By this point, it’s clear that he possesses the tools, both physically and mentally, to dominate a baseball game.
Now everyone knows what it looks like when Shohei Ohtani has the motivation, too.
Pitching against one of the teams that courted him this past winter — and Seattle, at one time, was considered a frontrunner — the rookie produced six sterling innings Sunday as the Angels beat the Mariners 8-2.
Afterward, Ohtani thanked Seattle for its interest and even dismissed the booing the fans at Safeco Field directed at him in their first face-to-face encounter since the right-hander opted to become an Angel in December.
“I want to pitch well not just against this team but every other team that was pursuing me to show them that they weren’t wrong with their scouting,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I wanted to show them a good game.”
Through six innings, he showed them something better than good. Ohtani gave up four singles and a walk while striking out six. Seattle had only one at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
He failed to retire any of the three men he faced in the seventh, but by then, thanks to Mike Trout and the rest of the offense, Ohtani was well on his way to improving to 3-1.
True, Hernandez isn’t quite “the King” he once was, yet he’s still plenty capable, especially in Safeco Field, where each of his starts remains an event.
But it was Ohtani who stood tallest on the mound, showing no issues with the ankle he recently sprained or the 11 days he had off between pitching starts because of the injury.
“Let’s focus on those first six innings,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Those were pretty good.”
Ohtani struck out Jean Segura with a slider that short-hopped catcher Rene Rivera’s glove. He struck out Nelson Cruz with a slider that could have been classified as cruel. He struck out Ben Gamel with a splitter that evaporated.
Perhaps Ohtani’s most impressive sequence ended the fourth. He finished Mitch Haniger with a 99-mph fastball and a 85-mph slider that was closer to hitting the plate than Haniger’s flailing bat.
But in the seventh, with his pitch count crossing into the 90s, Ohtani’s gem faded quickly yet hardly completely. He gave up a single, a two-run homer (to Ryon Healy) and a walk, ending his day.
As much as Ohtani’s performance stood out, the effort simply fit in with what the Angels’ rotation has done lately.
In seven games since Garrett Richards allowed nine runs (five earned) to the New York Yankees, the starters have a collective ERA of 1.94.
On an even better roll is Trout, who is 12 for 22 with seven extra-base hits (including two home runs), six RBIs and eight walks in May.
His sixth-inning homer Sunday finished a four-run rally that began after three outs. The problem for Seattle was that the third out — a swinging whiff by Chris Young — ended as a wild pitch.
Young reached first and then came home on a Rivera double. After Ian Kinsler walked, Trout hit his three-run drive to make the score 6-0.
“This is what he can do,” Scioscia said, “when he’s seeing the ball well.”
The view is a good one right now for Trout and the Angels, who’ve won 13 of 16 on the road, with another two-game stop still to come in Colorado.