Shohei Ohtani tipping pitches? Joe Maddon promises to be more ‘vigilant’ after loss
The House that Ruth Built has been a house of horrors for baseball’s modern-day Babe Ruth.
Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was pounded for four runs and eight hits in three-plus innings of a 6-1 loss to the New York Yankees in the first game of a split doubleheader Thursday, the Angels’ seventh straight loss and 11th in 14 games.
The substandard start on baseball’s second annual Lou Gehrig Day was actually an upgrade over Ohtani’s first game in the Bronx, which says a lot about how the right-hander has performed here.
Ohtani didn’t make it out of the first inning in his highly anticipated Yankee Stadium debut last June 30, when he was rocked for seven runs and two hits, walked four and struck out one in a game the Angels came back and won 11-8 with a seven-run ninth.
The Angels will play in Philadelphia for the first time since 2014, allowing fans from Mike Trout’s nearby hometown to celebrate his homecoming.
In two career starts here, Ohtani has been torched for 11 earned runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings, striking out three and walking five.
“Two games is a small sample size,” Ohtani, speaking through an interpreter, said of his struggles in Yankee Stadium. “I don’t think the pressure has much to do with it. I just need to make my pitches.”
Ohtani threw 75 pitches, 51 for strikes, Thursday and his average fastball velocity of 97.5 mph was actually a tick up from his season average of 97 mph. But his high-octane stuff was useless against the Yankees, who swung and missed at only three of those pitches and fouled off 28 others.
“That’s very unusual,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of the three swinging strikes. “They’re really good at reading pitches.”
Maddon did not accuse the Yankees of stealing signs, but he did suggest Ohtani may have been tipping his pitches.
“I’m not accusing anybody of anything except that they’re good at it,” Maddon said. “If you’re able to acquire things through natural means, I’m all into it. I think it’s great. …
“There is things that pitchers can do that other teams pick up on. And when you have a group of guys that are good at that, you get an advantage. We just have to be more vigilant.”
When asked if he might have been tipping pitches, Ohtani laughed and said, “I’m not sure. You should probably ask the other side.”
Yankees leadoff man Matt Carpenter set the tone in the first when he fouled off seven of 11 pitches in a marathon at-bat that ended with his home run to right field. Gleyber Torres hit a two-out homer to left field for a 2-0 lead.
Ohtani escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the second when he got Marwin Gonzalez to pop out to second and Carpenter to ground out to second. But Aaron Judge led off the third with his major league-leading 19th homer, a 405-shot to left field that left his bat at 109.9 mph, for a 3-0 lead.
When Aaron Hicks and Jose Trevino opened the fourth with singles, Maddon pulled Ohtani in favor of left-hander Jose Quijada, who gave up an RBI double to Gonzalez that made it 4-0.
Quijada avoided further damage by striking out Carpenter and, after an intentional walk to Judge to load the bases, striking out Rizzo and getting Torres to fly out to left.
The afternoon did not get any better for Ohtani, who remained in the game as the designated hitter, or the Angels.
Ohtani singled with one out in the fifth and was picked off first base by Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes, who gave up five hits and struck out seven in seven scoreless innings to improve to 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA. Ohtani also struck out in the eighth and whiffed again in the ninth to end the game.
Angels reliever Jhonathan Diaz gave up a homer to DJ LeMahieu to open the fifth that made it 5-0 and a one-out single to Hicks.
When Angels shortstop Andrew Velazquez returns to New York this week, he’ll be back where he grew up and made a choice about the direction of his life.
Trevino followed with a hard one-hopper off the mound that was headed right toward second baseman Luis Rengifo, but the likely double-play grounder hit second-base umpire Chris Guccione and trickled toward first base for a single.
Right fielder Taylor Ward couldn’t corral Gonzalez’s drive with a leaping catch at the wall, the single loading the bases. Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly to center pushed the Yankees’ lead to 6-0.
Ward singled, advanced to second on Matt Duffy’s two-out walk and scored on Rengifo’s single to left to cut New York’s lead to 6-1. Max Stassi walked to load the bases for Jared Walsh, whose grand slam off closer Aroldis Chapman keyed that seven-run ninth in last year’s comeback win.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone summoned left-hander Wandy Peralta, who got Walsh to fly out to left field, ending the inning.
A 1-hour, 28-minute rain delay before the start of the ninth inning did not prevent Peralta from finishing the game. The reliever threw a scoreless ninth.
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