ANAHEIM – Somehow, Shohei Ohtani has been managing to rise to new heights.
Wielding a new pendant he recently started using, the two-way star looked as dominant as ever at Angels Stadium on Saturday night, throwing in the Angels’ 2-1 win over the Astros in 12 innings. 8 innings of a one-pointer. In the process, Ohtani has reached 400 MLB strikeouts while also setting a career high in MLB’s 136 innings (beyond his 2021 total of 130 1/ 3).
In addition to the 624 strikeouts he recorded in five seasons with the NPB, Otani had 403 strikeouts during parts of four seasons in MLB.
“He was incredible,” said interim manager Phil Nevin. “For me, it was probably his best run of the year, just considering where we were, the way the game went. Even the running was a soft touch. He was really good. Really, really good.”
That sinker was a big part of Ohtani’s success against a team with the best record in the American League. He threw 18 on Saturday after a total of 13 in the first two games. It worked for him like never before, with Ohtani himself describing the pitch as “nasty”.
“I mean, you can see it,” Nevin said. “It goes 17 to 18 inches across the plate and still does 98 to 99 miles per hour. It’s a tough ball for any hitter to handle, [and] Right-handed hitters, of course. “
“For the most part, I feel really good about it,” Ohtani said. “Give up a couple of hits, but I was able to position it where I wanted and I was able to throw a lot, so it was really cool.”
The only blemish on Ohtani’s line came at the top of the fifth inning, when Trey Mancini hit two doubles and scored on JJ Matijevic’s single. But after tackling a base-full jam in the sixth and pitching a clean top in the seventh, Ohtani had plenty of time in the tank to get back in the eighth. For the second time this season and the fourth time in his career, he scored eight to tie the score at 1 thanks to a double from Jose Artuf.
The 111 pitches were a season high for the right-hander, who lowered his ERA to 2.58, fifth among eligible AL starters.
“Sometimes you can see it on his face, when it’s another level above what he’s already achieved,” Nevin said. “I mean, you saw him get up at 100-plus mph in games seven and eight, so of course he could come back and have that gear.”
That came after Otani became the first player in AL/NL history to hit 30 or more home runs while winning 10 or more games in a season, an achievement he accomplished Wednesday. His five strikeouts Saturday brought his season total to 181. With 19 hits, he would also become the first player in AL/NL history to have a pitcher with 200 strikeouts and a batter with 30 home runs.
He has thrown more than 136 innings in a season in Japan, but with just a few more starts, he can set a new all-around personal high.
The Angels pieced together just once in the first nine innings, when Luis Lundieff scored on Ryan Aguilar’s sacrifice fly in the seventh, Aguilar’s first career RBI. But Jose Quejada, Jimmy Hedgett and Ryan Tepeira combined for four scoreless innings, setting the stage for Matt Duffy’s singles in the second half of the 12th inning with the ball hitting the ball. Outfielder Mauricio Dupont’s glove before rebounding in diving.
This was Duffy’s first career with the Angels, and it was all the more sweet as it saved Daegu’s stellar start. Duffy even took the opportunity to participate in the heated Ohtani vs Aaron Judge AL MVP debate.
“People were talking about the MVP referee and I was like, he has to break [Roger] Maris’ record is even in my conversation,” Duffy said. “Some people might think it’s ridiculous in New York, I’m sure.but [Ohtani] Do it on both sides of the ball.
“…I mean, it’s crazy. There’s really nothing to say. I guess there’s a reason no one has done it since Babe Ruth. But what he’s done on both ends of the floor How wonderful, it’s just, you can’t speak because there is none.”