As has been the case in a good chunk of their games against the Athletics this season, the Angels could not get enough going with the bats on Sunday afternoon despite bringing the game into extras with a late rally, falling for the third day in a row to Oakland by a final of 3-2.
The Halos squared off against A’s starter Frankie Montas in this one, and he absolutely dominated their shorthanded lineup. Montas finished seven innings with ease, allowing just a lone double to Brandon Marsh in the third inning while striking out seven batters. The only knock on his outing would be the three unintentional free passes that he issued, but every runner that reached via the walk against him failed to advance even one more base after getting on.
Today’s game proved to be a continuation of Montas’s excellence against the Angels in 2021. In his four starts against them this season, Montas allowed just two earned runs in 26.2 innings, striking out 32 Halos while allowing just 15 hits. Sunday was also a continuation of the Halos’ recent struggles with the bats, as they finished this series against Oakland with just seven runs scored. In the stretch between the third inning of Friday’s game and the eighth inning of today’s game, they scored just a lone run across 24 frames, with not a lot of promising scoring opportunities found in there, either.
The Angels did manage to mount a late rally in this one, however, as the offense finally woke up for the ninth inning while trailing by two runs. The A’s brought in de facto closer Sergio Romo to close things out, and he was immediately greeted with a double by Phil Gosselin and a shift-beating infield hit by Jared Walsh that put two runners on with no one out. This brought up the red-hot Jose Rojas with the chance to play the hero, and he came through in the clutch by lining a base hit into right field that brought home Gosselin and Walsh, the latter scoring the tying run after right fielder Seth Brown bobbled the ball and then airmailed the throw home.
The Halos had a chance to walk things off with Rojas at second and only one out, but Max Stassi and Jack Mayfield struck out looking to end the threat, pushing the game into the 10th. They handed the ball to Raisel Iglesias for this inning, who allowed the customary runner at second to score after a single and a sacrifice fly from Jed Lowrie, but nothing more. This brought things to the bottom half of the frame, where things immediately went south. Their runner on second was immediately nullified after Mayfield was caught in between second and third base on a ground ball by David Fletcher, and the next two hitters went down without much of a fight, ending their brief rally in its tracks and finalizing the 3-2 loss.
Dropping a game in this fashion hurts on its own, but what made it even worse was the fact that the Angels got an absolutely excellent start of their own from Shohei Ohtani on the mound. There were talks that Ohtani could be shut down for the season on the mound after a bout with soreness following his rough start against the Astros nine days ago pushed his start back, but he went out today and put in one of his better efforts of the season. He went eight full innings for only the second time in his big league career, allowing just two runs on a pair of solo home runs by Yan Gomes and Matt Chapman while tying his season high in strikeouts with 10.
Final line on Shohei Ohtani:— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) September 19, 2021
There were talks of Shohei not even pitching again this year, but he came out and absolutely shoved against a good A’s team today. It’ll be very unfortunate if he walks away from this one as the losing pitcher
This success from Ohtani came largely on the back of his signature splitter, which he brought back with a vengeance today after curiously featuring it less and less over the recent weeks and months. Ohtani used his splitter 51 percent of the time today, easily besting his previous high of 37 percent in his near perfect game on April 8, 2018, and he recorded a whopping 17 whiffs with the pitch on 55 thrown. The A’s had a lot of trouble even touching the pitch, and when they did, it was almost all soft contact, as they averaged just a 76.9 miles per hour average exit velocity on 10 batted balls against it.
The splitter was also responsible for what was Ohtani’s finest moment of the entire game. After he loaded the bases on two walks (one intentional, one unintentional) and a hit by pitch, the Angels ace got himself out of his own jam by unloading a vicious 2-2 splitter to Chapman, securing his 10th strikeout of the game on pitch number 108 and showing some emotion on his way off the mound.
Strikeout #10 on pitch #108 to strand the bases loaded! What a performance by Ohtani pic.twitter.com/HkHrGvwaAB— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) September 19, 2021
Unfortunately, Ohtani’s gem was wasted in what became the Angels’ 15th loss in 19 tries against the A’s this season. There are a number of different things that you can point to when looking for reasons behind the club’s poor performance this season, but the inability to win divisional games such as these might be near the top of the list. The Halos will be back at it tomorrow night at 6:38 PM PST looking to redeem themselves against another divisional foe, when they send Jaime Barria to the mound against Framber Valdez and the visiting Houston Astros.