Ohtani 'human' against Rays, grinds out six innings

2 years ago

Ohtani, though, didn’t quite have his best stuff, as his fastball velocity was down a few ticks and he couldn’t quite locate his splitter consistently. He still turned in a strong outing, allowing one run over six innings, but it came in an eventual 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay in 10 innings in the series finale at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani’s fastball averaged 96 mph — down from his season average of 97.2 mph — and topped out at 93.3 mph in his final inning. He insisted after the game he’s healthy and not dealing with anything more than some possible fatigue.

“Looking at my velocity, I didn’t feel the best today, but I was able to get through six innings,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “We just finished up a stretch of 20 straight games and fatigue does build up, not just me, but the whole team. So that could be a factor.”

Ohtani couldn’t match his dominant start against the Red Sox on Thursday, when he struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings, but he was still effective, giving up just two hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Ohtani didn’t factor into the decision — thanks to a game-tying pinch-hit homer from Taylor Ward in the eighth — and is 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings (six starts) this season.

“He just competed and gave us a chance to win again today,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Again, his schedule is a bit different than everybody else’s. To get through six like that. I thought it was great. He’s fine. He’s just kind of being human a little bit, that’s all.”

Ohtani was hurt by a solo homer from Kevin Kiermaier in the second inning on a hanging 0-1 splitter. He was taken out after throwing 92 pitches and has yet to reach the 100-pitch mark this season. He generated 12 swings and misses — six with his slider and three with his curveball — but he was less effective with his fastball and splitter. He only got two whiffs on 47 four-seamers and one on seven splitters.

“Ideally, I would like to have kept on throwing [the splitter] because I feel like the more I throw it, the more it gets better — but it was a low-scoring game and the offense wasn’t getting going, so I didn’t want to make another mistake,” Ohtani said. “That’s why I kind of stayed away from it.”

He essentially ditched his fastball in the sixth inning, throwing it just once at 93.3 mph after maxing out at 99.2 mph earlier in the game. Ohtani, however, still pitched effectively with his offspeed, including striking out the final two batters he faced.

“The ball just wasn’t coming out great,” Ohtani said. “And just by looking at the hitters’ reactions, I felt like the breaking ball was going to be more effective in that situation.”

Following the velocity dip against Wander Franco in the sixth, Maddon sent out pitching coach Matt Wise for a mound visit before Ohtani faced his last two hitters.

“He was just a little fatigued today and that’s why I sent out Matty to see him,” Maddon said. “He said he was fine, and he was. He struck out a couple guys. His curveball was outstanding. So he’s fine, he’s just a little more fatigued than he was last time.”

Ohtani, who went 1-for-4 at the plate with a stolen base, reiterated postgame that he likes playing every day. Maddon added he thinks Ohtani will serve as designated hitter in all four games against the A’s this weekend after an off-day on Thursday, which marks the Angels’ first off-day since April 21.

“Personally, I don’t think I need days off,” Ohtani said. “I want to keep on going, but ultimately, it’s up to Joe.”