ATLANTA — A brilliant performance by Shohei Ohtani on the mound turned ugly quickly.
Meanwhile, it was ugly all night for the Angels’ hitters.
Ohtani had struck out 11 in six innings without allowing a run, but he gave up six runs in the seventh inning of the Angels’ 8-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
Ohtani could not have been any better for six innings, but he was pitching in the pressure of a tie game because the Angels’ hitters – who have been in a collective slump for nearly two months – continually came up empty.
“It’s hard to pitch when you know your offense is struggling,” manager Phil Nevin said. “One big hit or one big inning for us can change that. But you know, when you’re pitching the way he does every night and understanding that one blooper, one little mistake can hurt you and cost you the game, that’s hard to pitch like that, which makes what he’s done the last two months more even more impressive.”
Ohtani has been nearly unhittable over his last seven starts, including the first six innings on Friday.
“He was awesome,” Nevin said. “That’s a heckuva a lineup over there. For six innings, they didn’t have much chance.”
When Ohtani took the mound in the seventh, he had retired 15 in a row and 18 of 19 in the game, most of them with strikeouts. He had thrown only 71 pitches.
“I was getting lots of swings and misses and I was able to keep my pitch count low, until that last inning,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “That last inning, I really regret.”
Ohtani walked Dansby Swanson to start the inning. His 0-and-1 splitter to Matt Olson was up too much, and Olson whacked it over the right field fence. It was Olson’s second hit, and first homer, in 16 career at-bats against Ohtani.
Austin Riley then ripped a single into center field. Travis d’Arnaud dropped a bloop hit inside the right field line. Eddie Rosario lined a single through the drawn-in infield, making it 3-0.
“I had (Aaron) Loup up for Rosario, and looking back I probably should have gotten him,” Nevin said. “But you look at (Ohtani) as invincible sometimes… I should have gotten him before that. That’s on me.”
An out later, Ohtani hung a first-pitch slider to Orlando Arcia, who hit it a couple of rows deep into the left field seats, making it 6-0.
“The two homers I gave up there were obviously bad pitches,” Ohtani said. “They deserved to get hit as home runs, especially against a great team like the Braves. The other base hits I gave up were good pitches. A little unluckiness.”
Ohtani allowed six runs in one inning after allowing just two in his previous 45-2/3 innings. It equaled the most runs he had allowed in a game this season.
Although in the end, it looks like a game that was lost because of bad pitching, for most of the night the Angels’ bad hitting was the issue.
They struck out another 13 times, adding to their major league-leading total. They had only five hits.
Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo had two of them, back-to-back singles to start the fourth, giving them runners at the corners with no outs. After Jared Walsh struck out, Jo Adell walked to load the bases. Jonathan Villar hit into a double play.
They left two on in the fifth and wasted a leadoff baserunner in the sixth and a one-out single in the seventh.
Villar homered in the ninth for their only run.
“We just didn’t get that big hit,” Nevin said. “That’s what’s what’s happened a lot lately. You think after the break, we get that big one here, it would change some stuff. Just get one across with Shohei on the mound. We just didn’t get it.”