PHOENIX – Shohei Ohtani rolled up his right pant leg and inspected his knee. He took off his shin guards, went through the visitor shelter at Chase Field, and backed down the tunnel.
Just minutes earlier, Ohtani had fouled a 93.2 mph cutter from D-Backs starter Merrill Kelly off his right knee and went down in the batter’s box. The Angels two-way star was checked out by the trainer and tested on how he was feeling while taking a quick jog. Then he lasered a double. And he also stayed to run the bases, even if he may not have felt a hundred percent.
But Ohtani wasn’t just number two on Friday night. He was also the starting pitcher of Los Angeles. So the question remained – would Ohtani return to the hill after this sequence in the upper third?
He did, and received a roaring ovation from the many Angels fans present as he emerged from the dugout and headed back towards the hill. Ohtani immediately returned to dealing when he fanned out eight over five strong innings to go on with a 2-for-4 performance on the plate in Los Angeles’ 6-5, 10-inning win over Arizona.
“It’s pretty stiff at the moment,” Ohtani said afterwards through an interpreter over his knee. “But during the game I didn’t feel like it affected my game too much.”
This season, Ohtani has demonstrated many of his formidable qualities – his amazing home run power, his high-speed fastball, and his hustle and bustle on the grassroots paths. That night he showed his toughness and his competitive advantage.
Four pitches after fouling a ball off the knee, Ohtani extended the Angels’ lead to 2-0 with a double to right midfield, which, according to Statcast, came off the racket at 114.9 mph. Then he came to meet on an Anthony Rendon single that crowned third place in Los Angeles in three runs.
After withdrawing seven of Arizona’s top eight batterns, Ohtani ran into trouble third and fourth times on the hill as the D-Backs had runners in second and third places in both innings. Ohtani fanned Asdrúbal Cabrera out to get out of the third, then beat Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed to escape unscathed in the fourth.
“When faced with a dilemma, he turns the dial on,” said Halos manager Joe Maddon. “The speed shows, he throws even more hits. Love it. I definitely love it. He’s out there, he knows exactly what he’s doing at all times. I mean exactly. An incredible athlete with a great deal of acumen. So he picks it up and he gets tougher when it comes down to it. A pretty brilliant night for Shohei. “
When Ohtani got Ahmed to swing through an 81.5 mph slider in the fourth, he pumped his first while walking off the field. It wasn’t the last time Ohtani showed his emotions either.
In the fifth round, Ohtani was again exposed to heavy base traffic, as the D-Backs with two outs had runners in first and second places. After Cabrera’s resignation, Ohtani committed the first block of his MLB career against Eduardo Escobar, bringing the runners to second and third place. Then he signed his second, still against Escobar, and allowed Josh Rojas to score from the third for Arizona’s first run. Ohtani showed and denied the two calls.
“You like that. You like to see this fire and this competitiveness,” said Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 3 to 3 on a homer and based five times (with two HBP). “Shohei is a pretty calm one Guy and I tell people, ‘If he steps between the lines, man, he’s a different person,’ and you saw that tonight. The guy fights and competes. “
Ohtani allowed a second run in the fifth run when he beat Escobar, but a wild pitch put Ketel Marte in third place. He fanned David Peralta to end the inning and end his outing.
While Ohtani said he felt he was hanging his crush lengths too much – the reason he relied heavily on his splinter and threw it 16 times – Suzuki was impressed with everything Ohtani threw.
“He felt it tonight,” said Suzuki. “He threw hard, fast balls that were moving all over the place, splits were really good, threw some good sliders. It’s always a pleasure to see what Shohei will do on an evening when he’s playing or playing pitches. “
Ohtani played an inning in right field in sixth field, allowing the Halos to keep his bat in line-up for an extra at-bat. That decision paid off when Ohtani tore another double in seventh place, part of a rally that saw Los Angeles lead 5-4 when Justin Upton hit on a wild pitch.
The Angels bullpen could not hold the lead after Ohtani’s departure, and Raisel Iglesias gave up a game-defining homer to Eduardo Escobar with the D-back until the last goal. But Los Angeles won 10th place at Max Stassis RBI Groundout and a shutdown inning from Steve Cishek and Alex Claudio.
“For me,” said Maddon, “one of my favorite signs of a really solid group is winning extra innings on the road.”