Shohei Ohtani‘s presence on the hill almost certainly means that something incredible will happen for the Angels† Striking out 11 batters on Wednesday, he delivered another dominant start for the team that needs all the good it can get.
Ohtani joined an elite group of pitchers and became only the third in Angels history to strike out 30 batters and not give up a run in three starts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The other two are Nolan Ryan and John Lackey. His scoreless streak reached 21 2/3 consecutive innings. All that on top of his continued brilliance on record, although he didn’t get a hit in the Angels’ 4-1 win about the Chicago White Sox to take two of the three games in the series.
“No. 1 was to not give up on the first point,” Ohtani said after the game. “As my team got early runs, we were able to progress with a good flow. From there, the key was to hold on until we added more runs.
“I’ve never climbed the hill thinking, ‘This is hard.’ Whatever the situation, what I do remains the same,” he added. “I always think I can’t let the other team score first.”
The White Sox increased Ohtani’s pitches early on, allowing him to work through 79 pitches before being able to strikeout No. 9 in the fifth inning. Still, he held out by beating the White Sox in 52/3 innings, giving up five hits and a walk on 108 pitches, including 74 strikes.
In the first inning, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman Jose Abreu singled off Ohtani. But traffic on bases didn’t get past second base, as Ohtani retired all three on swinging strikeouts.
He got through the second and third inning and retired the side and added three more strikeouts to his total. The fourth inning was when he ran into problems
Leading batter of the inning, Luis Robert, grounded out past the third baseline. Tyler Wade made a dive stop but couldn’t beat Robert with his throw. Abreu gave up another single off of Ohtani before he could get the first out of the inning. The second out, a strikeout by AJ Pollock, helped to bring Ohtani to rest, but he then walked Leury Garcia to load the bases. Ohtani made sure that his next batter, Josh Harrison, would be his last of the fourth and he delivered his eighth strikeout.
He crossed through the fifth inning before that pitch count started to weigh on him. Trying to get just two outs in the sixth, he stepped off the mound and chatted with catcher Max Stassi to get a few moments of rest between the batters. When he finally got strikeout number 11, he looked like he knew this was all he had left.
He clutched his back toward the end of his outing, but said he was fine and wanted to “turn the knob and do my best the day after tomorrow.”
“I wanted to throw through the sixth inning, but they have a resilient lineup and my pitch count was a little high,” Ohtani said.
He walked down the hill and into the dugout to a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,612.
“He just goes on going out and… takes these kinds of matches very seriously because he knows what’s at stake and he demonstrated it again,” interim manager Ray Montgomery said of Ohtani.
Ohtani took responsibility for his high pitch count.
“I think you could look at it that way” [the manager] was patient and let me pick up another batter,” Ohtani said. “It was something I did by increasing my pitch count.”
Thanks to the Angels’ lead in the first inning, the team also took an early 2-0 lead. Taylor Ward, who reached on a single, was driven home in the next at bat by a double by Mike Trout. Ohtani walked to reach base, then Jared Walsh’s grounder allowed Trout to score on a fielding error by Chicago-starter Michael Kopech.
The Angels made it 4-0 on Luis Rengifo’s two-run homerun in the sixth inning.
What are the odds?
The Angels’ season went wrong so quickly.
They rode high in May, flashing a 27-17 record with significant chances to make the playoffs. In 14 games, those odds went from abundant (77%, according to FanGraphs) to improbable (22%) by the last loss of that record drop.
For Wednesday’s final game of a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, the Angels’ chances of making the playoffs were 15%, having gone 9-10 since the losing streak ended.
At 36-41 for Wednesday and with a series against division leader Houston looming, the more pressing question is not whether the Angels will make the playoffs. The question is whether they will even finish above .500.
Okay, so maybe being a .500 team this season means getting a wildcard spot with the extended playoffs, but that’s another debate.
Technically, the Angels have time to catch up. The baseball season isn’t officially halfway through yet, but context is everything.
The Angels were unable to win their series against the Kansas City Royals, who came to Angel Stadium with a 23-42 team. They failed to win their second series of the season with the Seattle Mariners, an equally mediocre team – which the Angels still have. pay the price for faced.
They don’t even have their full technical staff back to the middle of their four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles next week, meaning there will be another seven games after Wednesday in which they will fall short in that division.
The Angels were able to win the series against the White Sox, but if they can’t consistently beat the teams they statistically should beat, then it will be a tall order to beat the leaders in their division and league.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†