On Monday night, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels made history, as he became the first pitcher since Babe Ruth to start a game while leading the league in home runs. He took the mound for his third start of the season while also remaining in the batting lineup. Ohtani slugged from the two-spot behind David Fletcher and ahead of Mike Trout, who was returning from an injury. The Angels opened up a three-game series against the Texas Rangers with a 9-4 win.
The win came after the Angels stumbled in Houston to start the road stint. With both Trout and Anthony Rendon sidelined with injuries, Ohtani has provided the majority of the Angels’ offense over the last few days. His offense has greatly contributed to the Angels’ success. However, where Ohtani fits into the starting rotation remains a question through his first three starts of the season.
Last Time in History
On June 13, 1921, Babe Ruth took the mound to start against the Detroit Tigers. At the time, he led the league in home runs. He pitched through five innings allowing four runs, seven walks, and one strikeout. While his pitching stats may not be very noteworthy, Ruth made up for it when he was at the plate. In three at-bats, he hit two home runs and was intentionally walked.
Ohtani entered the series against the Houston Astros with a 1.045 OPS and five home runs. Further, he ranked at the top of the league in wRC+ at 192. Once again, with Trout and Rendon out of the lineup, Ohtani had to carry the Angels’ offense, which he has done. In total, he hit two home runs, stole a base, and generated three RBI. The series proved challenging against the Astros as the Halos dropped three of four games. However, Ohtani provided the tie-breaking solo home run to push the Angels ahead in the eighth inning netting the Halos only win in the series.
On Monday night, while Ohtani was making history on the mound, he continued his offensive contributions. He went 2-3 with a walk, a double, a bunt single, and 2 RBI as the Angles scored 9 runs against the Rangers.
After his first start against the Chicago White Sox, Ohtani faced the Rangers on the 20th of April. He struggled with control in the first two innings walking four batters and loading up the bases in the first inning. Yet, Ohtani worked through those challenges without allowing any runs. He pitched four innings allowing only one hit, six walks, and racking up seven strikeouts.
Less than a week later, facing the Rangers for a second time, he started the game similarly to his last start. He lacked control of his pitches as he walked two batters, hit one batter, and allowed a three-run homer for a total of four runs in the inning. Pulling Ohtani early from the game would impact both sides of the ball as the Angels would have to use a number of pinch hitters or have relief pitchers bat. However, after hitting a two-RBI double in the top of the second inning, Ohtani dominated the Rangers lineup for the rest of his time on the mound. He pitched four scoreless innings finishing with a total of nine strikeouts and only three hits. In his last start on the 20th of April, he only pitched four innings on 80 pitches. Last night, he proved to be more effective in his second outing against the Rangers, pitching a total of 75 pitches over five innings.
Ohtani’s efforts on both sides of the ball contributed to the Angels’ victory against the Rangers with a final score of 9-4. Ohtani continues to make history, but can he keep it up? The game is a lot different from when Ruth played, but Ohtani is a much different athlete from Ruth. For now, the Angels will continue to refine Ohtani’s role on both sides of the plate. His offensive production presents a difficult decision in taking him out of the lineup. However, manager Joe Maddon will continue to evaluate how to best use Ohtani on the mound and elsewhere. Last Saturday, Ohtani found himself in the outfield. Does Maddon continue to have Ohtani pitch and hit on the same day, losing the DH position? Answers to these questions will populate as the season progresses. Regardless, Ohtani’s athleticism continues to provide a lot of enthusiasm and entertainment for baseball fans.
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