Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has new sinker that makes him more MVP

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

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

A sinker.

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

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

The development of this 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). The fastest, Ohtani’s sinker reached 100.6 miles per hour. At its slowest, it was still 94 mph. It hovered between 97 and 99 mph.

“I felt really good for the most part,” Ohtani explained through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara after Saturday’s game. “I gave up a few hits but they were pretty unlucky. I could find it where I wanted it and I could throw a lot of it, so it was really good.”

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

‘ he said himself [to Mizuhara], ‘My two-tailer is angry today.’ To me, even for a man making a difference himself, that’s a crucial pitch,” Nevin said. “It’s just him when he’s in the moment.

“He is 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 talk. He only knows what he has.”

The introduction of a new pitch adds to the lore of Ohtani as an ever-improving two-way competitor. Ohtani, who was unanimously named the American League’s Most Valuable Player last year, and the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge are considered favorites for this season’s award.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros Saturday night.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros Saturday night.

(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

“For me, this is a crucial pitch, even for a man who makes a difference himself.”

— Phil Nevin, on Shohei Ohtani’s pair

Pitchers typically try to come up with new pitches during the off-season, although it’s not uncommon to try to do so during the year. Angels left-hander José Suarez added one change this season. Ohtani developed his cutter in the middle of last season.

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

“Nothing he does surprises any of us,” said starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval. “He’s a unicorn. He can do whatever he wants, but as fast as he wants.

“It’s funny, we trained in the off-season. I think we made jumps or something and he always wants to know, ‘What’s the record? What’s the record?’ Because he wants to hit it. He wants to be the best at everything.”

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 after pitching eight innings, Ohtani received a free Sunday from Nevin.

Infielder David Fletcher was also given a scheduled day off, but for maintenance reasons.

Lorenzen’s return

Pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who has been on the injured list since early July with a strained right shoulder, is expected to start in Houston on Friday, according to Nevin. Ohtani is scheduled to open on Saturday. Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has new sinker that makes him more MVP

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