Add Shohei Ohtani’s nasty new sinker to list of MVP-level achievements

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani signals to his teammates.
Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani signals to teammates during the fourth inning of his eight-inning effort Saturday night in a win over the Houston Astros.
(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

Angels fans no doubt remember the Aug. 15 game against the Seattle Mariners that ended with a ninth inning gone awry in the most tumultuous way and went viral on social media.

That late chaos, in which the Angels gave up four unearned runs and lost, overshadowed a Shohei Ohtani start in which he unveiled a new tool in his pitching arsenal.

A sinker.

He threw it just six times; four were balls, one turned into a groundout and one resulted in a strikeout.


It was a pitch that Ohtani said he worked on in bullpen sessions, and he decided that game was the right time to show it off. He threw it six times Aug. 27 in a 2-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The evolution of that pitch has been impressive. On Saturday against the Houston Astros, he threw the sinker 18 times.

The results: seven called strikes — one of which was a strikeout — seven balls, one foul, one popout and two hits (a single by Yuli Gurriel and a double by Jose Altuve). At its fastest, Ohtani’s sinker reached 100.6 mph. At its slowest, it was still 94 mph. It hovered between 97 and 99 mph.

Shohei Ohtani delivers eight quality innings in one of his finest pitching performances for the Angels, who beat the Astros 2-1 on Matt Duffy’s single.

Sept. 3, 2022

“Felt really good about it for the most part,” Ohtani explained through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara after Saturday’s game. “Gave up a couple of hits, but they were pretty unlucky. I was able to locate it where I wanted it, and I was able to throw a lot of it, so it was really good.”

It was a measured response compared with the way interim manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani felt about it during the game.

“He said himself [to Mizuhara], ‘My two-seamer is nasty today.’ To me that’s a difference-making pitch for even a guy that’s a difference maker himself,” Nevin said. “That’s just him when he’s in the moment.

“He’s confident. When he’s in a groove and he knows he’s in a groove, it’s like Larry Bird in basketball or Magic or Jordan. It’s not trash talking. It’s just he knows what he’s got.”

The introduction of a new pitch adds to the lore of Ohtani as an ever-improving two-way competitor. Ohtani, the unanimous American League most valuable player last year, and the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge are considered the favorites for this season’s award.


Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

“To me that’s a difference-making pitch for even a guy that’s a difference maker himself.”

— Phil Nevin, on Shohei Ohtani’s two-seamer

Pitchers usually look to develop new pitches in the offseason, though it’s not uncommon to try to do so during the year. Angels left-hander José Suarez added a changeup this season. Ohtani developed his cutter in the middle of last season.

The introduction of an effective sinker has surprised no one in the Angels’ clubhouse.

“Nothing he does surprises any of us,” starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval said. “He’s a unicorn. He can do whatever, however, how quick he wants to.

“It’s funny, we worked out in the offseason. I think we were doing jumps or something, and he always wants to know: ‘What’s the record? What’s the record?’ Because he wants to beat it. He aims to be the best at everything.”

“I’ve been waiting a minute to hear my name called, so I felt pretty prepared,” Zack Weiss said after a 4-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday.

Sept. 3, 2022

Saturday’s game with the Astros went 12 innings before the Angels won 2-1 on Matt Duffy’s RBI single. As a result of the late game, and with Ohtani throwing eight innings, he was given Sunday off by Nevin.

Also getting a scheduled day off, but for maintenance reasons, was infielder David Fletcher.

Angels fall to Astros

Angels starting pitcher Tucker Davidson delivers against the Houston Astros on Sunday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

It wasn’t the hottest home game on record in Angels history — that was in 2020, when the temperature reached 109 degrees in a doubleheader with the Astros. Sunday’s game, also against the Astros, was the sixth-hottest game (102 degrees) in team history in Anaheim.

The overall outcome? Not so hot for the Angels, who lost 9-1.

Tucker Davidson got through the first inning unscathed. But in the second, he gave up five earned runs, including a two-run home run by Kyle Tucker. He surrendered four hits, one walk and one hit batter in the inning.

Davidson gave up another two-run homer in the seventh to Altuve.

“I think it was kind of a roller coaster of a day, so not really good,” Davidson said.

His biggest contribution, he said, was lasting until the seventh inning to help preserve the bullpen.

Jimmy Herget has started and relieved but has found recent success as a closer for the Angels, who lost 4-2 to the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Sept. 2, 2022

“One of the things was, ‘Let’s minimize when we can,’ and I felt like I did that after the second inning,” Davidson said. “ I need to do better in that second inning. When I gave up the home run, it needed to stop there.

“I think a month ago, it might have [snowballed] and all of a sudden it just goes down and then all of a sudden it’s 7-0 in the third inning versus the seventh.”

Asked whether the heat had any effect on his performance, Davidson said he had played in hotter games in Atlanta and as a minor leaguer during a game in Nashville.

Davidson has made five starts as an Angel since he came over in the trade that sent closer Raisel Iglesias to the Braves. In 25 1/3 innings, he has given up 18 earned runs and walked 16. Sunday’s outing was the longest he has lasted in a big league start this season.

The Angels had only six hits.

Their run came in the eighth inning on a home run by Mike Trout

The Astros scored two runs in the ninth on a two-run single by Yordan Alvarez off Jose Marte.

Lorenzen’s return

Pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who has been on the injured list since the beginning of July with a right shoulder strain, will probably start Friday in Houston, according to Nevin. Ohtani is scheduled to pitch Saturday.