Shohei Ohtani’s 10Ks, ace pitching spoiled in Angels’ opening day loss to Athletics
Logan O’ Hoppe finished batting practice, greeted his parents, then made his way past the hordes of reporters in front of the dugout. Asked what the young catcher, making his first opening night appearance, expected his starting pitcher to do, O’Hoppe’s eyes lit up and he grinned.
“Do Shohei Ohtani things.”
Ohtani pitched three innings of no-hit baseball against the Athletics before he got tagged by back to back hits in the fourth inning.
Needing two outs to get out of the jam, Ohtani struck out the next two batters — Jesús Aguilar and Ramon Laureano, on a 100.7-mph fastball. Ohtani yelled as he walked back to the dugout.
Mike Trout said Ohtani’s pitches in the fourth inning “went from dominant to unhittable.”
Ohtani struck out 10 over six innings at Oakland Coliseum, giving up just the two hits and walking three. Not that any of it mattered in the end. Ohtani exited his start with the Angels ahead by a run. In the eighth inning, the A’s Tony Kemp hit an RBI double to tie the score and the A’s went on to win 2-1.
“We got a lot of guys on base, got a few guys in scoring position, but we just lacked that one big hit,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara after the game. “Obviously we want to score more.”
Thursday was opening night, and for Ohtani and the Angels, the start of a season where they’ll try to end end their eight-plus year playoff drought. The ceremonial bunting hung in the Coliseum, the “2023 OPENING DAY” MLB logo painted on the field, the fireworks were launched into the sky.
The Angels’ Anthony Rendon had a comeback spring training and the infielder hopes to replicate it during the season while staying healthy.
And the announced crowd of 26,805 fans — the ones supporting the Athletics, the ones cheering for the Angels and the ones who showed up wearing A’s shirts underneath Ohtani jerseys — shivered in the low temperatures, witnessing all of Ohtani, and sticking around for the A’s late comeback, a surge that started in the eighth inning.
The A’s rally started with Angels reliever Aaron Loup on the mound.
Consecutive hits from Esteury Ruiz and Kemp got the A’s their first run. Loup struck out the next batter before being replaced by Ryan Tepera, who was greeted with a single by Aledmys Díaz to drive in Kemp.
“Probably the most embarrassing outing of my career,” Loup said. “I was out there pitching scared ... but it is what it is.”
Before the game got away from the Angels late, Ohtani’s start needed a few batters to find his dominance. Kemp was the first batter walked by Ohtani.
“I think he would have been even more unhittable if we had the pitch com the first inning,” O’Hoppe said. Ohtani said he felt out of rhythm pitching during that first batter.
But Ohtani, with the help of the position players behind him, never let it unravel. Brandon Drury expertly fielded a grounder hit down the first-base line by Conner Capel, securing the forceout on Kemp at second.
Capel reached on a fielder’s choice. Ohtani retired the last two batters of the inning on a strikeout and flyout.
Another one of those key moments came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jace Peterson hit a deep line drive to right field. Hunter Renfroe tracked it the whole way and, despite the catch looking improbable, he made one.
Renfroe caught Peterson’s shot on the fly, behind his back, not even fully looking at the ball. Renfroe said he did not see the ball when he caught it and that the ball just found his glove.
“There were a lot of expletives [going through my head] I’m sure,” Renfroe recalled. “It looks like I’m out there in the circus. But I caught it, helped Shohei out.”
Even Ohtani appeared stunned as he raised his arms in the air, then on top of his head. “I thought it was a hit 100%,” Ohtani said.
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It also took the Angels’ offense three innings before it produced a hit, let alone a run. Gio Urshela broke through against A’s rookie starter Kyle Muller in the third inning.
He also scored their first run of the game in the fifth, driven in by O’Hoppe.
“We’re gonna score more runs, I’m not worried about that,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said after the game. “Just opening night. Baseball gets weird sometimes.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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