Shohei Ohtani goes from disaster to magnificent in Angels’ win

1619495311 Shohei Ohtani goes from disaster to magnificent in Angels win
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Joe Maddon has never seen Shohei Ohtani play golf.

But on Monday night, the Angels manager watched his two-way star take full advantage of a much-needed mulligan.

Making his third pitching start of the season at Globe Life Field against the Texas Rangers, Ohtani suffered the equivalent of a snap hook off the opening tee. In the first seven at-bats of the game, he issued two walks, plunked a batter, yielded a three-run home run on a splitter over the plate, and threw strikes on only six of 24 pitches.

After Ohtani, playing both ways for the second time in his career, had scored a run as the Angels’ No. 2 hitter in the top of the first, his lack of command on the mound put his team in a quick 4-1 hole. With only one out in the opening inning, the Angels’ bullpen began to stretch out. Disaster appeared to be looming.

Then, everything changed.

Ohtani escaped the frame without allowing another run. He helped the lineup tie the score the next half-inning, lining a two-run double before later crossing the plate again. When he returned to the mound in the second, it was like he’d been given a fresh start. And over his final four innings, he produced some of his most dominant stuff yet.

From the second inning on, Ohtani looked almost unhittable. He retired 14 of his final 15 batters, including nine via strikeout. Of his final 51 pitches, only 17 missed the zone. He re-established control of his high-90s mph fastball, regained the feel for his devastating splitter and rang up a couple batters with knee-buckling sliders.

Most importantly, he didn’t give up another run, silencing the Rangers en route to the Angels’ eventual 9-4 win.

Ohtani received a lot of help to earn credit for his first victory as a pitcher since May 20, 2018.

Mike Trout went four for five in his first game since Thursday, returning from an elbow contusion to raise his batting average to an MLB-best .426. Justin Upton and Albert Pujols hit back-to-back home runs in the third, breaking what was then a 4-4 tie. Jared Walsh had three hits and two RBIs. José Iglesias tacked on a solo shot in the seventh.

All nine Angels starters reached base safely and only Anthony Rendon failed to record a hit, playing his first game in 16 days after being activated from the injured list earlier in the day.

But Ohtani helped himself plenty, too. His second inning double left the bat with a game-high exit velocity of 113.8 mph, leading to his team-best 17th and 18th RBIs of the season. In the sixth, he scored the last of his three runs after laying down a perfect lead-off bunt along the third base line.

It would be his final contribution of the night. Back in the dugout, he got a congratulatory handshake from Maddon, then relaxed as the bullpen locked down the final four innings without surrendering a run.

It put the Angels (11-10) back over .500 and gave them their first set of back-to-back wins in more than two weeks.

Earlier in the day, Maddon had laughed when asked if he knew of anything that Ohtani — who became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to start a game as a pitcher while also holding the MLB lead for home runs, having entered Monday with seven — wasn’t good at doing.

“I haven’t found that out yet,” Maddon said, adding: “I’d like to see him hit a golf ball one of these days, he’s got the perfect swing for it. Probably could shoot a basketball, three-point dude … Probably would be a great wide receiver too. He’s just a different, different kind of cat.”

By the end of Monday night, Ohtani proved capable of salvaging a shaky outing too, turning what started out as one of his worst games of the season into one of his best.

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