DETROIT – Shohei Ohtani looked his manager in the eye and with just a few words left no doubt as to his intentions.
“I’m going to finish it,” Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin recalled after Ohtani told him after the eighth inning of what would be the two-way superstar’s first full game in Major League Baseball. “He wanted it. I could see it too.”
Ohtani perfected his one-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers and then continued his exceptional day in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader game, hitting two homers to take his major league total to 38 before retiring the game left with cramps.
Ohtani became the first player in major league history to throw a shutout in one half of a doubleheader and hit a home run — let alone two — in the other.
“It’s certainly something I’ve never seen before — I’m not sure on any level,” Nevin said.
Hours before Ohtani broke the news to his manager, the Angels broke one of their own.
The franchise, desperate to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014, struck a win-now trade to strengthen its pitching team and confirmed Ohtani will stay on for the remainder of the season before becoming a free agent.
“We’re going to roll the dice and see what happens,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian told reporters before Ohtani led Los Angeles to a 6-0 win over the Tigers in the first game of the doubleheader, just days before the MLB trade deadline.
Ohtani’s start was his best in the majors. He gave up one hit, walked three and hit eight on 111 courts, including fastballs that hit nearly 100 miles per hour and sliders and splitters that staggered the Tigers. Ohtani improved to 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA on the hill.
In Game 2, Ohtani returned to the role of designated batsman. The left-hander hit a two-run home run to the left in the second inning and a line drive to right center in the fourth before Nevin pulled him out of the game after grimacing in pain.
“He’s going to take some fluids and be fine,” Nevin said after the Angels’ 11-4 win that gave them one win in three games in Detroit and nine wins in 11 games.
According to a study by ESPN Stats & Information, Ohtani became only the fifth player since 1900 to throw a shutout and hit two home runs (singles games and doubleheaders) on the same day, and the first since Sonny Siebert in 1971.
“We try not to take what we have in him for granted,” Nevin said. “I’m sorry to say that you expect great things every day, but that’s what we get that impresses me most about him.
It was just the latest proof of why Ohtani could have made a huge haul from a trade and why he is expected to land what is perhaps the most lucrative sporting contract in the world this offseason.
Some are speculating the 29-year-old could make $500-$600 million in the open market, but recent developments don’t seem to have affected his mindset.
“From the start, my plan was to end this season strong with the Angels,” Ohtani said through an interpreter after his jewel on the hill. “I don’t think things are really going to change mentally.
“But all the people talking about the trades will go away. So I feel like my only focus is on getting this team to the playoffs.”
The angels are too.
They’re motivated to shed their reputation for wasting the talents of MVPs Mike Trout and Ohtani. The Arte Moreno-owned ball club has the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons (seven) and consecutive non-playoff seasons (eight, tied with Detroit) among the majors.
The angels want to hold Ohtani for as long as possible.
“I’ve never gone up to Shohei and said, ‘Hey, we’re not swapping you,'” Minasian said. “I think I made it pretty clear the last time we spoke that he wasn’t going anywhere.”
Another factor in the decision, a source told ESPN Wednesday, was that the Angels were unconvinced by the players being offered in exchange for Ohtani.
The 2021 American League MVP leads the majors in home runs and OPS at plate and is among the leaders in opponent’s batting average and strikeouts at mound. His 38 home runs are the most hit by an Angels player prior to August in franchise history, surpassing his own 2021 mark of 37, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He’s doing the impossible,” said Tigers manager AJ Hinch. “We’re playing against a generational talent.”
When Chad Wallach located a pop-up in foul territory in the latter part of the fifth round, Ohtani made every effort to pick up the catcher’s mask and hand it to him.
He really can do anything.
“I love Shohei Ohtani,” Minasian said. “He comes in, prepares, works, goes out and performs every night. Obviously he does both.” [hitting and pitching]. He’s a great teammate. He takes it really seriously. he eats it he sleeps it
“He’s someone we’d like to have in the future.”
To increase their chances of contending for the AL West title or earning a wildcard if they fall behind in the division, the Angels acquired right-handers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López from the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night. Giolito is expected to make his Angels debut against Toronto on Friday night.
“I think this is the first time in my six years that we’re buyers,” Ohtani said.
The Angels also made another decision and fielded 2021 All-Star hitter Jared Walsh. Walsh has hit .119 with a home run and five RBIs in 28 games this season after coming off an injury-hit 2022. This year he struggled with headaches and insomnia.
“He’s been through tough times trying to find it again,” Nevin said. “I know he will keep working. I hope he stays with us because I know if he does his best we’re a better team with him.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.