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ANAHEIM The As found out Ohtani-Mania is real. Its legit. It might even be bigger than anyone could have expected.
While the magic is usually reserved for the theme park just down the road in Anaheim, it was a shaping up to be a magical afternoon at Angel Stadium as Japanese two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the As. Marcus Semien broke up Ohtanis bid for perfection by driving a fastball to left field for a single with one out, but the As (4-7) were dominated in a 6-1 loss to the Angels Sunday in front of a sold out crowd of 44,742 fans. It was the largest regular season day game attendance at Angel Stadium since undergoing a renovation in 1998.
After homering against Daniel Gossett as the designated hitter Friday night, it was the second time Ohtani has stifled the As on the mound in the span of a week. Ohtani also impressed last week at the Oakland Coliseum when he allowed three runs over six innings, with all three runs coming in the second, as he picked up the first win of his big league career.
But the man they refer to as Japanese Babe Ruth took things to another level Sunday afternoon.
He looked even better today, As manager Bob Melvin said of Ohtani. The difference in speeds between his split and his fastball is significant. When he locates his split down in the zone, its tough to pick up.
Featuring a fastball that reached triple digits throughout his outing and a nasty splitter in the 92-93 mph range, Ohtani got through the first six innings with ease as he had struck out 11 of the first 18 batters faced. Jonathan Lucroys at-bat in which he took Ohtani to a 3-2 count before flying out to right in the sixth was the closest to anything resembling a hint of danger.
After walking Jed Lowrie following the hit allowed to Semien in the seventh, Ohtani regrouped by retiring Khris Davis and striking out Matt Olson to exit with a standing ovation. He finished the afternoon allowing just the one hit and one walk through seven innings of work while racking up 12 strikeouts.
Ohtani, 23, is now 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA through two starts in the big leagues, while batting .389 with three home runs and seven RBIs over four games as a hitter. Hes the first player to earn two wins as a pitcher and hit three home runs in his teams first 10 games since Jim Shaw back in 1919 with the Washington Senators.
Facing him for the second time this season, Semien said he saw a better slider from Ohtani this time out. The pitch was often thrown as the first pitch for strikes, and was being placed down and away, the perfect location for bad contact.
Its tough when he keeps the fastball down for strikes and then throws the split, Semien said. For me, I was trying to get a fastball up and first two at-bats I didnt get one. Plus its still 99 miles per hour, so you still gotta battle that.
Semien finally got that fastball up in his third at-bat after getting ahead in the count. Thats pretty much the only way hitters will have a chance at success against Ohtani, who seemed to make no mistakes prior to that Semien at-bat.
As far as thinking about the perfect game while at the plate, Semien said it was definitely on his mind.
You never want to have a perfect game thrown on you, so of course its in the back of everyones mind, Semien said. Its really hard to do as a pitcher. It takes a lot of focus to get every single hitter out without walking someone.
Kendall Graveman was nothing close to perfect on the mound for the As.
The No. 1 starter continued to struggle as he turned in his worst outing of the season. Graveman was pulled with just one out in the third as he allowed five runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts, throwing only 84 pitches.
Graveman was touched up by the Angels (7-3) early for two runs in the second, then surrendered a booming solo home run to Mike Trout in the third that sailed over the center field wall to give the Angels a 3-0 lead.
Hes just pressing a little bit, Melvin said. He wants to do really well almost too badly right now. Looks a little bit tight out on the mound. Hes forcing some things a little bit. Hes just grinding too hard on it. Sometimes you gotta try easier.
After allowing 12 home runs in 105 1/3 innings pitched last season, Graveman has allowed at least one home run in each of his first three starts and five total homers in just 13 1/3 innings.
A pitcher who doesnt produce very many swing and misses, Graveman relies on movement and keeping his sinker down in the zone to induce ground balls. That pitch was up in the zone several times Sunday afternoon, leading to his eventual downfall.
Now 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA through his first three starts of 2018, Graveman called the string of games one of the toughest stretches of his career. Though he appeared a bit dejected at his locker following the game, Graveman said he doesnt feel like hes pressing on the mound, he just needs to find a way to locate his pitches where he wants them on a more consistent basis.
Its a tough stretch but you cant carry these over, Graveman said. At the end of the day, its a game. I understand we want to do well, but its not life or death. The biggest thing is just clearing the mind and executing pitches.
Matt Joyce got the As on the board in the ninth inning with a solo home run off Felix Pena.
The As have yet to win a series this season and have now dropped four out of their last six games.