If baseball were nothing more than a video game, Shohei Ohtani would be the ultimate cheat code.
On Thursday the two-way star took a no-hit bid against the Oakland Athletics into the eighth inning. He was four outs away from accomplishing the feat when Connor Capel hit a grounder that eluded shortstop Livan Soto and rolled into center field.
His pitching mastery was still acknowledged by the announced crowd of 31,293, which gave him a standing ovation, complete with more “M-V-P” chants in the Angels’ 4-2 victory.
“That’s my mentality before every outing to try to get that no-hitter or perfect game,” Ohtani said in Japanese through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
Asked whether he thought he was going to be able to complete the no-hitter, he said, “To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling my fastball tonight. The velo wasn’t as fast as normal. But my slider was doing its thing and it was working. I’m kinda surprised that with my stuff I got through eight innings.”
But his accomplishment surprised no one.
Certainly not his manager.
“Every time he takes the mound, you can anticipate something special happening,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “When we got through the seventh, I really thought it was gonna happen.”
Certainly not his catcher.
“I don’t think anything that Shohei does, really, surprises me because I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Max Stassi said. “He can do anything in this game and he’s proven that.”
Certainly not his fellow MVP-winning teammate.
“Everybody thought he was gonna do it,” Mike Trout said. “If he threw a no-hitter, the MVP conversation would be ridiculous.”
Ohtani gave up just two hits and walked one batter, striking out 10 and going two for four with an RBI in eight innings.
Before giving up consecutive singles in the eighth — the second one was hit by Dermis Garcia — Ohtani had one blemish: a walk to Tony Kemp to start the game.
Kemp was erased on a double play and Ohtani faced the minimum batters through seven innings.
At one point he struck out four in a row between the fourth and fifth innings. That fifth inning also ended with Ohtani fielding a dribbler to first base. He jogged off the field, fist-pumped low, and went into the dugout.
The exhilaration of Ohtani’s mastery built among the crowd as the innings wore on, each pitch more precious than the last. The “M-V-P” chants grew louder and after the final out of the seventh inning — a sharp grounder to third baseman Luis Rengifo — the crowd’s energy became more than emotion, but a physical electricity.
There were little moments of gratitude that Ohtani extended his teammates around him, like when he walked off the mound and pointed a finger in appreciation of Rengifo’s play to end the seventh.
Or the finger-pointing thanks to his catcher, Max Stassi, who caught a foul ball that popped up high and dropped along the back netting.
Soto felt bad for missing what was arguably a difficult ball to make a play on and did apologize to Ohtani for not helping keep the no-hitter intact but Ohtani said he wasn’t bitter about it.
Ohtani’s first hit of the night extended his hit streak to 14 games — the longest active streak in the majors — with an RBI single he got off of A’s starter Cole Irvin in the first inning.
It’s a career high for Ohtani, whose previous long lasted 11 games.
His two singles gave him his 24th and 25th hit in games he has pitched this season.
Ohtani is scheduled for one final start , the final game of the Angels season in Oakland on Oct. 5.
Whether Ohtani is the designated hitter or also the starting pitcher, a certain level of greatness is always anticipated.
It’s anticipated by his team, by the opposing team, by the fans who fill Angel Stadium even for a late-September game in another losing season.
“Everybody looks forward to this day. I think my parents only come when he pitches,” Nevin joked before the game on Thursday.
Added A’s manager Mark Kotsay of how to prepare to hit against Ohtani, “The same way we did with [Jacob] deGrom, the same way we did with [Max] Scherzer, same way we did with all the best pitchers in the game.”
The Angels offense as a whole strung together 13 hits and four runs, three off the bats of Rengifo, Taylor Ward and Stassi, who all hit solo home runs.
And that’s all
Archie Bradley and Mickey Moniak will end their seasons on the injured list.
Bradley, who was reactivated from the IL on Sept. 27 after recovering from a fractured elbow, was sent back to the IL after developing a forearm strain after ramping up.
Moniak, who also was recently returned from the IL earlier in the month after recovering from a finger fracture, was put back on the IL with a left hand contusion.