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Ohtani electrifies Detroit crowd with dominant pitching performance and moonshot in 3-1 win

Shohei Ohtani recorded his Major League career high in innings pitched and MLB-leading 40th home run.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Saying Shohei Ohtani is a generational talent is clichéd and, at this point, an understatement. The Japanese phenom is appointment viewing and the face of baseball. The sport has not seen a two-way player perform at quite this level before. It almost feels like every night he does something to take our breath away, and boy did that happen again tonight in the Angels’ 3-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

Ohtani is the type of player that transcends the age-old adage of “us versus them”. This is incredibly evident by the cheers Ohtani has gotten on the road. Comerica Park was packed, yet again, in anticipation of Miguel Cabrera’s 500th career home run. The “oohs and aahs”, however, were supplied by Ohtani.

On the mound, Ohtani was both efficient and dominant. He finished the game with 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 8 Ks and no BBs. The win moved him to 8-1 with an ERA of 2.79. He wasn’t unhittable, especially in the first inning, but he found his footing and mostly coasted the rest of the way. Ohtani really started showing some fatigue in the seventh inning with some audible grunting, but the results were still there with some “Shotime” still to come.

Former Tiger Justin Upton got the scoring started with a 427 foot two-run home run to left-center off Detroit starter LHP Tarik Skubal. Skubal (now 8-11, 4.02 ERA) settled in quickly after and went scoreless for the rest of his outing, finishing with similar dominant numbers to Ohtani. He finished with 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 7 Ks and 1 HR. This matchup ended up being an intense pitching duel where neither starter (nor any pitcher in the game) issued a walk.

Ohtani’s one mistake came in the fifth inning on a first pitch curveball to left fielder Willi Castro that was sent over the right field wall. The home run cut the lead to 2-1, but that was the only damage Detroit would do for the rest of the game. Shohei would continue to cruise even through his noticeable fatigue into the eighth inning.

It was here where he gave himself run support with a leadoff 430 foot home run that capped the score at 3-1 and awakened the fans in attendance. It was clear (throughout this series, really) that both Angels/Ohtani and Tigers fans were aware of the special rarity they were witnessing. Ohtani’s home run was his MLB-leading 40th and put him past Reggie Jackson as the sole leader of single-season home runs by a left-handed hitter in franchise history.

After hitting his moonshot, Ohtani returned for the eighth inning and finished with a 1-2-3 inning. Always the perfectionist, he was willing to come out for the complete game opportunity, having only thrown 90 pitches, but acknowledged postgame he was fatigued and agreed with Joe Maddon’s move to go to closer Raisel Iglesias.

“He was gassed. That’s the thing you gotta be careful with. If he had really come out and said ‘I feel great’ like he did in the eighth, I would’ve sent him back out for the ninth. Don’t forget he’s hitting; he’s running the bases at a high level. It was the right thing to do.”

Iglesias came in for the save and struck out Jonathan Schoop on three pitches. Next, Miguel Cabrera almost delivered what the crowd came for, just missing a home run to right field that died at the warning track. He will have to sit on 499 career home runs for another night. Iglesias then struck out Jeimer Candelario for his 27th save on the season.

With the Angels likely missing the postseason yet again and the injuries mounting, Ohtani and his teammates have still found a way to be competitive and worth watching. Heck, even if they were losing, the rarity that is Shohei Ohtani is worth tuning into regardless. Tonight was just another example of the two-way superstar bringing the baseball world together to watch history.

The win moves the Angels back to .500 with a 61-61 record on the season. RHP José Quintana will take on rookie RHP Matt Manning tomorrow morning at 10:10 a.m. PST as the Halos go for the series sweep.

Wednesday Notables

  • Bally Sports Detroit broadcaster and Hall of Famer Jack Morris was suspended Wednesday for mocking an Asian accent during an Ohtani at-bat Tuesday night. Bally Sports Detroit and the Detroit Tigers have both issued statements condemning Morris’ comments and Morris, himself, offered an apology.
  • Iglesias’ 27th save ties him with Liam Hendricks of the Chicago White Sox for the most saves in the American League.
  • The 8.0 IP by Ohtani was the longest start of his MLB career. His ERA of 2.79 would be second-best in the AL if his innings qualified.
  • Ohtani is the second fastest player to 40 home runs and 15 stolen bases in a season (122 games). Ken Griffey Jr. did it faster in 1998 (117th games).
  • LHP Patrick Sandoval was slated to start the series finale but was placed on the 10-day IL with a lower back injury. He may miss the rest of the season. He was a standout this year with a 3.62 ERA in 87.0 IP and 94 strikeouts. Sandoval is just the latest Angel to be hit with the injury bug that has decimated the Angels’ roster.
  • Jo Adell had another nice night defensively, contributing to a double play that ended the biggest threat of the night by the Tigers.