Shohei Ohtani dazzled batters with his wicked slider, blew them away with his 100-mph fastball and repeatedly pitched out of trouble while racking up 11 strikeouts.
The American League MVP’s latest impressive start also included a few mistakes, and Ohtani and his fellow Angels couldn’t manage any runs to make up for them during an encouraging win for the Texas Rangers.
Nathaniel Lowe homered and tripled, and Corey Seager had an RBI double among his three hits off Ohtani in Texas’ 2-0 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night.
And in Houston, after suffering their first series sweep of the season by Oakland, the Houston Astros were determined to get back on track against the Seattle Mariners.
Alex Bregman’s big night ensured that they did.
Texas 2, Los Angeles Angels 0: Ohtani (9-6) produced his sixth consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts, but he also yielded eight hits and two runs over six innings.
Although he escaped trouble repeatedly — most impressively on three straight strikeouts after Texas loaded the bases in the first — Ohtani lost his second straight start while pitching with a chance for his career-best 10th mound victory.
“I would not want to face him,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “We get the bases loaded right there, and he just turns it up to another gear. That slider is like a wiffle ball. Guys are missing it. We were fortunate today to get a couple of runs off him, honestly. Lowe just squeaked that ball over the fence, and Corey with a big two-out hit there. Man, he’s tough to beat, so we obviously did something pretty good today.”
The Rangers (44-54 on the season prior to Friday night’s game) were to play the final two games of the series today at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m., and then host Baltimore Monday night at 7.
Ohtani leads the majors with nine double-digit strikeout performances, and he pitched six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in Atlanta last week before the Braves tagged him for six runs in the seventh. The Angels scored no runs while Ohtani was pitching in either of those two starts, and Ohtani went 0 for 4 as their leadoff hitter against Texas.
Ohtani could be understandably weary of the week-to-week exhaustion of playing for the perpetually underachieving Angels, and when asked if he still wants to be in Anaheim after the trade deadline next week, Ohtani equivocated a bit in translator Ippei Mizuhara’s relay of his answer.
“Regardless of where I’m playing, I’m going to give it my all and try to win that ballgame in front of me,” Ohtani said. “I’m with the Angels right now, and I’m very thankful for what they’ve done. I love my team and my teammates. Right now I’m an Angel, and that’s all I can focus on.”
Spencer Howard (2-2) pitched five innings of three-hit ball on his 26th birthday for the Rangers, who snapped a three-game skid while opening the final series on their 11-game trip. Although Howard gave up three extra-base hits, the Angels didn’t advance those runners and didn’t get another baserunner against him.
“Felt pretty good, like a step in the right direction,” Howard said. “Really happy with the execution of pitches, the result.”
Matt Moore, who could be on the move at the deadline, pitched the ninth for his second save, completing a five-hitter. The Angels were shut out for the 10th time this season.
Luis Rengifo tripled, doubled and singled for the Halos, who failed to win three straight games for the first time since June 19. Los Angeles has lost 16 of 21 during its freefall from playoff contention.
Lowe’s 15th homer of the season leading off the fourth was the second of his career off Ohtani, who again struck out Texas’ next three hitters.
Relying heavily on his slider and using his fastball sparingly, Ohtani had just one 1-2-3 inning against the Rangers. Lowe led off the sixth with a triple, but Ohtani retired his final three batters.
Ohtani is the second Angels pitcher ever to record six straight 10-strikeout starts. Nolan Ryan did it in a record seven straight starts in 1977, and he had a six-game streak spanning 1972-73.
Seager left with a bruise on his lower right leg during the sixth inning, interrupting an impressive night for the three-time All-Star. Seager fouled a ball off his leg in the fifth, but delivered his run-scoring double moments later. Seager’s leg was “swollen pretty good,” Woodward said. The manager doesn’t think the injury is serious, although Seager could miss a game or two.
David Fletcher went 1 for 3 in his first game since May 7 for the Angels, doubling on the first pitch he saw in his return from hip surgery.
Right-hander Joe Barlow threw a live batting practice session. He has been out since July 13 with a right index finger blister. He could go on a rehab assignment this weekend, as could infielder Brad Miller (neck).
Houston 4, Seattle 2: Bregman hit a two-run homer early, and his tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth inning led the Astros over the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Thursday night.
“It feels great,” Bregman said. “A tough time over there (in Oakland), but I think this team does a good job of turning the page, and it was an example of that tonight.”
Bregman was shaken up in a collision while scoring the Astros’ final run in the eighth, but he remained in the game. He said afterward that he was fine and would be in the lineup Friday night.
His big performance came after manager Dusty Baker gave him a day off to rest Wednesday.
“Sometimes you give guys a day off and they come back mentally and physically refreshed,” Baker said. “It worked today. He was fresh, and we needed that from him.”
Houston (65-35, prior to Friday night’s game) hosts the Mariners tonight at 6 p.m., then tomorrow at 1. The Boston Red Sox come to town for a 7 p.m. first-pitch on Monday night.
The game was tied at 2 when Andrés Muñoz (1-4) hit Yuli Gurriel between the chest and shoulder with a 100 mph fastball to start Houston’s eighth. The impact caused Gurriel to stagger backward and his batting helmet to fly off, but he seemed OK and trotted to first base.
Gurriel stole second base with one out and Bregman, who homered in the first, doubled off the wall in left-center field for a 3-2 lead.
Bregman scored on a two-out wild pitch, colliding with a diving Muñoz as the reliever tried to make the tag.
Bregman stood up after the slide but immediately crumpled to the ground on his hands and knees. When Bregman got up again, he didn’t put any weight on his left leg, but he limped off as he talked to Baker and went to third base for the ninth.
Rafael Montero (4-1) got four outs without allowing a hit for the win and Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances.
Pressly had retired 32 consecutive batters, tying Justin Verlander for most in team history, when J.P. Crawford singled with two outs in the ninth. Pressly struck out Cal Raleigh to end it.
Ty France and Carlos Santana had an RBI each for the Mariners, who were coming off a sweep of the Rangers that came after they were swept by the Astros in their previous series.
“Just another tight game with the Astros,” manager Scott Servais said. “The last four we’ve played have been very, very close. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do a whole lot offensively, but we had a few chances there. It was a tight game and a very well-pitched game.”
This game featured strong outings by both team’s starters. Houston’s José Urquidy allowed two runs and four hits with three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Seattle’s Logan Gilbert yielded five hits while also allowing two runs and striking out six in six innings.
There were two outs in the first when Yordan Alvarez doubled to right field. Bregman then knocked his 13th homer into the seats in left to make it 2-0.
Adam Frazier singled to start the third before Urquidy walked Dylan Moore and Julio Rodriguez to load the bases. The Mariners got within 1 when Frazier scored on a sacrifice fly by France.
Seattle tied it when Moore scored on a groundout by Santana. Urquidy then retired Eugenio Suárez to limit the damage.
Raleigh doubled to the corner of right field with one out in the seventh inning. There were two outs in the inning when Urquidy was replaced by Montero, and he retired Adam Frazier to end the threat.