ANAHEIM — With the Angels desperate for momentum after losing nine of 10 to end the first half of the season, they turned to their two-way ace and superstar. Shohei Ohtani in their first game out of the All-Star break against the Astros on Friday night.
But the same issues that had plagued them during their recent rough patch came to the forefront, as Ohtani struggled with his blister and toenail problem and the Angels made several costly misplays and mental errors in a match. 7-5 defeat at Angel Stadium. Ohtani went five-plus innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts to fall to 7-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 18 outings. It was the third consecutive outing that he left early with head athletic trainer Mike Frostad due to a problem with his right middle finger.
“For the most part, things didn’t go the way I wanted,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizhuara. “It’s been like that on the mound the last two outings.”
Ohtani, the favorite for the AL MVP award, came out after walking leadoff hitter Corey Julks in the sixth on his 94th pitch. The Angels thought his finger wouldn’t be a problem after some rest during the All-Star break, but it continued to bother him Friday. His velocity was down slightly and he allowed five runs for a second straight outing.
“I just thought something was wrong in the sixth,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “After the walk, he mentioned that his finger was a little tender. The nail didn’t break or anything like that, but I decided it was a good time to get it out.
Ohtani, who is expected to become a free agent after the season, could see his trade value affected by his finger injury if it continues to be a problem. The Angels are not expected to trade him, although they should at least do so. listen to offersaccording to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com.
Ohtani said he felt the frustration of his teammates, who fell two games under .500 to 45-47. But he noted that he didn’t help the cause with his outing, especially in the fourth, when he lost his command and allowed two runs after hitting one batter and walking two others to load the bases with no one not be removed.
“I’m frustrated to a point,” Ohtani said. “Not just me. But I feel like the whole team is. I feel like it’s natural that when we can’t win games, the frustrations build up.
It got even worse in the fifth, when Ohtani gave up back-to-back doubles to Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker before Luis Rengifo made a costly error. Rengifo punted a Jose Abreu grounder then didn’t hustle after the ball, allowing Tucker to score and Abreu to reach second. He was approached by Nevin after the round and was benched in favor of Eduardo Escobar.
“There are some things I’m just not going to tolerate,” Nevin said. “I don’t think he did his best and he knew what I was talking about.”
Rengifo said he understood why Nevin took him out of the game and vowed to fight next time if something similar happened.
“I think I can make a better effort on this,” Rengifo said through an interpreter. “And I can learn from it.”
The Angels started to do something in the next inning, tying the game after RBI singles from Mickey Moniak and Escobar. But Mike Moustakas hit a double play to end the inning.
Ohtani returned for the sixth, but after walking Julks, he was replaced by Jacob Webb. After Webb walked Jeremy Peña, Martín Maldonado first threw a bunt to Moustakas, who had time to throw to third base or second base to start a double play. Instead, he took the easy at first and Mauricio Dubón followed with a two-run single.
“I lined it up and I didn’t make the right play,” Moustakas said. “I didn’t throw the ball to third or second. And I ended up costing us the match.
They had another error in the sixth, when they had runners on first and second with no one out, but Michael Stefanic attempted a bunt and Hunter Renfroe was doubled to second base. That ended a potential rally for the Angels.
“We were trying to get two back there,” Nevin said. “He made it appear. The basic things, we have to be clean and we didn’t get that done tonight.