Shohei Ohtani’s 20th start of 2022, his 112th game played on the season, involved the two-way star needing more than his usual amount of deep breaths to get through. Despite laboring through another quality start, it was the team’s ninth inning that doomed the Angels against the Seattle Mariners.
In the first inning, Ohtani gave up a solo home run to Jesse Winker, then at the plate in his first at-bat fouled not one but two balls off himself — the first off his foot, which caused him to yelp and buckle over, and the second off his leg, which made him step away from the batter’s box and wince.
He came back the next inning, still grinding through his time on the mound. He finished with eight strikeouts and gave up two earned runs, seven hits and one walk over six innings. It was another quality start that ended in an Angels 6-2 loss.
Poor defense, in part by catcher Max Stassi, resulted in the Mariners pulling away with four runs in the ninth. All four runs were unearned for reliever Aaron Loup as the ninth unraveled.
“It was awful,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. . “We just made some bad decisions, throws, didn't execute a rundown. Yeah, wasn't good.”
Added Ohtani, through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, of the way the game ended: “I thought it was a pretty good game until that point. Obviously, the Mariners are in a playoff run. I feel like all their guys are rallied up, and it brought the momentum their way.”
The Mariners’ Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore, Julio Rodríguez and Ty France scored in the ninth thanks to: errors (one throwing, one catching) by Stassi; miscommunication between Stassi and third baseman José Rojas, who tried to run down Haggerty between third and home; a questionable ball-strikes call during Carlos Santana's at-bat made by umpire Laz Diaz that he admitted he “messed up” and in part led to a walk added to Loup’s line on the night.
“That loss is on me,” Stassi said. “It sucks.”
Ohtani started the game by getting Rodríguez to pop out and then striking out France, but after the home run by Winker, his third batter of the game, he labored, needing 97 pitches for his outing. The third inning in particular proved challenging.
Rodríguez sent Ohtani’s 0-and-1 four-seam fastball down the right-field line for what was thought to be a home run. Ohtani saw otherwise and called for Nevin to check. A review of the play revealed a foul ball and Ohtani went on to strike out Rodríguez, but he wouldn’t get out of the inning without another Mariners run added to the scoreboard.
He got the second out of the inning, then gave up a single to Winker and walked Mitch Haniger. The single he gave up to J.P. Crawford, which the Mariner hit to center field, was enough for Winker to score, comfortably reaching home before catcher Stassi got the inbounded ball from outfielder Magneuris Sierra.
For Ohtani’s sake, the Angels’ offense did pick him up after every run given up and he left the mound with a 2-2 score.
In the first inning, after Ohtani fouled those two pitches off himself, concluding that at-bat with a groundout, Luis Rengifo hit a home run off Mariners starter Luis Castillo. The ball went into and popped out of Rodríguez’s glove above the yellow, home run-signaling line along the right-center-field wall. Rodríguez and Haniger knocked into each other, both attempting to make a play on Rengifo’s hit, which was at first ruled just a triple.
And in the fourth inning, the Angels scored another run. Taylor Ward got a double off Castillo. Jared Walsh hit a single the next at-bat, but then a throwing error allowed Ward to continue home.
The Angels had a chance to pull ahead in the eighth. Ohtani got a single on a ball that bounced off the dirt and lingered between the mound and the plate. Walsh hit another single to put the go-ahead runner in scoring position. But Steven Duggar struck out, leaving Ohtani and Walsh stranded.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.