OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Shohei Ohtani could exhale, at last having made it through a whirlwind week and not one, but two separate debuts in the big leagues.
He got his first career hit, then three days later earned a win on the mound. Souvenir balls for each occasion.
Impressing manager Mike Scioscia with both his poise and repertoire, the two-way star from Japan won his major league pitching debut. He threw three-hit ball over six innings and led the Los Angeles Angels past the Oakland Athletics 7-4 on Sunday.
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”Personally I feel like I got off to a good start and obviously the team went 3-1 on the first road trip, so I’m very happy with the results,” Ohtani said through a translator.
After being the designated hitter in the opener, he expected to be far more nervous to pitch. It didn’t show.
Reaching the upper 90s (mph) with his fastball and keeping the A’s guessing with a nifty splitter, Ohtani struck out six and retired 14 of his final 15 batters.
He didn’t hit while pitching, as Albert Pujols was the DH and went 0 for 5.
Ohtani (1-0) pounded his glove following a 1-2-3 shutdown fifth. He walked one, and the only damage against him came on Matt Chapman’s three-run homer in the second.
The 23-year-old righty briefly removed his cap and looked to the sky after the drive, then went back to work and blanked the A’s the rest of the way.
”After that three-run shot, Scioscia came up to me and said I’m doing fine,” Ohtani said.
Ohtani began the season-opening series by hitting a single on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer, part of a 1-for-5 day at the plate. He capped the set by posting his first win.
Not too shabby, considering he struggled in spring training with his arm and bat. He went 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA in a pair of Cactus League outings and wound up pitching against minor leaguers on back fields, and also had trouble making contact with his swing.
”He showed really good command today and was able to move the ball in and out, up and down, and we had a hard time getting consistent contact off of him,” Chapman said.
Ohtani received ample support from the Los Angeles lineup.
Ohtani began the game with four straight outs – fanning three – before allowing consecutive singles to Matt Joyce and Stephen Piscotty that set up Chapman’s first home run of 2018.
”He used everything,” Scioscia said. ”Outside of maybe one stretch of three hitters in the second inning, that’s about as well as you could pitch. … Shohei has shown great poise in everything he’s done – the way he’s practiced, the adjustments he’s made at the plate when he’s swinging the bat. I think that’s going to be one of his strengths moving on.”
The Angels staked Ohtani to a quick 2-0 lead on back-to-back doubles by Luis Valbuena and Jefry Marte second against Daniel Gossett (0-1).
Cheers of ”Ohtani!” greeted the pitcher as he prepared to throw his first pitch, a 96 mph fastball called strike to Marcus Semien. Ohtani fanned the leadoff man on four pitches and got through the first on 13 pitches, nine for strikes.
In all, Ohtani threw 92 pitches, 63 of them strikes.
Piscotty’s RBI single in the ninth chased Blake Parker. Kenyan Middleton entered to close it out for his first save.
The Angels are off to their first 3-1 start since a 100-win season in 2008.
Gossett’s day was done after four innings and 66 pitches. He allowed four runs and walked two.
JOINING THE BABE
Ohtani became the first player since Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 to start on opening day in a non-pitching role, then also start on the mound in the initial 10 games.
A ROOKIE DEBUT AND A SEASONED VETERAN
After seeing Ohtani on Sunday, the A’s on Monday will face 44-year-old Bartolo Colon starting for Texas against his old team in the 529th start of his career – and in his 21st season.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney, on the disabled list retroactive to last Monday with inflammation in his pitching elbow, threw 69 pitches over five times getting up and down during an intrasquad game in Arizona. General manager Billy Eppler will meet with the medical staff before determining the pitcher’s next step.
Athletics: OF Joyce was the DH for a second straight game as he nurses a sore right ankle. Manager Bob Melvin hopes it will only be a day or two before he’s back in left. … RHP Trevor Cahill, who signed a minor league deal last month for a second stint with Oakland, is still building his workload and innings at extended spring training.
Angels: RHP JC Ramirez, an 11-game winner last season, pitches the home opener for the Angels against Cleveland.
Athletics: RHP Andrew Triggs pitches for the first time since a hip injury last June 9 that required labrum surgery as the A’s open a series against Texas.
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