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Phenomenal Shohei Ohtani has rare poor start vs. Yankees

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani reacts against the

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani reacts against the Yankees during the first inning of an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Shohei Ohtani has been making it look easy. Too easy.

It shouldn’t be so easy for one man to dominate both in the batter’s box and on the mound on a weekly basis. But Ohtani has been doing just that all season, and in turn, he’s given major league baseball stadiums across the country a Williamsport, Pennsylvania, flair.

Ohtani entered Wednesday leading baseball in home runs (28) and second in slugging percentage (.688). But that’s only half the story. As a pitcher, the 26-year-old ranked fourth in the American League in ERA (2.58) entering his start against the Yankees in the Bronx Wednesday.

"This is Little League stuff," said Angels manager Joe Maddon pregame. "This is what you do in Little League and you play two or three days a week and you do this. You are the best kid on the team and you hit and you pitch and you are the first guy in line for the ice cream cone. But it doesn’t happen like this here."

But Ohtani struggled Wednesday. He failed to make it out of the first inning, walking four batters, including the first three. He hit another batter and allowed two hits before exiting with the bases loaded and two outs after throwing 41 pitches. Reliever Aaron Slegers allowed a bases-clearing double to DJ LeMahieu in the ensuing at-bat as Ohtani was charged with seven runs.

His ERA rose to 3.60 after the outing and he was removed from his leadoff position in the lineup. Ohtani was the first starting pitcher to hit in the first five spots in the batting order at Yankee Stadium since Babe Ruth in 1933.

Maddon said he’s seen Ohtani start games before with control issues and rebound, but Wednesday wasn’t one of those outings. The manager added he didn’t think pitching at Yankee Stadium had anything to do with the poor outing, especially because of Ohtani’s offensive success in the first two games, and Ohtani agreed.

"My body felt great, I had good arm action but I was letting the ball get away and yanking it," said Ohtani through a translator. "So just a command issue."

The former Japanese professional baseball star had been on a tear entering the contest. He had three home runs in the opening two games of the series and 11 home runs since June 15 to go along with stellar pitching.

"All the things we’re hearing and the once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation type talent, I don’t think that’s hyperbole at all," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game. "It’s impressive, it’s been even more impressive to witness now up close."

The 6-4 phenom also became the third player in baseball history to be the starting pitcher the day after hitting two home runs, joining Monte Ward (1883) and Ruth (1930), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"We haven’t seen it because, obviously, it’s incredibly difficult to borderline impossible," Boone said. "So that’s why I think the baseball world is talking about him as much as they are."

The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year made his 12th start of the season Wednesday. He was in the lineup in nine of those games and even played rightfield in three of those contests to have an extra at-bat after being taken off the mound.

Maddon even compared watching Ohtani in this moment to witnessing Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Tom Brady.

"Your eyes don’t want to come off," Maddon said. "Come watch Shohei play. It’s unique. You’re probably not going to see it like this again in a while. I think there are going to be kids attempting to do this kind of stuff but to do what he’s doing on this level and how he does it is rare."

Whether that be on the mound, in the batter’s box, or running the bases.

"It’s not easy," Maddon said. "He makes it look easy, but it ain’t easy."

Multitasking

Shohei Ohtani has been a force both at the plate and on the mound this season. His numbers entering Wednesday night:

HITTING

HRs 28*

RBIs 63

SBs 11

BA .278

OBP .361

SLG .688*

OPS 1.049

PITCHING

W-L 3-1

ERA 2.58

WHIP 1.18

IP 59 1⁄3

Hits 39

SO 82

*Leads AL

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