Shohei Ohtani made his first start in June on Saturday night against the Astros in Minute Maid Park. The Japanese superstar gave up nine hits, which ties a season-high and MLB career-high in hits allowed, and gave up five runs in six innings. Ohtani was once again outdueled by Astros’ ace Framber Valdez, who tossed seven scoreless frames.
Despite solid outings against the Twins and the Marlins in the last two games, this game places Ohtani at a 5.02 ERA in his last seven starts. Ohtani’s ERA for the season is now at 3.42, but he’s maintaining a career-high strikeout rate of 33.8% and holding hitters to a .185 batting average.
Although he recorded six strikeouts, Ohtani struggled to put hitters away. Five of the nine hits came from a two-strike count.
“I feel like if I would’ve gotten more strikeouts, the momentum would’ve gone our way. But that wasn’t the case,” said Ohtani.
Shaky defense in the first inning did not help Ohtani, with third baseman Gio Urshela fumbling a ground ball and throwing it into the dugout to get Jeremy Peña on second base. Ohtani got two strikes on Astros’ star slugger Yordan Alvarez, but hung a sweeper in the heart of the plate, which Alvarez took deep to make it a quick 2-0 game.
Halos skipper Phil Nevin questioned Ohtani’s pitch selection after the game.
“When he [Alvarez] sees a pitch like that in the zone, he usually doesn’t miss them the second time,” Nevin said. “It was just in a bad spot. There are some pitch selection things we’ll need to talk about. His stuff was there.”
Ohtani had pivoted from the sweeper and relied more on his other pitches including the splitter and cutter in recent starts, but the sweeper usage was back up to 36% against the Astros.
Ohtani came back in the second inning and struck out the side, and proceeded to retire the next 10 hitters. He got into trouble in the fourth, giving up three consecutive hits to load the bases. Ohtani escaped the inning on a weak groundball off of a checked swing.
The fifth inning provided more trouble, and this time Ohtani was unable to escape. After a two-out walk, Ohtani gave up back-to-back singles and allowed the third run to score. He gave up two more runs in the sixth inning off of a Corey Julks two-run blast.
Astros skipper Dusty Baker thought that Ohtani wasn’t at his best Saturday night.
“This guy is one of the best around,” said Baker. “But he wasn’t as sharp tonight as we’ve seen him in the past.”
Ohtani will look to bounce back from this tough start against the Mariners at home on Friday, June 9 at 9:38 PM EST/ 6:38 PM PT.