ANAHEIM — Unlike his last start against the Astros that saw him flirt with a perfect game, two-way star Shohei Ohtani didn’t quite have his best stuff against the Guardians on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.
But Ohtani showed he can still be effective despite that, as he grinded his way through five innings in a 9-5 win. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts and improved to 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA in four starts this season. He also went 3-for-5 at the plate, marking the first time he’s had a three-hit game on the same day he pitched.
“The first couple innings, maybe because of the cold weather, the ball wasn’t really coming out too well,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But as the game went on, I started feeling better. It’s something I’ll need to work on. I’ll be going on the road to colder places, so I thought it was good preparation.”
Ohtani ran into trouble in the first, as his velocity was down a bit and he had trouble with his slider. He got ahead of leadoff hitter Myles Straw, 0-2, only to walk him. He also got ahead of José Ramírez, 0-2, but then surrendered a two-run homer on a misplaced slider to put the Angels in an early hole.
Ohtani settled down a bit after the first inning, although he never quite had his swing-and-miss stuff going. He registered just seven swings and misses among his 86 pitches, getting five with his four-seam fastball, one with his slider and one with his curveball.
“Shohei did not have his best stuff early but he got better,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He got into his fastball a little bit more. Early on, he was relying too much on offspeed stuff.”
He was much more unhittable against Houston last week, as he induced 20 swings and misses in that outing and struck out 12 over six innings. Notably, he got 11 whiffs with his slider and six with his splitter against the Astros, but couldn’t get those pitches going against Cleveland.
The offense did more than enough to back Ohtani, as the Angels knocked around right-hander Zach Plesac for seven runs (six earned) over 3 2/3 innings. Taylor Ward notably hit a grand slam and fell just a single short of the cycle. Ohtani also helped his own cause with an RBI and a run scored.
Ohtani laced a hard-hit single back up the middle in the fourth inning, ripped an RBI double in the sixth that left the bat at 108.2 mph and singled again in the eighth.
“He got better and it’s starting to come along at the plate, too,” Mike Trout said. “He left a couple pitches up but that’s going to happen. He always gives us a chance every time he goes out there.”