Get that cowboy hat on it’s Shotime; Ohtani belts out 25th homer to defeat A’s 5-1

The Los Angeles Angels Shohei Ohtani clobbered his 118th career home run and his 25th of the season Tue Aug 9, 2022 against the Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum on Tue Aug 9, 2022 (@Angels photo)

Los Angeles (48-63). 5. 10. 1

Oakland (41-70). 1. 6. 1

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

By Lewis Rubman

OAKLAND–Shoehei Ohtani, tonight’s starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels stands out from all current baseball players. He came into the Coliseum with a pitching record of 9-7, 2.83, 152 strikeouts and only 24 walks in 195 innings pitched, during which he held opposing hitters to a batting average of .215. The Angels came away with a 5-1 victory over the Oakland A’s , the Angels Shohei Ohtani hit his 25th home run of the season his 118th career.

But that’s not all. Although his own batting average at game time was a middling .253, he had an impressive OPS of .836 that included 24 home runs in 396 at bats. No wonder people talk of him as the second coming of The Bambino.

I think that is a mistake. Ruth was an excellent pitcher and a great hitter, but not simultaneously. Once he had established himself as a slugger, he was converted from a pitcher to an outfield and would take the mound only rarely and then with little at stake. After being traded to the Yankees for the 1920 season, he pitched in only five games until his retirement in 1935.

Rick Ankiel also was a successful pitcher who remade himself as an outfielder. In his case, a bad case of the yips turned a good pitcher into a mediocre center field.

Ohtani isn’t in the same category of either of those successively twin way players. He belongs to a tradition that was, if not common, frequent in the Negro Leagues and Latin American baseball, that of the pitcher-position player who regularly combined both roles. The precarious economic situation of those organizations put a premium on player versatility.

The example that first jumps into my mind is Martín Dihigo, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, the United States, and probably a few more other places. He had a long career in the countries I’ve just listed as well as in the North American Negro Leagues that now are considered major leaglues.

In the 1938 Mexican League season he went 18-2, 0.90 and led the league in batting average at .387. He played every position, not as a stunt like Campy Campanaris’s nine position last day of the season exhibition, but as a regular. He went on to become a manager.

Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe didn’t play as many positions as Dihigo, but he did both pitch and catch. A one battery, he was ever ready to promote the game. He lived over 100 years and was active well into his 90s, having thrown one pitch for the Northern League Schaumburg Flyers when he was 96.

Bob Thurman was 30 years old when Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, so his age and baseball’s slowness in integrating limited his time in what was then considered the majors.

He did, however, play outfield and pitch for the San Francisco Seals and was part of one of the most impressive outfields in history, the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

In right was Roberto Clemente. Willie Mays was the center fielder, and Thurman, on the nights he wasn’t pitching, patrolled left field. (When Thurman was pitching, Luis Rodríguez Olmos, the first Puerto Rican to hit a home run in the World Series, was his replacement.

Every day, manager Herman Franks and Olmos would work on improving Clemente’s throwing technique. They’d hit him fungoes, which he would throw back to the mound, where a local teenager would catch them. That adolescent’s name was Orlando Cepeda.

Tuesday game recap: It’s no knock on the A’s starter, James Kaprielian, to say that he’s not a member of that exalted fraternity, but he isn’t. He’s a 28 year old who’d never gone deeper than seven innings. He made his 39th career start tonight, bringing a record of 3-5, 4.32 for the season with him.

Tonight he lasted only five frames, in which he surrendered four runs, three of them earned, on six hits and three walks. Of his 97 deliveries, were counted as strikes. He left the game with an ERA of 4.38, took the loss, making his W-L numbers 3-6.

One-time Giant Steven Duggar opened the top of the third with his first American League hit, a resounding triple to right center off a 95 mph four seamer. He scored moments later on David Fletcher’s pop single to center, putting the Angels ahead 1-0.

The Angels and Ohtani survived a scare in the bottom of that frame when Ramón Laureano’s inning ending line drive bounced off the pitcher’s toe before he recovered the ball and threw to first for the out. But Ohtani came back to the mound for the fourth.

A combination of luck, Oakland’s defensive deficiency, and Los Angeles power put the Halos ahead by four in the fifth. Ohtani led off with a scratch single to second. Luis Rengifo sent what might have been a double play ball just to the left of first base. Brown fielded it, looked at second and decided instead to pivot and throw, awkwardly, to Kaprielian covering at first.

The throw went wild, and both Rengifo and Ohtani were safely on base. Taylor Ward took a 94 mph four seamer deep to left, 393 feet to be exact, for a three run homer, his 15th round tripper and 39th, 40th, and 41st runs batted in.

That and Kaprielien’s pitch count of 97 brought Sam Selman out to pitch the sixth. He set the visitors down in order, the first time in the game that they’d gone down quietly.

Ohtani gave himself another run to work with when, leading off the seventh, he sent Selman’s slow slider soaring into the seats, 378 feet from home for his 25th dinger of ’22. Selman stuck around to retire the next two batters and then gave way to Domingo Tapia.

Jo Adell wrapped a double into the left field corner but fanned Jared Walsh to limit the damage. Oakland now was looking at a 5-0 shortfall.

Ohtani moved from the mound to the DH slot as a placeholder for the home seventh. The Halos’ new hurler was Jim Herget, who retired the side in order.

Ohtani had gone six innings as a pitcher, holding Oakland scoreless on four hits and three walks. He had five strikeouts to his credit, throwing 91 pitches, 55 going for strikes. He earned the win and now stands at 10-7, 2.68.

The crew from Anaheim was not a band of angels of mercy. Max Stassi led off the eighth with a line single back at Tapia. Andrew Velázquez, who had replaced José Rojas, followed with a two bagger to right that sent Stassi to third. Duggar walked to load the bases. But Tapia blocked the Angels´relentless attack.

Fletcher flew out to shallow right. Phil Gosselin pinch hit for Ohtani, and Allen made a nifty backhand grab of his grounder to short and made an accurate off-balance throw home to force Stassi at the plate. Rengifo grounded out to second, so the score stayed 5-0 in favor of the visitors.

Herget left with two on and two down in the Oakland eighth, replaced by José Quijada, the first lefty the A’s had faced tonight. In response, manager Kotsay called on Elvis Andrus to hit for Brown. He struck out.

Chad Pinder provided a bit of balm to the Athletics´wounded pride biy launching a 415 foot lead off home run to dead center field. It was his 10th home run of the season. But that’s as far as it went

Paul Blackburn (7-6, 4.28) will start for the Athletics in tomorrow’s 12:37 matchup against the Angels, who haven’t yet announced who will toe the rubber for them.

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