Shohei Ohtani throws a gem as Angels topple Astros in extras

Shohei Ohtani closed the Houston Astros the last time he faced them on July 13. During that game, he struck out 12 and gave up a earned run with four hits and two walks.

On Saturday, in front of an announced crowd of 38,244 at Angel Stadium and with a slightly different roster of players in the lineup, he put in another solid performance without the flair of double-digit strikeouts. Ohtani gave up a earned six-hit run and hit a batter with five strikeouts over eight innings in the Angels’ 2-1 win over the Astros in 12 innings. Matt Duffy hit an RBI single that drove into Taylor Ward and ended the extra-inning marathon.

Ohtani set a career-high in innings pitched (136), eclipsing his previous mark of 130 1/3. He lowered his earned run average to 2.58 and increased his strikeouts to 181, both fifth in the American League.

“He was amazing,” Phil Nevin, Angels interim manager, said of Ohtani after the game. “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.”

Ohtani also got help with some key defensive aids in the outfield.

In the first inning, newcomers Ryan Aguilar and Taylor Ward Ohtani back-to-back backed outs with flyballs that Aguilar and Ward had to slip to catch. In the second, shortstop Andrew Velazquez threw out the fast Christian Vazquez in a tight game.

It was those types of games, along with three strikeouts, that helped Ohtani keep the Astros from reaching base through three innings. And he was able to end his start in a 1-1 game after Aguilar’s sacrificial fly struck Luis Rengifo, who scored a single earlier in game seven.

“They have a good lineup from one to nine, so I took each batter individually,” Ohtani said in Japanese through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I’ve tried to pitch as long as possible and I feel like I’ve succeeded.

Angels starter Shohei Ohtani punches a teammate at the end of the first inning on September 3, 2022.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani punches a teammate at the end of the first inning.

(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

“Not only the outfielders but the infielders have been making great plays behind me, helping me keep my pitch count down, helping me get all the way to the eighth inning.”

Rengifo’s single was one of three hits the Angels mustered before Ohtani’s pitching night was over. David Fletcher was in charge of the other two.

Due to the way the Astros made contact against Ohtani’s fields, the hits had to come.

Ohtani started fourth by beating Jose Altuve in four places. Then Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder who initially skidded from Mike Ford to the Astros’ first hit of the game. Gurriel was stuck after Alex Bregman landed in a doubles game.

Angels second baseman David Fletcher, right, takes a toss from shortstop Andrew Velazquez en route to a double play.

Angels second baseman David Fletcher takes a toss from shortstop Andrew Velazquez en route to a double play in the fourth inning.

(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

But in the fifth, the Astros stringed together consecutive hits, the first a double from Trey Mancini and the second a single from JJ Matijevic, who scored the first run of the game. There was more trouble for Ohtani in the next inning. Altuve and Bregman both bet on Ohtani, who loaded the bases with two outs after hitting the hands of Kyle Tucker with a pitch.

The inning ended with an easy flyout.

The last time the Astros were in town with Ohtani on the mound, Houston manager Dusty Baker was looking for Ohtani to potentially start for his American League team at the All-Star Game. (Ohtani didn’t do that, of course, preferring to be ready to make the first start for the Angels’ first game after the break.)

“He’s not just an all-star, he’s a megastar,” Baker said of Ohtani ahead of this game, a 7-1 Angels win in which Ohtani won two for four with two RBIs. “He’s one of the best attacking players and one of the best throwers. And he’s smart – I can tell from the way he plays the game that he’s not just talented, he’s smart too.”

Michael Lorenzen is making progress

Michael Lorenzen had his final rehab start Friday at Low-A Inland Empire with a goal of taking his pitch count to nearly 90.

He ended his outing after throwing 86 pitches over six innings, giving up two earned runs with four hits, two walks and one hit from one pitch. He dropped five.

His next start will be off the injured list and back with the Big League club. Lorenzen has been on the IL since July 7th with a right shoulder strain. Shohei Ohtani throws a gem as Angels topple Astros in extras

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