Shohei Ohtani gets MRI test on pitching arm following dismal start in Angels loss
A grueling Sunday afternoon in which the Angels let another late-inning lead slip away in a 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Houston Astros ended with news that could puncture their playoff hopes in a pandemic-shortened season.
Soon after the 4-hour, 37-minute marathon in Angel Stadium ended and long after another disconcerting start by Shohei Ohtani, the two-way star informed the team that he had some discomfort in his surgically repaired pitching arm.
Ohtani, who walked five batters in a 42-pitch second inning that he was unable to complete, was sent out for an MRI test, the results of which were not available Sunday evening.
With 50 games left in a 60-game season and the Angels already in a 3-7 hole, they could very well be without their best starting pitcher for the rest of the season. Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and was relegated to hitting last season.
“It’s tough because it’s a short season and every game counts,” said slugger Albert Pujols, who provided the bulk of the Angels’ offense Sunday with a third-inning grand slam. “Every game, you have to take it like it’s a playoff game, there’s no tomorrow.
“There’s a regular season where you play 162 games and you’re allowed to have a bad month and make it up later on. You have a bad week now, and pretty much, the season could be over.”
It’s clear from Shohei Ohtani’s velocity alone that the Angels’ Japanese phenom is nowhere close to the same pitcher he was before his 2018 Tommy John surgery.
A very bad week for the Angels began on July 26, when Ohtani allowed five earned runs, three hits and three walks without recording an out in a 30-pitch start at Oakland.
It continued with a shutout loss in the series finale against the A’s on Monday, two losses in a three-game series against Seattle and was bookended by another shaky effort by Ohtani on Sunday.
Following an eight-pitch, one-two-three first inning, Ohtani lost his command in a disastrous second in which he walked five, two with the bases loaded, and the velocity of his fastball, usually in the 95-96-mph range, dipped to 89-90 mph.
“I thought it was fatigue,” said manager Joe Maddon, who spoke to reporters before the team announced that Ohtani left for an MRI. “I thought he came out of his delivery.”
Pujols took Ohtani off the hook for a potential loss when he followed three walks by Houston starter Josh James with his 15th career grand slam, blasting a two-and-0 chest-high fastball over both bullpens in left field to turn a 2-0 Angels deficit into a 4-2 lead.
The 437-foot shot was the 658th homer of his career, moving Pujols to within two of Willie Mays (660) for fifth place on baseball’s all-time list, and his 60th against the Astros, more than any other player.
But an Angels bullpen that showed more resolve on Sunday, with Jose Rodriguez, Cam Bedrosian, Hoby Milner and Mike Mayers delivering solid efforts, couldn’t hold on.
Keynan Middleton threw a scoreless sixth, but Alex Bregman turned around one of his 98-mph fastballs in the seventh, driving a homer to center to pull the Astros to within 4-3.
Ty Buttrey, summoned for a five-out save, escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth, but Michael Brantley doubled to lead off the ninth and pinch-runner Myles Straw scored on Josh Reddick’s one-out RBI single — a grounder that would have gone to the shortstop had the Angels not shifted their infield — for a 4-4 tie.
It was the major league-high fifth blown save for the Angels in 10 games and the third time they’ve lost a game when leading in the seventh inning or later.
Angels vs. Astros highlights.
Both teams scored in the 10th inning, which started with a runner on second base. Houston’s Kyle Tucker took third on Carlos Correa’s fly to deep right and scored on Garrett Stubbs’ sacrifice fly for a 5-4 lead.
Michael Hermosillo grounded an 0-and-2 pitch from Framber Valdez into center field for an RBI single and a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the 10th. The Angels went on to load the bases with one out, but Max Stassi, swinging at a first pitch, popped out to first base, and Matt Thaiss struck out looking at a full-count, knee-high fastball from left-hander Blake Taylor.
Bregman stroked a run-scoring single to center for a 6-5 Astros lead in the 11th. Thaiss took third on David Fletcher’s grounder to shortstop to start the bottom of the 11th, but Taylor struck out Luis Rengifo swinging and, after two walks, Brian Goodwin flied out to center to end the game.
Angels manager Joe Maddon won’t say whether he will move Hansel Robles out of the closing role. Hansel gave up two home runs against the Astros on Saturday.
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