Anaheim (United States) (AFP) – Shohei Ohtani flirted with a perfect game in his home pitching debut on Sunday, retiring the first 19 batters to power the Los Angeles Angels to a 6-1 rout of the Oakland Athletics.
Two-way Japanese sensation Ohtani is exceeding expectations with his fairytale start as he struck out 12 batters and allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings at Angels Stadium.
Marcus Semien singled to left field to break up the bid for a perfect game, but the 23-year-old rookie kept his cool and hung in there to eventually get the side out.
The highly sought after offseason free agent is living up to the Ruthian hype. Ohtani joined Babe Ruth in the record books, becoming just the third player in league history to hit a home run in three straight games and post a double-digit strikeout game in the same season. Ruth did it in 1916 and the other player was Ken Brett in 1973.
Ohtani had performed poorly in spring training, but if there was any doubt he could hit and pitch at the major league level it was erased this week.
Ohtani blasted three homers between his pitching debut last weekend and his first win at Angel Stadium on Sunday.
He started quickly on Sunday, striking out the side in the first inning on just 15 pitches. He struck out the side again in the fifth inning as all but one A’s batter suffered a strikeout at his hands over the seven innings.
In his pitching debut last Sunday, he allowed three runs on a second-inning homer by third baseman Matt Chapman, but that was his only blemish in the 7-4 victory.
Since then, Ohtani moved to designated hitter for games Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and homered in all three in dramatic fashion.
His three-run blast in his first at-bat in front of the Angels Stadium home crowd lifted Los Angeles to a 6-2 lead against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, and they eventually won 13-2.
The next day, he hit a game-tying two-run homer off two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in the fifth inning, and the Angels went on to win 3-2 in 13 innings.
After an off day on Thursday, Ohtani belted a 449-foot solo home run to centre field with two outs in the second inning and Los Angeles rallied from a huge deficit to win 12-9.