On back-to-back nights in June, during an otherwise ordinary Angels stay at home, Shohei Ohtani pulled off two feats that could be career milestones for virtually any other player in baseball history.
On Tuesday, the star hit a pair of three-run homers and totaled eight RBIs, the most ever by a Japanese player in the Major Leagues.
A day later, Ohtani struck out 13, the most in his life, and covered eight shutout innings with two-hit ball. He retired 16 straight batters from the Kansas City Royals and got 24 outs without a hit against his last 24 opponents.
Able to shine both on the mound and on the wood, this phenomenal Japanese athlete continues to find ways to amaze in the Major Leagues.
A year after being unanimously voted AL MVP with an unprecedented season, Ohtani finds new ways to inscribe his name in the major league record books. And with this, he fights to put the Angels (34-38) back on the winning silk, a team that, however, has not found a way to have a good season for many years.
Halfway through his second straight season with a groundbreaking performance, Ohtani has accustomed some to his incredible talents. But many of his achievements would have seemed impossible before last year, when he began to show off his true superpowers.
Fans and other Angels players deny that they are less amazed now by what the Japanese star does.
Looking at him every day, you think you get used to greatness, but there’s so much more involved with him,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “It just highlights the way his mind is in the game. He is attentive to everything. Is incredible. Seeing what he does on the baseball field is fun, as is being a part of it every day.”
Ohtani (6-4) looked at his performances in more practical terms Wednesday night after getting his third straight win and moving into fifth place in the American League in strikeouts despite making two or three fewer starts. than all pitchers above him on that chart.
“We were on a losing streak and I just wanted to put an end to that, make the team work better,” Ohtani said. “That’s what this team needs.”
No player had ever achieved the combined feat of driving in eight runs and striking out at least 10 in consecutive games. Not even Babe Ruth or some other brilliant player a century or so ago, when it was more common for players to pitch and hit with a certain quality.
And neither has any player in history had eight RBIs and 13 strikeouts in different games. Ohtani pulled it off on back-to-back nights in Anaheim.
Tony Cloninger came closest, getting a 10-strikeout game and a nine-RBI game for Atlanta in the 1966 campaign.
Although less than half of the season has elapsed, Ohtani is arguably having another MVP-worthy year.
Much of their numbers are better than last year at this point. He has struck out more, walked fewer and allowed fewer earned runs per game.
His hitting is a step behind what he showed in 2021, but it’s improving fast. He is hitting .301 in 22 games since May 29, with six home runs and 16 RBIs.
Ohtani has a 2.90 ERA, and the diversity of his stuff impressed Kansas City’s Mike Matheny. The manager had never seen the Japanese pitch against one of his teams until Wednesday.
And he had nothing but praise for Ohtani.
“I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of guys with as many guns as we saw today,” he said. “He threw strikes with a great combination of pitches. He threw three different sliders, plus a cutter and the curveball. When his splitter started working for him is when he started striking out people. He has a 100 (mph) fastball and he rarely even showed it.”