Shohei Ohtani flirts with a cycle while pitching in Angels’ victory

BALTIMORE — Shohei Ohtani said he views himself as two different players when he’s pitching and hitting, and when he stepped to the plate in the fourth inning, the hitter had to make up for what the pitcher had done.

Ohtani had allowed a pair of two-run homers in the first three innings, but he blasted a three-run homer in the fourth inning and came up a double short of the cycle in the Angels’ 9-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night.

“I think there was a little anger behind that swing,” Manager Phil Nevin said of Ohtani’s 456-foot homer, which was the longest of his nine homers this season.

Ohtani wasn’t buying it, though.

“He just hung a curveball in that spot,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, referring to Orioles right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. “I didn’t even take a hard swing. The ball went where it went.”

Ohtani’s home run ball hit the fence separating the seating area from the walkway outside the B&O Warehouse. It snapped a 4-4 tie and keyed a five-run inning. After that he also turned back into his normal self on the mound, allowing one run over the next four innings and finishing with seven innings on 98 pitches.

“He got locked back in and showed what he could do,” catcher Chad Wallach said. “Those last couple innings were some of his best stuff. Just to see he can give up a home run or two and come back and be just as good as he was before.”

He had a chance to become the first player in major league history to hit for the cycle in a game when he had been the starting pitcher. He singled in the third, homered in the fourth and tripled in the fifth.

Ohtani grounded into a fielder’s choice in the seventh, and he dropped a bloop single into left field in the ninth. Both at-bats reached 0-and-2 counts.

“Once the count got deep, I stopped thinking about the double,” Ohtani said. “I just wanted to make solid contact.”

It was the first time in Ohtani’s career he had four hits in a game when he pitched. He also walked, making him the first starting pitcher to reach base safely five times in a game since Mel Stottlemyre did it for the New York Yankees in 1964.

It was the sixth time in Ohtani’s career that he hit a homer in a game when he pitched, and the fourth time that he hit a homer in a game that he won.

Although he didn’t make history, he did enough to help the Angels to a much-needed victory after they had suffered a pair of frustrating, late-inning losses to the Guardians over the weekend in Cleveland.

Ohtani led the offensive barrage, but Wallach also had three hits, including a homer, in his first game since returning from the concussion list. Hunter Renfroe had two doubles. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit or an RBI by the fourth inning.

For all Ohtani did at the plate, his performance on the mound lately has raised some eyebrows.

After starting the season with an 0.64 ERA in his first five games, Ohtani now has a 6.12 ERA in his last four games, which has raised his ERA for the season to 3.23. Prior to this stretch, he had never allowed three or more runs in three straight games, and now he’s done it in four straight.

On Monday he gave four of the runs on a pair of hanging sweepers, which were hit for two-run homers by Adam Frazier in the second and Anthony Santander in the third. Ohtani gave up another homer on a fastball to Cedric Mullins in the fifth.

Ohtani has now allowed five homers this season on the sweeper, which is only one fewer than he gave up all of last season.

He clearly recognized that the pitch is not working as well as usual, and he threw it just 27% of the time on Monday, his lowest percentage of the season.

“There are a few things I noticed with the sweeper,” Ohtani said. “I can’t really say right here, but there are some adjustments I definitely need to make. If I make those adjustments, I think should be fine.”

Nevin didn’t sound concerned about Ohtani’s performance on the mound.

“It was an impressive night,” Nevin said. “I know he gave up the five runs, but the damage was minimal because the hits were down (four). It’s five runs. I get that, but where we were at offensively, and kept scoring. You could kind of sense that last time when they came back and he hits a home run, they weren’t going to get much more after that.”

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Shohei Ohtani knew he got all of this one.

(MLB x @googlecloud)

— MLB (@MLB) May 16, 2023

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