Angels’ Shohei Ohtani knocked out in first inning, allows career-high seven runs vs. Yankees

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The Shohei Ohtani show moved to the mound Wednesday night in the Bronx. The Los Angeles Angels two-way star slugged three home runs in the first two games of his team’s series with the New York Yankees, giving him an MLB-best 28 long balls.

Ohtani’s performance as a pitcher at Yankee Stadium did not go nearly as well as his performance at the plate. The Yankees tagged Ohtani for seven runs in the first inning Wednesday night (GameTracker), capitalizing on four walks and a hit batsmen. Ohtani threw 41 pitches and only 20 strikes. He was pulled after facing nine batters and recording two outs.

Here is New York’s seven-run rally:

As they’ve done several times this season, the Angels forfeited the DH and let Ohtani hit for himself Wednesday. He batted leadoff and flew out to begin the game. It was not the first time he’s had an at-bat before taking the mound in a game this year, so it wasn’t an unfamiliar routine. Ohtani exited game, leaving the Angels with the pitcher’s spot atop the lineup.

Wednesday was Ohtani’s 24th career MLB start and the seven runs are a career-high. It’s the second time he’s failed to make it out of the first inning, joining his first start back from Tommy John surgery last year, when he allowed five runs and did not retire a batter. Wednesday’s disaster outing raised Ohtani’s season ERA from 2.58 to 3.60.

Control problems hampered Ohtani earlier this season. He walked 19 batters in his first four starts and 18 2/3 innings, then settled down and walked only 12 batters in his next seven starts and 40 2/3 innings. Wednesday’s outing is a step back and a red flag, though I think it’s too early to sound the alarms. One start does not constitute a trend. Bad days happen.

The good news: Ohtani touched 99 mph with his fastball and sat 95 mph Wednesday, so he appeared healthy. He just couldn’t locate at all. There is a heat wave in New York and television cameras showed him standing in front of the dugout air conditioner before going out to the mound, so perhaps he was uncomfortable in the heat.

Ohtani, 26, took an MLB leading 5.7 WAR into Wednesday’s game. He is the leading candidate to start at DH in the All-Star Game and could pitch in the game as well. MLB should do everything in its power to make that happen, even if it means bending the rules.

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