It was not only the hardest-hit ball of Ohtani’s career but the hardest-hit ball by a left-handed batter since Statcast was introduced in 2015. And, of course, the previous record was also held by Ohtani, who ripped a double that left the bat at 119 mph off Royals right-hander Scott Barlow on April 12, 2021. Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, became just the third player with multiple balls hit at least 119 mph since Statcast was introduced in 2015, joining Yankees sluggers Giancarlo Stanton (28 times) and Aaron Judge (six times).
Ohtani, though, is off to a 2-for-17 start at the plate through the first four games of the season. Angels manager Joe Maddon credited the Astros for the way they attacked Ohtani, especially pitching him inside.
“Shohei, they pitched him well,” Maddon said. “He’ll be making some adjustments. They just pitched him well. That’s what I saw.”
The double off Astros right-hander José Urquidy was the first extra-base hit of the season for Ohtani. It would’ve scored the speedy Tyler Wade from first base, but Wade had to stay at third after the ball one-hopped the fence in right field.
It gave the Angels two runners in scoring position with one out and brought fellow superstar Mike Trout to the plate. Trout hit a fly ball to right fielder Kyle Tucker and Wade attempted to tag up from third base. But Tucker made a strong throw, and home-plate umpire Ryan Wills ruled Wade didn’t touch the plate and called him out. Wade wasn’t pleased with the call and the Angels challenged the ruling, but the call ultimately stood as called, as there wasn’t definitive evidence to overturn it.
Wade, though, said he knew he touched home plate but second-base umpire Vic Carapazza later explained to him that the replay showed dirt coming up near his hand when he slid, and there was no clear view of him touching the plate.
“I think it was a big momentum change in the game right there,” Wade said. “If I score there, it completely flips it back on our side. I feel like the air kind of got sucked out of the stadium after that call. But it’s a bang-bang play, and it could’ve gone either way.”
It was yet another wasted scoring opportunity for the Angels, who had nearly as many hits as the Astros in the series (31 to 30), but lost three of the four games. The Halos went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the loss, stranding six runners.
The inability to add on came back to haunt the Angels, as the Astros scored two runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead after lefty José Suarez exited. Suarez walked two batters after recording the first out of the inning, and reliever Austin Warren gave up a go-ahead two-run single to Alex Bregman on a 3-1 sinker with two outs.
Ohtani wasn’t the only Angels player to scuffle offensively in the first series of the year, as Jo Adell and David Fletcher also had rough showings. But Adell, who went 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts, did rob Niko Goodrum of a three-run homer with a leaping catch in left field in the eighth inning. But the Astros had already scored two insurance runs in the inning against relievers Archie Bradley and Jimmy Herget.
Despite the loss, Maddon was still encouraged by the way his club played in the four-game set and said they just need to find a way to get better offensively against teams like the Astros.
“We’re really close to Houston, very close,” Maddon said. “Three of those games absolutely could’ve gone either way. We got one of them and one was not a good game for us, but my takeaway is we’re really close to Houston. The big point right there is we just have to be better offensively against our whole division and not just Houston.”
Trout had a similar take and lamented his club’s lack of execution in big spots in the series loss. The Angels were held to two runs or fewer in three of the four games.
“We had chances,” Trout said. “It’s tough. They have a good team over there. We just have to turn the page.”