The pitching matchup between Shohei Ohtani and Kevin Gausman was every bit as good as advertised, each allowing only a run while striking out nine.
But then extra innings happened, and a seven-run 13th spelled doom for the home team in a 9-3 Giants win.
Giants-Angels on Wednesday would have been memorable no matter how each starter pitched. With Ohtani batting second, hitting for himself for the seventh time in 10 pitching starts this season, this was the first game in major league history in which the National League team used a designated hitter and the American League team did not.
The Angels also ran out of position players, used pitcher Griffin Canning in left field, had starting pitcher Dylan Bundy pinch hit (he struck out), and when Kurt Suzuki was injured saw Taylor Ward move behind the plate in a game for the first time since 2017.
But there was more to this game than that.
Gausman and Ohtani have the two best split-fingered fastballs in MLB. Entering Wednesday, batters were just 5-for-67 (.075) against Ohtani with two doubles and 46 strikeouts in at-bats that end on the splitter. In at-bats that end with Gausman’s splitter, batters were just 16-for-143 (.112) with a .161 slugging percentage and 70 strikeouts.
By run value, Gausman’s splitter has been 15 runs better than average, by far the best in baseball, per Baseball Savant. Ohtani’s is next at six runs better than average.
Gausman throws his splitter much more often, 37 percent of the time coming into the game. He threw 49 split-fingered fastballs among his 100 pitches on Wednesday afternoon, and finished off all nine of his strikeouts with the pitch, including twice whiffing Ohtani.
Ohtani throws his splitter 20 percent of the time, and finished off two of his nine strikeouts with the splitter in his six innings on Wednesday.
Ohtani was already at a season-high 94 pitches through five innings on Wednesday, but was allowed to start the sixth. He rewarded Joe Maddon’s faith with a 1-2-3 inning on 11 pitches, just the third time in 23 major league starts he’s thrown 100 or more pitches. Ohtani has lasted six innings or longer in five of his last seven starts.
Fifth-inning home runs to right field were the only blemishes against the starters. Mike Yastrzemski took Ohtani deep in the top of the frame, and Luis Rengifo followed with a shot in the bottom of the inning to tie things up.
Gausman went seven innings, and has a sparkling 1.49 ERA. Ohtani will have to settle for 2.58 for now. Ohtani is also tied for the major league lead with 23 home runs, though he was 0-for-3 at the plate on Wednesday.
Runs were at a premium in this one. Until the 13th inning, anyway.