Shohei Ohtani’s epic doubleheader: One-hit shutout in Game 1, 2 homers in nightcap

Detroit Free Press

Hours after his club quashed any doubts that he would remain, Shohei Ohtani performed like a man inspired to lead the Los Angeles Angels on a playoff run.

Ohtani, the greatest two-way star in the game’s history and a pending free agent, pitched his first career shutout, a one-hit domination of the Detroit Tigers as the Angels won the first game of a doubleheader 6-0 at Comerica Park on Thursday. It was also his first career complete game.

He hit two home runs in the second game, his 37major league-leading 37th and 38th of the season.

The Angels entered Game 2 3 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot in what’s almost certainly a second MVP season from Ohtani in three years. In addition to his 38 home runs, his 1.053 OPS leads the major leagues and he now ranks fourth in pitching strikeouts, with 156. The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2014; Ohtani joined the club in 2018.

Perhaps he was inspired Thursday by events from the previous night.

The Angels on Wednesday acquired pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the Chicago White Sox for a pair of minor-leaguers, both firmly establishing them as trade deadline buyers and adding one of the best available pitchers on the market to their rotation.

Still, there’s only one Ohtani.

He retired the first 12 batters of the game before giving up a fifth-inning leadoff single to Kerry Carpenter. No matter: Ohtani simply kept Detroit off the bases, preventing a runner from reaching scoring position until the eighth inning.

It was both his longest and greatest start of the season, with his previous high going seven innings and also giving up one hit in an April 11 outing against Washington. He completed seven innings four times.

This time, he was slightly less dominant – just eight strikeouts – but lasted longer, giving the Angels exactly what they needed as they begin a stretch of 15 games in 14 days.

At the plate? Ohtani was hitless in five at-bats in the opener, but during the second game, he hit a two-run home run in the second inning and a solo homer in the fourth.

Yes, Ohtani is pulling double duty once again – and he’ll be doing it in Anaheim for the foreseeable future.

After his gem, Ohtani said he hasn’t let conjecture about his future affect his preparation. With the Angels likely unable to meet his projected market price of around $500 million while still fielding a competitive team, Ohtani is expected to sign elsewhere this winter, fueling expectations that Ohtani might be traded before the club loses him.

“Obviously, I’ve been with the Angels my whole career,” Ohtani said between games of the doubleheader, according to the Orange County Register. “I love the fans. I love the team. No complaints. I just want to finish the season strong for the fans and everyone that is cheering me.”

Before the game, GM Perry Minasian told reporters that it’s likely “nobody believed me” when he claimed he wouldn’t trade Ohtani. He said Ohtani was “a special player, having a unique season with a team that has a chance to win. To me, that’s grounds for trying to improve the club.”

Giolito will make his Angels debut Friday at Toronto, while Lopez joined the club in Detroit for Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader. It’s all happening quickly in Anaheim – and Ohtani performed commensurate with expectations.

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