ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani earned another win on the mound despite giving up five runs in a nightmare fourth inning, and he also tripled, doubled and singled in the Los Angeles Angels’ 8-7 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Ohtani (4-0) had his rockiest start in recent memory, yielding at least five runs and two homers for the first time in 18 starts since last July while also hitting a career-high three batters with pitches.
Nearly all of the two-way superstar’s trouble occurred in the fourth, after he had thrown three perfect innings. Ohtani’s struggles were preceded by a breakdown in his PitchCom system, which he uses in lieu of traditional catcher-to-pitcher signals, but both Ohtani and manager Phil Nevin said those problems weren’t the main factor while Ohtani allowed seven baserunners, threw two wild pitches and lost a 5-0 lead.
“He’s human,” Nevin said. “I kind of had to go up and down the dugout after the next half-inning, because it was like the whole place was deflated. Everybody was like, ‘What happened?’ He’s human. He’s going to give up runs, you guys. We’re in a dogfight now. Let’s go.”
Ohtani gave up as many runs in the fourth as he had yielded in his previous 60 innings combined. He recovered to throw six innings of three-hit ball, earning his fourth victory of April while striking out eight with a fastball that topped 100 mph twice.
“The biggest part for me was to have two strong innings after that fourth inning,” Ohtani said through his translator. “The first three innings probably felt the best. That fourth inning is regrettable, but it felt really good coming back in the fifth and sixth. I’ll use it as a learning experience.”
Ohtani scored two runs, but fell just short of becoming the first starting pitcher in modern major league history to hit for the cycle. He came up in the eighth with a chance to complete his second career cycle, but Esteury Ruiz caught his 389-foot drive at the warning track in center.
Brandon Drury hit an early three-run homer to cap his spectacular series for the Angels, who won the final three of a four-game set.
Brent Rooker hit a three-run homer and Shea Langeliers added a two-run shot in the fourth for the A’s, who have lost 12 of 14. They are one loss shy of matching the 1988 Baltimore Orioles for the most April defeats in major league history with 22.
JP Sears (0-2) yielded six hits and six runs while pitching into the fifth.
Ohtani drove in the Angels’ first run with a double, and Drury homered moments later during the Angels’ five-run third. Drury also doubled and walked twice, finishing the series 9 for 15 with four homers, a triple and two doubles while reaching base 12 times.
Ohtani said his PitchCom system was inconsistent during the afternoon, and he had trouble with it even before the fourth, which started poorly and got worse.
Ohtani hit a batter, issued a walk and threw a wild pitch before Rooker’s catchable homer barely eluded right fielder Hunter Renfroe at the fence. Ohtani then hit another batter, threw another wild pitch and gave up Langeliers’ sixth homer, erasing the Angels’ five-run lead. He finally escaped his worst inning in recent memory after another walk and a double.
“I was just a little passive, trying to protect our lead too much,” Ohtani said. “I should have been more aggressive.”
Oakland scored two runs in the eighth after Luis Rengifo booted a grounder that should have ended the inning. Gio Urshela and Anthony Rendon made outstanding defensive plays to preserve the Angels’ one-run lead.
Carlos Estévez pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
MISSED THE MARK
Ohtani fell short of the franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings at home, finishing with 35 straight. Mark Clear set the record of 36 2/3 straight scoreless innings as a rookie in 1979.
Athletics: RHP Domingo Acevedo returned from a two-week absence with a lower back injury. After coming on with the bases loaded in the sixth, he allowed just one inherited runner to score.
Angels: Rookie SS Zach Neto got a rest day.
Athletics: Kyle Muller (0-2, 7.23 ERA) is expected to be on the mound when Oakland returns home Friday to open a weekend series with Cincinnati. Muller has yielded 16 runs in his last three starts.
Angels: Tyler Anderson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) looks to improve his slow start with his new team when Los Angeles opens a six-game trip Friday night at Milwaukee.
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