Shohei Ohtani hit a ball extremely hard, threw a handful of extremely hard pitches, did something that hadn’t been done in 51 years, and left Friday night’s Angels loss in dismay.
Such is the oddity of Ohtani, his groundbreaking double duty, his immense talent, and the star-crossed team for which he plays.
The Houston Astros knocked around Ohtani for six runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings. Despite committing four errors, the Astros coasted to a 10-5 victory at Minute Maid Park.
In the first inning, Ohtani lined a full-count fastball 114.7 mph into the right-field seats for his MLB-leading 44th home run. Jared Walsh homered in the second and the Angels held a 2-0 lead that wouldn’t last long. They were the first two homers by left-handed hitters surrendered by Astros lefty Framber Valdez all season.
On the mound it was a different story. Despite touching 98 mph on five four-seam fastballs, Ohtani relied heavily on a slider that too often flattened rather than darted, a splitter he commanded sporadically and a ho-hum cutter.
Ohtani (9-2) had thrown the four-seamer 47.5% and the slider 19.9% of the time this season, but Friday he threw only 25 four-seamers while throwing 32 sliders, 12 splitters and eight cutters among his 77 pitches. Only three times did an Astros batter swing and miss and he struck out just one. Ohtani’s ERA jumped from 2.97 to 3.36 and he was tagged for his first loss since May 28.
In his two at-bats after the home run — he was removed from the lineup when manager Joe Maddon took the ball from him in the fourth — Ohtani was walked by Valdez, who staggered through five innings to notch the win.
Ohtani’s second walk was noteworthy because it was intentional, loading the bases in the fourth. It marked the first time since Jim Kaat in 1970 that a pitcher was issued an intentional walk. Phil Gosselin struck out, giving the walk the sheen of a shrewd move by Astros manager Dusty Baker.
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