TORONTO — After one of the most incredible performances in baseball history on Thursday, it was fair to wonder which two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani would fit the bill for an encore in Friday night’s series opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
A day after pitching a one-hit shutout in the first game of a doubleheader and hitting two homers in the second game against the Tigers, Ohtani stayed hot by hitting his MLB-leading 39th home run in the first inning on the first pitch he saw from Kevin Gausman. . But the same cramping problem in both legs that forced Ohtani to leave Thursday’s second game early caused him to quit Friday.
He began feeling cramps after his third at-bat against the Blue Jays, and he was replaced by Michael Stefanic in a key situation in the ninth.
Stefanic hit Ohtani with the bases loaded and one out, but he struck out following a boundary call on a 3-2 outside pitch from closer Jordan Romano. This was yet another problem with runners in scoring position for the Angels, as they went 0 for 7 in those situations in one game Defeat 4-1 in the opening.
Manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani’s cramping issue involves both legs, but he should be fine.
“We’ll evaluate him (Saturday) when he gets up, but he’s cramping right now,” Nevin said. “He’s been working a lot these past few days.”
It was a frustrating loss for the Angels, who are trying to chase the Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card Standings. The loss dropped the Angels (54-50) four games behind Toronto (58-46) for the third and final Wild Card spot. The Halos are 1-3 against the Blue Jays this year, putting them in danger of losing an important game tiebreakernow that there is no more game 163.
Ohtani, who also had his next start on the mound pushed back to Thursday against the Mariners due to his heavy workload in Detroit, crushed a fastball on Gausman’s first pitch for his fourth homer in his last five games . With 39 hits in 104 team games, Ohtani is on pace to hit 61 home runs this season.
But it was the only run the Angels could muster despite their chances, especially in the seventh and ninth innings. They loaded the bases with no one out in the seventh, but couldn’t score, as reliever Erik Swanson stopped them after Gausman’s out. The Halos also had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth, and they couldn’t get any runs across.
“We definitely had our chances,” Nevin said. “Having the bases loaded and not getting one through hurts. And in the ninth, Stefanic had a great at-bat. I thought it was working, and it might have been different after that. But we just need to have better hitters with the bases loaded and no one out.
He took an early lead with Ohtani’s homer, but he gave up a solo shot to Matt Chapman in the second to tie the game before giving up a solo shot to Danny Jansen in the third that gave the game the advantage to the Blue Jays. Chapman’s homer came on a 3-2 fastball that caught too much plate, while Jansen’s homer came on a 1-0 fastball up the middle.
“Not the best,” Giolito said of his release. “I felt relatively sharp, throwing a lot of strikes. But they hammered out my mistakes pretty well. A few homers and I was in a tough situation in the sixth inning. I wish I could be a little more specific than that.
Giolito gave up another run in the sixth on an RBI double by Bo Bichette. After intentionally walking Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with one out, it looked like the right-hander was going to get out of the inning without further damage. But shortstop Andrew Velazquez made an error on a potential double play late in the inning, and it was all Giolito after 73 pitches.
Reliever José Soriano struck out Chapman and Daulton Varsho to escape further trouble.
“If we run a double play for him, he’ll go back out there to throw the seventh,” Nevin said. “But with the way Soriano threw the ball, we needed a strikeout and he got two. But I thought Lucas threw the ball really well.