April 22, 2023 -ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani struck out the side on 12 pitches in the first inning Friday night, throwing sweepers that broke horizontally like Frisbees and punctuating them with a 98.7-mph fastball. Angels manager Phil Nevin said he had never seen an inning more dominant during his nearly three decades in the big leagues.
Ohtani remained far too much for the Kansas City Royals to handle in his latest outstanding start.
Ohtani struck out a season-high 11 and allowed two hits over seven innings, and fill-in catcher Chad Wallach hit a two-run homer in Los Angeles’ 2-0 victory.
Ohtani (3-0) returned to the mound just four days after a lengthy rain delay limited him to two innings in Boston, and the two-way superstar didn’t miss a beat in his spectacular season on the mound. After fanning the side in that incredible first, Ohtani also struck out his final six batters — and in between, Kansas City managed two singles and two walks while getting just one runner to second base.
“From a hitter’s standpoint, I would have no idea what to prepare for,” Nevin said. “Because he’s got 98 in there, but he doesn’t usually throw the fastball a lot. The sweeper is kind of unhittable when he’s throwing it for strikes. I’m glad I don’t have to face him. I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Ohtani has given up two runs and eight hits over 28 innings with 38 strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 0.64 — the lowest in franchise history through a pitcher’s first five starts. Ohtani also extended his franchise record with his 12th consecutive start allowing two runs or fewer.
Wallach stepped up impressively in the absence of injured rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe, helping Ohtani behind the plate and also delivering the decisive homer in his first major league at-bat of the season.
“I love catching him,” Wallach said. “Probably the best stuff I’ve ever seen, so it’s fun for me to be back there and just catch pitches. … (The first inning) was the best I’ve ever seen. He was throwing it exactly where he wanted to, and just all the pitches were nasty.”
After issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth, Ohtani fanned six in a row to secure his major league-best 12th double-digit strikeout game since the start of 2022.