Shohei Ohtani made his 10th start of the season Sunday afternoon against the Twins. It was a bounce-back performance for the Halos ace, who ended his streak of home runs allowed and held the Twins to just two hits and one run in six innings while fanning nine. The Japanese hurler’s season ERA is down to 3.03 and is striking out hitters at a 34.6% rate. He is also leading the majors with a .142 opponent batting average.
Although he held the Twins to two hits, Ohtani regretted walking three batters and hitting one. He was able to pitch around it, however, and gave the Angels the length that they needed from him. The sole run came from a Carlos Correa double in the 3rd inning.
Ohtani has consistently provided the Angels staff with length. Sunday was the fifth time out of the last six starts that Ohtani lasted at least six innings. It was an encouraging performance for the 2021 AL MVP, who has been going through a rut on the mound.
Ohtani closed out his strong performance by striking out the side in the sixth inning. He did not get the decision, but the Angels got the win off of a Mickey Moniak go-ahead two-run double in the seventh.
The trend of decreased sweeper usage for Ohtani continued on Sunday, with usage down to 27% from his season average of over 40%. He did not throw the sweeper until the 10th pitch of the game. The adjustment comes from hitters going deep five times on the sweeper. He pivoted and instead relied heavily on his cutter and splitter.
“I kept the pitch percentages in mind,” Ohtani said. “I threw a few hittable pitches, but since they weren’t sitting on it [like the sweeper] I was able to get away with it.”
The improved approach paid dividends, as Ohtani matched his season-high of 22 whiffs that he recorded on April 21 against the Royals.
“I was trying to control the home runs and not make them feel comfortable at the plate. I was trying to make sure they were not taking good swings,” Ohtani said.
Former Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka said that even if Ohtani wasn’t throwing the sweeper, the thought of his sweeper was enough to keep hitters on their toes. He noted the pitch sequencing in Ohtani’s sixth-inning matchup with Carlos Correa.
“After getting to two strikes against Correa, his fourth pitch was a splitter on the outside to try to get him out, but this was a ball. Correa was probably expecting a sweeper next, but Ohtani elected to throw the fastball so he was late and struck out,” Matsuzaka said. “Every pitch can be an outpitch for him. I think that he reestablished himself as a pitcher who’s hard to break down.”
Ohtani’s next projected start is at home on May 28 against the Miami Marlins and their #1 pitching prospect Eury Perez at 4:07 PM EST/1:07 PM PT.