Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar almost added to his unexampled ledger of accomplishments on Thursday night but instead came within just four outs of pitching a no-hitter against the Oakland A's in Anaheim.
With two outs in the eighth inning, Ohtani allowed his first hit of the game, a ground-ball single by Connor Capel that deflected off the glove of shortstop Livan Soto. The next batter, Dermis Garcia, also singled. Ohtani was then able to rebound and retire the next batter and end the frame. At 108 pitches, Ohtani's night was over after eight scoreless innings total and 7 ⅔ innings of hitless ball.
Aaron Loup in the ninth struggled and was charged with Oakland's two runs. Ryan Tepera recorded the final out and picked up the save but did so only after issuing a run-scoring wild pitch and giving up a hard-hit line-out to deep right-center for the final out. In the end, the Angels' bullpen narrowly avoided costing Ohtani his 15th win of the season.
Ohtani's bid, if realized, would've been the fourth no-hitter of the 2022 season and second by an Angels pitcher. On May 10, rookie Reid Detmers held the Tampa Bay Rays hitless. Overall, Ohtani's would've been the 13th no-hitter in Angels franchise history.
After issuing a first-inning walk to A's leadoff man Tony Kemp, the first batter of the game, Ohtani responded by retiring 23 in a row, including Kemp, who was erased on a double play in the first. That meant Ohtani had faced the minimum until Capel's two-out single in the eighth.
In the 4-2 win over Oakland, Ohtani, across his eight innings, struck out 10 against the one walk. Of those 108 pitches, 72 went for strikes, and he recorded 10 ground-outs against two fly-outs. Batting third for the Angels on Thursday, Ohtani also went 2 for 4 at the plate and picked up his 94th RBI of the season. The hit extended Ohtani's current hit streak to 14 games.
In suffocating the Oakland offense, Ohtani called up his full repertoire of six different pitches and also showed A's hitters a variety of arm angles and velocities. In what was likely a scouting-driven decision, Ohtani leaned more heavily on his cutter than he typically does and did so to great effect. His velocity ranged from a 71.7 mph curveball to a 98.3 mph sinker.
This season, Ohtani, the pitcher, now boasts an ERA of 2.35 with 213 strikeouts against 43 walks. At the plate, he's now batting .275/.358/.529 with 34 home runs. Ohtani's eight innings pitched on Thursday give him 161 for the season. That, in tandem with his now 639 plate appearances as a hitter, means he's just one inning pitched away from becoming the first player in MLB history to qualify both as a pitcher and as a batter. The Angels have six games left on the schedule, so he figures to get one more start.
When it comes to the American League MVP award, Ohtani presents the only competition to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. Judge, who recently tied Roger Maris' AL record of 61 home runs in a season, is also in line to win the batter's Triple Crown. Judge also leads the league in walks and has a chance to reach 400 total bases. Ohtani won the AL MVP award for his two-way marvels last season, and he's arguably been even better this year.