadoff walk in the ninth and stole his 17th base of the season, marking the fourth time this season he’s homered and stolen a base in the same game. By going 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk, he’s now slashing .305/.408/.665 with 41 homers, 20 doubles, seven triples, 84 RBIs and 91 runs scored in 117 games. He also hit his hardest ball of the season on Saturday, smacking a double off the wall in right-center field with an exit velocity of 118.3 mph.
“He's fine,” Nevin said. “Hitting is not affecting anything. I saw some signs in last night’s game. The ball he hit late in the game, not many guys hit the ball harder than that. He feels good and healthy at the plate. It’s just throwing, he has some normal fatigue.”