The Shohei Ohtani show moved to the mound Wednesday night in the Bronx. The Los Angeles Angels two-way star slugged three home runs in the first two games of his team's series with the New York Yankees, giving him an MLB-best 28 long balls.
Ohtani's performance as a pitcher at Yankee Stadium did not go nearly as well as his performance at the plate. The Yankees tagged Ohtani for seven runs in the first inning Wednesday night, capitalizing on four walks and a hit batsmen. Ohtani threw 41 pitches and only 20 strikes. He was pulled after facing nine batters and recording two outs.
"We've got to make sure we're controlling the strike zone on him a little bit," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including SNY's Andy Martino, prior to Wednesday's game. "He will walk some guys."
As they've done several times this season, the Angels forfeited the DH and let Ohtani hit for himself Wednesday. He batted leadoff and flew out to begin the game. It was not the first time he's had an at-bat before taking the mound in a game this year, so it wasn't an unfamiliar routine. Ohtani exited game, leaving the Angels with the pitcher's spot atop the lineup.
Wednesday was Ohtani's 24th career MLB start and the seven runs are a career-high. It's the second time he's failed to make it out of the first inning, joining his first start back from Tommy John surgery last year, when he allowed five runs and did not retire a batter. Wednesday's disaster outing raised Ohtani's season ERA from 2.58 to 3.60.
Control problems hampered Ohtani earlier this season. He walked 19 batters in his first four starts and 18 2/3 innings,. Wednesday's outing is a step back and a red flag, though I think it's too early to sound the alarms. One start does not constitute a trend. Bad days happen.
The good news: Ohtani touched 99 mph with his fastball and sat 95 mph Wednesday, so he appeared healthy. He just couldn't locate at all. There is a heat wave in New York and television cameras showed him standing in front of the dugout air conditioner before going out to the mound, so perhaps he was uncomfortable in the heat.
The better news: Ohtani's teammates picked him up. Seven relievers threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, and Jared Walsh socked a game-tying grand slam against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning to take Ohtani off the hook. Chapman walked the bases loaded, then hung a slider to Walsh.
The grand slam is the first Chapman has allowed in his career. That was also only the fourth home run he's surrendered to a lefty batter, and the first since 2017. Walsh hit two home runs in the game and has 20 on the season.
Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward followed with run-scoring singles off Lucas Luetge to cap off the seven-run ninth inning, giving the Angels an 11-8 win (box score). At one point in the first inning Los Angeles had an 8.9 percent chance to win the game according to FanGraphs, and at one point in the eighth inning it was 1.2 percent. They rallied to erase Ohtani's rough outing and bank a win.
Ohtani, 26, took an MLB leading 5.7 WAR into Wednesday's game. He is the leading candidate to start at DH in the All-Star Game and could pitch in the game as well..