Los Angeles (AL) 1 – 6 – 1
Oakland 3 – 5- 1
By Lewis Rubman
Fri May 28, 2021
Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon (right) goes out to relieve pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) in the seventh inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Fri May 28, 2021
OAKLAND–In Spanish, Major League Baseball is called la gran carpa, The Big Top. And Shohei Ohtani is a three ring circus; he can hit, pitch, and field with the best of them. He was scheduled to pitch for the Angels when they opened a four game series against the A’s Thursday night at the Coliseum, but San Francisco’s rush hour traffic delayed his arrival long enough to prevent him from completing his preparation for his mound duties.
Instead, he batted second as the Angel’s DH and went 0 for three, postponing his season’s mound debut against the A’s until Friday night. He brought a 1-0, 3.69 record with him. Neither his batting average of .266 nor his 1-0, 3.69 pitching record is, at first glance, impressive numbers, but that changes on closer examination.
As a batter, Ohtani had an OPS of .944 with 15 home runs in 177 bats before the day began. That’s a homer for every 11.8 ABs. only three earned runs in his last 20-2/3 innings.
In spite of his respectable but not outstanding ERA, all of the runs scored against him came in five of the 32 innings he’d pitched. Ohtani has great movement on the ball until the A’s reached him for a run in the sixth inning and was relieved by Steven Cishek in the 3-1 Oakland victory.
He features a four seamer, a slider, and a split finger fast ball, in that order of frequency, and he mixes them effectively. Going into tonight’s game, hitters were batting .049 in 42 at bats against his splitter this year, a figure that is consistent with his lifetime performance in MLB of .050 in an even hundred ABs. His fastest pitch so far this season was 101.1 mph.
The numbers for Oakland’s starter, Sean Manaea, 3-2, 4.17, aren’t particularly prepossessing. He started the season poorly, getting knocked about by Houston in his first start, when he needed 101 pitches to get through 4-2/3 innings in which he gave up five runs on six hits and a walk.
His next four starts, in which he went 3-0, 1.50, including a seven inning complete game shutout at the Coliseum, were more successful. He finished April at 3-1, 2.83.
But this month has proved a disaster for him. In his five May starts before today, he received the decision only once, an 8-1 loss at Fenway in which he lasted a mere two innings.
His earned run average so far this month was 5.68. Any mention of Manaea and the Red Sox has to include the no hitter he pitched against them on April 21, 2018 in the Coliseum.
For a moment it looked as if the Angels would draw first blood in the top of the third, when with no out and David Fletcher on first with a walk, Justin Upton, who had opened the game with a ground out to short, sent a seeing eye low drive in the hole between Andrus and Chapman, putting men on first and second and the numbers two, three, and four batters coming to the plate. Manaea got the powerful Jared Walsh to go down swinging at round house curves.
Then Anthony Rendon sent a hard liner to right center that Mark Canha, filling in for Ramon Laureano, tracked down and captured for the second out. That brought up clean up hitter Juan Legares. He hit a hard grounder Jed Lowrie, made a wonderful back hand stab to catch and a crisp throw to first to end the inning.
Things began to heat up in a less pleasant way when Ohtani nearly beaned Canha with a 94 mph fast ball, which caused both dugouts to empty. But things quieted down, and Canha struck out into a double play, ex-Athletic cathcer Kurt Suzuki threw to shortstop José Rojas to get the second out.
The exciting fielding continued with an inning ending running catch by Taylor Ward of Tony Kemp´s liner to right field to end the inning. Seth Brown topped that by making a diving grab of Phil Gooselin’s dying quail just inside the right field foul line that opened the Los Angeles fourth, an inning in which Manaea retired the Angels in order.
The Angels increased the pressure on Manaea in the top of the fifth. Suzuki led off with a slicing double to left. David Fletcher bunted him over to third. Manaea walked Upton and once more had to deal with Walsh in a dangerous situation. This time, he got the slugger to ground into a double play, Andrus to Olson, on a 93 mph sinker.
All the while, Ohtani was breezing through the Oakland line up, yielding only a pair of base on balls and and then Andrus’s single in the third before Andrus got his second single, to center, like first. This time, Canha was almost hit by a pitch.
Ohtani plunked him with a four seamer that travelled 92 mph. Kemp lay down a beautiful bunt that Ohtani fielded, considered throwing third but decided to get the sure out at first, and the A’s had runners on second and third with one down.
Olson sent a fly to deep left field, a very different sort of sacrifice than Kemp’s bunt in front of home but equally effective in moving up both runners. One of those was, of course, Canha, who scored the first run of the game for either team. Ohtani’s strike out of Seth Brown seemed anti-climactic.
Oakland’s lead was short lived. A one out Texas League single to left center by Rojas, a sacrifice by Suzuki, and Fletcher´s single to left, and the game was tied at one, ending Manaea’s tenure on the mound. Yusmeiro Petit came in to face the top of the Angels’ order. He did it successfully by wiffing Upton, staying on to throw a 1-2-3 top of the eighth.
Manaea left the game with 6-2/3 innings under his belt. He gave up six hits but only one run, which was earned. He walked three and struck out eight. 61 of his 94 pitches were strikes. After ths gutsy performance, Manaea’s ERA dropped to 3.86, but he had to settle for a no decision.
Ohtani weakened in the seventh. He issued two straight walks, to Lowrie and Moreland, to open the frame. Chapman’s single to left would have loaded the bases with no outs, but Upton fumbled it, and his error allowed Lowrie to score the run that put Oakland ahead, 2-1.
That was all for Ohtani. Steve Cishek, who relieved him, surrendered a single to left center to Murphy, which plated Moreland and put Chapman on third. Cishek also induced an inning ending around the horn double play. His work done, he yielded to reliever Mike Mayers after the inning was over.
It was Lou Trivino who was given the task of closing out the game out for the green and gold.
For sixth innings, Ohtani had pitched a beautiful game. He left it with a line of three runs, all earned but two of them scored after he was gone, allowed on three hits and four walks and a hit batter. 54 of his 93 offerings were strikes. For all that, he took the loss.
It was Lou Trivino who was given the task of closing out the game for the green and gold.
He set LA down in order to get his seventh save. The win went to Petit, his seventh of the year.
Before the game, the A’s announced that that they had placed left handed reliever Reymin Guduan on the 10-day injured list retroactive to May 26 with a strained right groin and that they had replaced him on the roster with the righty relief pitcher Jordan Weems.
They also made another move, one that could be more significant, by taking A.J. Puk off the injured list and optioning him to AAA Las Vegas, one short step away from the big club, who’ll probably use him, at least the first step, from the bull pen.
The schedule for the remaining games in the current A’s home stand is:
Saturday, May 29, Oakland Frankie Montás (5-4, 4.92) will face Los Angeles Alex Cobb (2-2, 4.78) at 1:07.
Sunday, May 30, it will be Oakland Cole Irvin (3-6, 3.92) against Los Angeles José Quintana (0-4, 7.92), also at 1:07)
Monday, May 31, Oakland James Kaprielian vs. Los Angeles TBA at 1:10.