Advertisement

It was a walk-off win at Angel Stadium, and another Sunday spent with Shohei Ohtani

The Rally Monkey danced on the video scoreboard and the Angels later danced on the field.

The 2-1 walk-off victory over the Minnesota Twins was the latest reminder of how Southern California offers the perfect conditions for early afternoon baseball games at this time of the year, the majority of the 30,000-plus patrons at Angel Stadium in T-shirts and replica jerseys with the temperature at a comfortable 67 degrees at first pitch.

Advertisement

And something else: This was another Sunday with Shohei.

Shohei Ohtani, who struck out 11 batters over 6 1/3 dominant innings of a no-decision, has gifted Major League Baseball more than its first two-way player in nearly a century. He has also provided the league with a regularly scheduled attraction.

Nothing about baseball is predictable and that includes when starting pitchers will take the mound. It's not uncommon for managers to forget who will pitch three days from now. About the only people who are certain to have this information memorized are pitching coaches and daily fantasy sports players.

Mike Scioscia can make fun of the idea as much as he wants — and he did — but baseball wins if everyone knows when the sport's most interesting athlete will take the mound.

Even better that he happens to pitch on Sundays, when fans don't have to go to work or school.

Enjoy it while it lasts because Ohtani won't remain on this schedule forever. Weather or injuries could change his schedule. So could the Angels, who are looking to maximize the contributions of their one-of-a-kind player.

Ohtani is too good to be pitching only once a week.

The Angels wanted Ohtani's playing schedule to remain similar to what it was in Japan, when he pitched once a week. That his turn fell on a Sunday was a coincidence, according to Scioscia, who added that Ohtani has never said he likes to pitch on Sundays or in day games.

"I think he'll pitch at midnight if we have a game," Scioscia said.

Ohtani pitched against the Boston Red Sox last month on a Tuesday, after a scheduled start in Kansas City was cancelled because of the weather. He made another Tuesday start in Houston, only to be moved back to Sunday because of an ankle injury.

Scioscia has refrained from using Ohtani the days directly before and after his starts and the player said his has physically responded well to the schedule.

"My body is feeling good after starts," Ohtani said in Japanese. "I feel I've been able to incorporate my training well into my cycle, too. I think things are going well right now."

His condition has made the Angels wonder if it's possible for them to get more out of him, with Scioscia already saying he will likely pitch once every six days at some point this season.

"In the big picture of where I think we will need to be with our rotation, it's going to be very helpful if he can come back and pitch on that sixth day," Scioscia said.

Advertisement

Ohtani lowered his earned-run average to 3.58 on Sunday. He has struck out 43 batters in 32 2/3 innings this season.

Typically, rookie pitchers become less effective as the league learns about them. The opposite appears to be happening here, as Ohtani looks to be benefitting from his increased familiarity with his new environment.

As was the case in Seattle a week earlier, Ohtani had a good feel Sunday for all four of his pitches: fastball, splitter, slider and curveball. He struck out nine batters in the first four innings.

"I think that's one of my characteristics, to be able to throw a variety of pitches and come up with different plans for each hitter," Ohtani said. "It will change depending on the opponent. But for the most part, I think being able to throw four pitches will be a weapon."

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani reacts after a strikeout during the sixth inning Sunday.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani reacts after a strikeout during the sixth inning Sunday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Ohtani walked Brian Dozier to start the sixth inning and allowed him to advance to second on a wild pitch. Ohtani retired the next three batters to preserve his team's 1-0 advantage.

"His stuff was electric and his presence in a tight ballgame is what Shohei's about," Scioscia said.

Ohtani was removed from the game after walking Logan Morrison with one out in the seventh. His replacement, Cam Bedrosian, allowed Morrison to score and tie the score 1-1.

Ohtani threw a season-high 103 pitches. He allowed three hits, all of them singles. He walked two.

Ohtani said he understood why Scioscia removed him from the game, pointing to how he allowed a two-run home run in the seventh inning of his previous start.

"I still can't be counted on in a place like that," Ohtani said. "I was the one who created the situation where he had to make a change."

He added that he was upset with himself.

"I think how you leave the mound is important," he said. "That wasn't a good way to leave."

Still, Scioscia politely corrected a reporter who described Ohtani's performance as "solid."

"That was a pretty phenomenal start, not a solid start," Scioscia said.

And the best part was that it didn't catch anyone by surprise. Chances are that anyone who was interested knew Ohtani was pitching.

Advertisement
Advertisement