Shohei Ohtani made his ninth start of the season Monday night against the Orioles. It was another shaky start for the Japanese right-hander, who tossed seven innings in 98 pitches, struck out five, and gave up five earned runs off of three home runs. Ohtani’s ERA for the season is now at 3.23.
Ohtani has now allowed at least three runs in four straight starts, something that has never happened in his career. It was just the third time in his career that he gave up three home runs in a start and the second time against the Orioles.
Hanging sweepers continue to haunt Ohtani, with Adam Frazier and Anthony Santander capitalizing on mistakes with two-run homers in the 2nd and 3rd innings. Although hitters are only hitting .138 against Ohtani’s sweeper, they have homered five times off of it. Last season, hitters homered off of the only sweeper six times
Heavily relying on the sweeper was not an issue against the Orioles. Ohtani’s sweeper usage was at a season-low 27% on Monday night, and he mixed in his cutter and split-fingered fastball at a higher rate, showing different looks to hitters. The problem was the poor location of sweepers at the heart of the plate.
“I’ve noticed a couple of things [about the sweeper], so if I keep making corrections it will still be effective,” Ohtani said after the game.
Ohtani also gave up a rare home run off of a fastball to Cedric Mullins in the fifth inning. He only allowed three home runs off a fastball last season, and Mullins’ homer was the first this season. He retired 13 of the last 15 hitters faced and completed seven innings.
Despite giving up multiple long balls, Ohtani allowed just four hits against the Orioles. Even with the recent four-game pitching slump, hitters are only hitting .171 against Ohtani this season.
Although it was a night to forget on the mound Ohtani more than made up for it at the plate, going 4 for 5 with 3 RBI and a walk and finishing a double-shy of the cycle. The 2021 AL MVP’s towering three-run homer traveled 456 feet and recorded an exit velocity of 114.6 mph. It was the longest homer of the season for Ohtani.
“I think there was a little anger behind that swing,” said Halos skipper Phil Nevin.”An impressive night. I know he gave up the five runs, but like I said, the damage was minimal because the hits were down and not a lot of guys on base.”
Ohtani got the chance to complete the cycle in the ninth after a Mike Trout walk but settled for a single to left field after getting behind on the count at 0-2.
“I was trying [to get a double], but I got down in the count so I wanted to make contact,” Ohtani said. “At least I was able to get a hit so that was good.”
Ohtani’s next projected start is at home against the Twins on Sunday at 4:07 PM EST/1:07 PM PST