By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–For a minute, it appeared as if the A’s had a handle on Shohei Ohtani in his major league pitching debut.
For a minute.
In the opening weekend series finale, Ohtani became the first big leaguer to have a starting offensive assignment and pitch as a starter within 10 games of his debut since Babe Ruth. But Ohtani made sure that history was just a jumping off point as he threw high 90’s gas throughout and struck out three the first four batters he faced swinging.
Then Ohtani struggled to execute breaking pitches–an issue for the Japanese import in spring training–and Matt Chapman seized the opening with a three-run homer that gave the A’s a brief 3-2 lead in the second inning.
Did we mention high 90’s gas? After allowing Chapman’s home run, Ohtani leaned heavily on his fastball-splitter combo, retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
Add 13 hits to Ohtani’s mini-gem and the Angels 7-4 win felt more lopsided and assured than it was.
“You can see how he can get hitters out, not just the velocity but all his pitches,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He used everything. Outside of one stretch of three hitters in the second inning, that’s about as well as you can pitch.”