How Shohei Ohtani joined legendary company with elite performance at Fenway Park
Shohei Ohtani won his third straight start Thursday against the Red Sox, and he joined some unique company in the process.
Ohtani became the first pitcher to bat fourth or higher in the lineup at Fenway Park since Babe Ruth in 1919, and he did so in style. After giving up six hits, no walks, and no runs in seven innings of work, Ohtani sent a long single off the Green Monster with the bases loaded that drove in a run. Despite the Angels’ struggles reading hits off the left-field wall, it was part of a five-run eighth that would lead to an 8-0 win.
In his last three starts, Ohtani has gone 18 innings, posted a WHIP of 1.06, given up two runs and two walks, and racked up 41 strikeouts. His season ERA is down to 3.08 and he’s 3-2 on the year. This start was pushed back from Tuesday due to some groin tightness Ohtani suffered on Sunday.
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At the plate, Ohtani is trying to find his groove. After going 2 for 4 Thursday, his slash line is up to .240 / .301 / .394. He’s still looking for his power, however, having hit just one home run since April 16. In a poetic gesture, Ohtani’s final hit of the game knocked his own number out of the scoreboard at Fenway.
No need to know the Shohei Ohtani hit exit velocity when it knocks your own number off the green monster 🤣😂 pic.twitter.com/2JSjhlKv8H
– ⚾️ 翔 ⚾️ ⚾️ Ohtani Shohei @ (@shoheisaveus) May 5, 2022
For those curious, the exit velocity was 103.7 mph.
Regarding his start against Boston, however, what Ohtani did on the mound was special.
Of his season-high 99 pitches, 81 were for strikes, his best ratio of the season. It added to his career-high strikeout percentage and his career-low walk percentage this season, showcasing his incredible command.
Even more impressive was the depth of Ohtani’s repertoire. Ohtani threw 48 fastballs, 32 sliders, 10 splitters, and nine curveballs. He threw five total pitches in hitter’s counts. And he hardly left anything over the plate.
Here’s a look at how the zone looked to Ohtani Thursday:
Ohtani’s performance was historic in its own way, and it wasn’t lost on him where he had it.
“That’s one of my favorite ballparks,” Ohtani said, per MLB.com. “I was looking forward to pitching here, and I felt like it left a really good impression on me.”
“I hope we don’t start taking that for granted, like it’s old hat,” Angels manager Joe Maddon added. “It’s just so unusual, it’s otherworldly. On this level, of this game, which I think is the most difficult game to play all week, a little bit of an issue with the leg, cold weather, playing ’til about 11 o’clock last night, and then come out today and maybe throw his best game of the year. I just hope that people understand how unusual it is what you’re seeing, and please never take it for granted. ”
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It’s hard to take this kind of performance for granted. But just to hammer the point home, these were his 11 strikeouts.
For as good as he’s been, Ohtani is still reaching for his ceiling this season. This streak began with a perfect game bid against the Astros that was broken up after five innings. If Ohtani continues to throw the way he’s been throwing in his past few starts, it may not be the only bid we see this year.