ANAHEIM — A night after putting on a show with his bat, Shohei Ohtani did it with his arm.
Ohtani gave up two singles in eight innings, striking out a career-high 13, in the Angels’ 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night, a night after he drove in eight runs and hit a pair of homers.
Ohtani is the first player in major league history to have an eight-RBI game and a 13-strikeout game in his career, and he accomplished them on consecutive nights.
“He’s incredible,” Manager Phil Nevin said. “What he does on a baseball field, it’s fun to be a part of every day.”
Ohtani’s big offensive night was wasted because the Angels came up on the short end of a crushing 12-11, 11-inning game. This time, he had more control because he was on the mound.
“We were on a losing streak, and I just wanted to put an end to that,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “To get the team rolling.”
The Angels avoided a sweep at the hands of the last-place Royals on the strength of Ohtani’s brilliant pitching performance and just enough offense from the team’s unlikely No. 3 and 4 hitters. With Mike Trout and Jared Walsh getting the night off, the Angels had Luis Rengifo hit third and David MacKinnon fourth. Rengifo had two hits, including an RBI double, and MacKinnon drove in two runs, with a single and a sacrifice fly.
The game began a few minutes later than scheduled because the ceremony to honor the 2002 Angels ran long. Perhaps the extra downtime disrupted Ohtani’s routine, because he gave up hits to the first two hitters of the game.
“He’s a very routine-oriented guy,” Nevin said. “As awesome as that ceremony was, I was a little worried how long it was gonna go. My man, Tim Salmon, can talk a little bit.”
Salmon, one of the stars of the Angels’ 2002 team, soon was able to enjoy Ohtani’s brilliance along with the rest of the 34,792 fans at Angel Stadium.
After allowing hits to the first two batters of the game, Ohtani retired 16 in a row, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings. Ohtani pitched so well that Nevin let him start the eighth with 96 pitches, which is rare in these days of starters rarely cracking 100 pitches.
“I thought about taking him out going into the eighth,” Nevin said. “He was adamant that ‘No, this is mine. I’m staying.’ Then we scored the two (to make it 3-0). I went underneath and I made sure I asked him again. This time he said ‘No, me,’ and there might have been an expletive in front of that.”
Nevin said Ohtani wanted to save the Angels’ overworked bullpen one more inning.
“I felt like I had some stuff left in the tank and I really wanted to go back out,” Ohtani said.
Ohtani made it through a perfect eighth, equaling his career-high, with just 12 more pitches. He finished with a season-high 108 pitches
Ohtani’s slider was particularly effective on Wednesday night. He threw it 43% of the time, which was his highest percentage of the season. The Royals whiffed on seven of their 12 swings at the pitch, including four strikeouts.
The Angels’ offense was fairly quiet against Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch. The game was scoreless in the fifth, when Taylor Ward and Ohtani drew walks. Rengifo then hit a slow grounder between third baseman Emmanuel Rivera and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. Witt fielded the ball, but not in time to throw out Rengifo.
MacKinnon then lofted a fly ball into right, deep enough to drive in Ward with the game’s first run.
In the seventh, No. 9 hitter Andrew Velazquez drew a walk. Two outs later, Rengifo pulled a double down the left field line, scoring Velazquez. MacKinnon poked an opposite-field single into right – his first major league hit – to drive in Rengifo.
The Angels tacked on two more runs in the eighth on an RBI single from Velazquez and an RBI double from Ward.
The extra runs allowed the Angels to give closer Raisel Iglesias the night off, so Ryan Tepera pitched a perfect ninth, which sent the Angels into a happy clubhouse to celebrate a victory.
MacKinnon was in there posing for photos with the ball from his first big league hit, adding another piece to the storybook journey to the majors for a former 32nd-round draft pick.
“It’s been a dream come true,” MacKinnon said. “This entire week has been a dream come true.”
MacKinnon has not merely been in the majors, but he’s been in the majors alongside Trout and Ohtani.
“I’m still in awe about how just how good Mike is and how you can be so good at hitting and pitching like Shohei is,” MacKinnon said. “And they are two of my teammates now. It’s crazy being here.”
What a Sho. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/uHP5DODBNT
— MLB (@MLB) June 23, 2022
A career-high 8 RBI last night and a career-high 13 Ks tonight.
Unbelievable, Shohei Ohtani. pic.twitter.com/xqgwHugbaZ
— MLB (@MLB) June 23, 2022