ANAHEIM, Calif. ( Associated Press) — During a regular June game for the Los Angeles Angels on consecutive nights, Shohei Otani pulled off two feats that would have been career milestones for almost any other player in baseball history.
On Tuesday, Otani hit a pair of three-run homers and hit a career-high eight runs.most among major league players among Japanese-born players.
On Wednesday, Otani scored a career-high 13 strikeouts. while pitching eight two-hit scoreless innings, eliminating 16 consecutive Kansas City Royals and getting 24 no-hitter strikeouts against their last 24 batters.
This double-sided superstar is still coming up with new ways to hit the baseball world.
A year after he unanimously won the AL MVP award in honor of a completely unprecedented season.Otani is still finding new spots to write his name on the major league record books as he strives to get the ever-struggling Angels (34-38) back on the winning track.
Nearly halfway through the second straight season of revolutionary play, Otani’s unique skills become normal to a degree that would have seemed impossible until he reached his full powers last year, but his fans and his fellow Halos never take this for granted.
“When you look at it every day, you think you get used to the greatness, but there are a lot of things associated with it,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “The way his mind is at play, he knows about everything. He is incredible. To see what he does on the baseball field, it’s fun to be a part of every day.”
Otani (6-4) saw his performance from a more practical standpoint Wednesday night after picking up his third straight win and moving up to fifth in the AL in strikeouts despite making two or three fewer starts than everything above him.
“We were having a losing streak and I just wanted to put an end to it to make the team work,” Otani said through his translator. “That’s what the team needs.”
No player has ever managed to connect eight RBIs and at least 10 strikeouts in consecutive games – neither Babe Ruth nor anyone else from the old two-way games.
No player in baseball history has ever had both an eight-RBI game and a 13-out game separately, but Otani did it in back-to-back Big A games. Tony Cloninger came closest with a 10-out game and nine outs. RBI game for Atlanta in the 1966 season.
Even though he’s not halfway there, Otani is kicking off a remarkable encore in his groundbreaking MVP season.
His pitching numbers are mostly higher than last year, with his strikeouts as well as his walks and ERA down. His hitting tally is still a step behind last year’s pace, but is rising rapidly: since May 29, he’s batting .301 in 22 games with six homers and 16 RBIs.
Otani has a 2.90 ERA and the sheer variety of his serve repertoire remains intimidating. Kansas City’s Mike Matheny never saw Otani play against one of his teams as a manager until Wednesday night, and the experience was instructive.
“I don’t think you’ll find as many guys with as many guns as we’ve seen today,” Matheny said. “He threw everything at the blows and mixed everything up. He threw three different sliders, plus a cutter and a curve. When the split started, that’s when the outs really started happening, and he has 100 (mph) in the tank that he almost never showed. You control the strike zone, you have so many things to use and you throw them all for strikes, it’s going to be a tough day at the plate.”
Otani is performing his latest unprecedented feats during another year of ups and downs for the Angels, who haven’t had a winning season with Otani on their roster – or win a playoff game in fellow MVP Mike Trout’s much longer career.
Los Angeles started off 24–13 and took first place in the AL West on May 16, but the Angels quickly fell into a losing spiral that stretched to a franchise-record 14 games and led to the firing of manager Joe Maddon.
Sure enough, Otani put an end to that: he threw seven four-hit innings and hit a two-run homer on June 9 in a 5-2 win over Boston. Since Wednesday’s win over Kansas City, the Angels have won four of last six games under Nevin, Otani’s fourth manager in five seasons in Orange County.
The Angels still have plenty of time to finish the season, and an expanded playoff field will make it easier for Los Angeles to end a decade of underachievement. And Otani shows no sign of weariness from the Angels’ fight, though he would have every right to.
On Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, he received a standing ovation after his seventh inning, but Otani told Nevin he was pushing back for the eighth.
“I felt like I still had something in the tank,” Otani said.
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