OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani won his major league pitching debut, throwing three-hit ball over six innings and leading the Los Angeles Angels past the Oakland Athletics 7-4 on Sunday.
The two-way star from Japan took the mound three days after he was the designated hitter in the opener. Reaching the upper 90s mph with his fastball and showing a nifty splitter, Ohtani struck out six and retired 14 of his final 15 batters.
Ohtani didn’t hit while pitching. Albert Pujols was the DH and went 0 for 5.
Ohtani (1-0) pounded his glove following a 1-2-3 shutdown fifth. He walked one, and the only damage against him came on Matt Chapman’s three-run homer in the second.
The 23-year-old righty briefly removed his cap and looked to the sky after the drive, then went back to work and blanked the A’s the rest of the way.
Ohtani began the season-opening series by hitting a single on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer, part of a 1-for-5 day at the plate. He capped the set by posting his first win.
Not too shabby, considering he struggled in spring training with his arm and bat. He went 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA in a pair of Cactus League outings and wound up pitching against minor leaguers on back fields, and also had trouble making contact with his swing.
Ohtani received ample support from the Los Angeles lineup.
Mike Trout hit a tying double in the fifth and Justin Upton followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly. The Angels added insurance in the seventh, getting Andrelton Simmons’ two-run single and an RBI single from Kole Calhoun.
Ohtani began the game with four straight outs — fanning three — before allowing consecutive singles to Matt Joyce and Stephen Piscotty that set up Chapman’s first home run of 2018.
The Angels staked Ohtani to a quick 2-0 lead on back-to-back doubles by Luis Valbuena and Jefry Marte second against Daniel Gossett (0-1).
Cheers of “Ohtani!” greeted the pitcher as he prepared to throw his first pitch, a 96 mph fastball called strike to Marcus Semien. Ohtani fanned the leadoff man on four pitches and got through the first on 13 pitches, nine for strikes.
In all, Ohtani threw 92 pitches, 63 of them strikes.
Piscotty’s RBI single in the ninth chased Blake Parker. Kenyan Middleton entered to close it out for his first save.
The Angels are off to their first 3-1 start since a 100-win season in 2008.
Gossett’s day was done after four innings and 66 pitches. He allowed four runs and walked two.
JOINING THE BABE
Ohtani became the first player since Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 to start on opening day in a non-pitching role, then also start on the mound in the initial 10 games.
A ROOKIE DEBUT AND A SEASONED VETERAN
After seeing Ohtani on Sunday, the A’s on Monday will face 44-year-old Bartolo Colon starting for Texas against his old team in the 529th start of his career — and in his 21st season.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney, on the disabled list retroactive to last Monday with inflammation in his pitching elbow, threw 69 pitches over five times getting up and down during an intrasquad game in Arizona. General manager Billy Eppler will meet with the medical staff before determining the pitcher’s next step.
Athletics: OF Joyce was the DH for a second straight game as he nurses a sore right ankle. Manager Bob Melvin hopes it will only be a day or two before he’s back in left. … RHP Trevor Cahill, who signed a minor league deal last month for a second stint with Oakland, is still building his workload and innings at extended spring training.
Angels: RHP JC Ramirez, an 11-game winner last season, pitches the home opener for the Angels against Cleveland.
Athletics: RHP Andrew Triggs pitches for the first time since a hip injury last June 9 that required labrum surgery as the A’s open a series against Texas.
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