For the first time since the implementation of the designated hitter, we have witnessed a true two-way player in a game. On the national stage of ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball, the Angels started Shohei Ohtani on the mound and slotted him in the batting order in the two-hole. It started off with a bang and ended negatively and in truly bizarre fashion. This was the first time since 1976 that an AL team willingly gave up its DH spot (via James Smyth) and even then the pitcher was hitting eighth. In fact, as the ESPN broadcast pointed out, this was the first time since 1903 that a pitcher hit second in a batting order. On the mound, Ohtani was pumping gas from the get-go, hitting 98 with his first pitch and hitting as high as 101 on the radar in the first inning. He didn’t have much command with the off-speed stuff, but his fastball was enough to get the job done as he worked around a two-out walk. Then, it was Ohtani’s turn to hit and, boy, did he hit. On the first pitch he saw, he hit it 450 feet:
Admit it, you thought it was an exaggeration to say Ohtani could hit 101 and 450 in the same game. And get this: Through that at-bat, Ohtani now owned the hardest thrown pitch by a starter this season and the hardest hit ball (115.2 mph) of the season by any player, reports ESPN Stats and Info. No starting pitcher has homered anywhere in the first seven spots in the batting order since Babe Ruth in 1933 (via Pitching Ninja). In the last 50 years, only eight times has a pitcher homered in the first inning. Things were going beautifully for Ohtani through four innings. He was 1-for-3, but his second at-bat he absolutely scorched a lineout to center field. He had also worked four scoreless innings on the mound.
Things sort of unraveled on the mound in the fifth inning, though. With two outs and a runner on base, Ohtani walked both Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu. He was able to get Yoan Moncada on a full-count, swinging strikeout, but the ball got away, catcher Max Stassi’s throw to first base to beat Moncada got away and then the throw home to prevent a second run from scoring also got away while Abreu’s slide unintentionally took Ohtani out. Yes, two runs scored on a strikeout. It was now 3-3 Ohtani’s night was done. His final lines: 1 for 3, HR, R, RBI4 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 KThere’s nothing really to break down on offense. He hit the ball hard and looked great. On the mound, he struggled with command at times and was left out there three batters too long by a manager seemingly dead set on getting him a win. The stuff was absolutely nasty. He was still throwing around 100 with off-speed stuff in the 90s in his last inning. He just totally lost command at the end, when he was probably tired. Overall, this has to be considered a success that lays the foundation for his future stints on the mound. In the meantime, he’ll continue to be slotted as a DH when he is not pitching.