ANAHEIM, California – Shohei Ohtani follows a strict routine in almost every aspect of his life. When his final hill start was delayed 12 minutes by a pregame ceremony honoring the 2002 World Series Champions with the Los Angeles Angels, his meticulous preparation was marred before he even threw a pitch.
A bumpy start nonetheless resulted in a second incredible straight night for the two-way Superstar.
Ohtani hit a career-high 13 in eight dominant two-shot innings and the American League MVP hit base three times Wednesday in Los Angeles’ 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.
After giving up two singles to start that delayed first inning, Ohtani (6-4) eliminated 16 straight royals and 23 of the last 24 batters he faced. While enjoying the longest start of his major league career, he only allowed a baserunner in his last seven innings on a walk that was quickly wiped out by a double play.
“I think the biggest thing was putting up that zero in the first inning after giving up the first two hits,” Ohtani said through his translator. “It was possible for me and it set the tone for the game. I wanted to play as long as possible, but I didn’t really think about the number of pitches at the beginning of the game.”
Against the backdrop of a rare Southern California thunderstorm that lit up the sky far beyond the Big A’s midfield, Ohtani also had a single and two walks on his plate in his latest electrifying two-way performance.
One night, after hitting two three-run homers and hitting a career high in an extra-inning loss with eight runs, Ohtani set a personal best for strikeouts by fanning Emmanuel Rivera on his 108th and final pitch.
“He just put us on our backs,” said Phil Nevin, Angels interim manager. “I thought about taking him to the eighth and he was adamant, ‘No. This is mine. I remain.’ … What a day. What an achievement from him.”
David MacKinnon scored his first major league hit with a seventh-place RBI single for the Angels, who avoided a series sweep with their fourth win in six total games. Luis Rengifo had an RBI double in the seventh before hitting on that single to the right of MacKinnon, who scored his first career RBI win with a sacrifice fly two innings earlier.
After 18 runs in their last two games at Angel Stadium, the Royals were shut out for the second time in four days and the 10th time this season. Kansas City still won five out of seven.
“It was a show,” said Royals manager Mike Matheny. “It’s a very unique repertoire of pitches. I don’t think you’ll find as many guys with as many guns as what we saw today. He threw three different sliders, plus a cutter and a curve. When the split started going, that’s when the strikes really started, and he’s got 100 (mph) in the tank, which he’s hardly ever shown. … It’s going to be a tough day on the plate.
Ohtani has been unbeatable on the mound lately, allowing just one run in his last 20 innings over three starts. In his last home start two weeks ago, he pitched seven innings with one-run ball and hit a homer win that broke the Angels’ franchise record of 14 games.
Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi played Ohtani in the Royals’ first two at-bats, but he subsequently took down every batsman he faced until Merrifield pulled a one-out walk in the sixth – and Benintendi quickly landed in a doubles game.
Ohtani’s fastball twice exceeded 99 mph in the second half of his start while stunning Kansas City and hitting a whopping 34 combined strikes on swing-and-miss or called strikes.
Daniel Lynch (3-7) wasn’t as effective for the Royals early on, but the left-hander resourcefully knocked out the Angels until they loaded the bases on two walks and an infield single in the fifth. Lynch, who went after MacKinnon’s sacrificial fly, gave up three hits and five walks to a career-high 104 pitches.
Mike Trout was given a rest day for the Angels, leaving their struggling lineup decidedly lacking in punch. But MacKinnon came through as the team’s unlikely cleanup hitter, scoring the first major league hit after being called up for his MLB debut last weekend.
MacKinnon enjoyed his game-changing swings, but he was also excited about other aspects of the game.
“I have to play the field behind Shohei and see how good he is,” said MacKinnon. “It’s crazy to be here.”
Royals: C Salvador Perez sat out after injuring his left thumb again on a swing on Tuesday night, but Matheny said the team was still determining the severity of the injury after an MRI scan.
Angels: RHP Jimmy Herget came on the 15-day injury list with right shoulder impingement. Right-handers Elvis Peguero and Oliver Ortega came up from Triple-A Salt Lake, while fickle rookie Reid Detmers went down after just six starts after a no-hitter.
Royals: Zack Greinke is expected to be left off the injury list on Friday to start when Kansas City open a three-game weekend series at home against Oakland. Greinke (0-4, 5.05 ERA) went on the IL three weeks ago with a sprained forearm.
Angels: After a day off at home, Los Angeles opens a three-game weekend series against Seattle on Friday night. Neither team had confirmed a starter.