ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani has provided Angels fans with plenty of highlights this season. He almost topped them all Thursday night.
Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way phenom and the reigning AL MVP, pitched no-hit ball into the eighth inning and extended his hitting streak to 14 games as Los Angeles pushed its winning streak to four with a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“Every time he takes the mound, you can anticipate something special happening,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “He had everything working. When he got through the seventh, I thought it was going to happen. Unfortunately, we’ll wait until next time.”
Ohtani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara that he was surprised he got through eight innings. He said he wasn’t happy with his fastball and went with more breaking balls than normal.
“To be honest, the velocity on my fastball wasn’t as fast as normal,” he said. “But my slider was doing its thing and was working. I’m kind of surprised with my stuff today.”
Ohtani allowed two hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings to match his longest outing of the season.
In his final home start of the year, Ohtani (15-8) issued a leadoff walk to Tony Kemp before retiring the next 22 batters in order. Conner Capel broke up the no-hit bid with a sharp grounder that deflected off sliding shortstop Livan Soto’s glove and into left-center field with two outs in the eighth.
Even if Soto had been able to field it, he would have had trouble throwing out Capel.
Dermis Garcia followed with a clean single to left before Ohtani retired Shea Langeliers on a grounder to third to end the inning.
“It was going to take a special at-bat, and Conner stayed on a ball away and put a good swing on it,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “There’s always that exhale, and then Garcia gets ahead and we get some momentum.”
Ohtani ran his hitting streak to 14 games — the longest current streak in the majors — by going 2-for-4 with an RBI. He has 26 hits this season in games he also pitched.
After winning the American League MVP award last season, Ohtani is a leading contender again this year — probably the top challenger to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who hit his 61st home run Wednesday night to match the AL record set by Roger Maris in 1961.
“I feel like you guys are more of an expert on the voting. I’ll leave it up to you guys,” Ohtani said of the MVP race. “I enjoy watching Judge and saw him hit his 61st.”
Ohtani is at 161 innings pitched, one inning shy of assuring he will qualify among the league leaders when the season ends. Ohtani is likely to pitch in the season finale at Oakland next Wednesday so he does.
On the mound, Ohtani’s 15 victories are tied for third in the AL, his 213 strikeouts are third and his 2.35 ERA is fourth. At the plate, he is fourth in the league with 34 home runs and sixth with 94 RBIs.
“I know I got MVP last year, but I’m having a better season this year, which is just leading to a lot more confidence,” he said.
Ohtani had a perfect game through 5⅓ innings at Houston on April 20 before Jason Castro lined a single to left field in the sixth. It was Houston’s only hit in the game.