Flashes of lightning filled the dark skies above Angel Stadium, and the theme song from “The Natural” played occasionally on the sound system Wednesday night, providing a fitting backdrop for Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ version of Roy Hobbs, to do his work.
Ohtani, who hit two homers and drove in career-high eight runs — two shy of the franchise record — Tuesday night, displayed the other side of his prodigious two-way skills Wednesday, giving up two hits in eight shutout innings and striking out a career-high 13 to lead the Angels to a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
“I mean, he just put us on his back,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought about taking him out after the seventh, and he was adamant that, ‘No, this is mine, I’m staying.’ What a day. What a performance by him.”
After waiting out a stirring 20th anniversary pregame celebration of the 2002 World Series championship team, Ohtani gave up singles to Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi to open the game.
He gave up nothing else. The right-hander retired 16 straight batters from the first innning into the sixth inning before Merrifield’s one-out walk in the sixth. Merrifield was wiped out by a double play.
Relying more heavily on his 84.4-mph slider than his 97-mph four-seam fastball, Ohtani struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, two with split-fingered fastballs, two with sliders, one with a curve and one with a cutter.
He closed the seventh with strikeouts of MJ Melendez with a 79-mph curve and Hunter Dozier with an 89-mph splitter and finished his outing by whiffing Emmanuel Rivera with an 85-mph slider as a crowd of 34,792 serenaded him with “MVP” chants.
“I think the biggest thing was putting up that zero in the first inning after giving up those two hits,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I was able to do that, and I think that set the tone for the game.”
Of Ohtani’s 108 pitches, 71 were strikes. He induced only 14 swinging strikes but got 32 called strikes. He threw 46 sliders and 27 fastballs.
“A little bit of both,” Ohtani said, when asked if he went in with a plan to throw more breaking balls or made adjustments during the game. “Later in the game they were sitting soft, so I threw more fastballs. Early in the game they were sitting more fastball, so I threw more breaking balls.”
Ohtani hit a little rut on the mound in late May and early June, when he gave up a combined nine earned runs and 14 hits, five of them homers, in nine innings of losses to the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees.
But in three starts since, against the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City, Ohtani has given up only one earned run and nine hits in 21 innings, striking out 25 and walking five.
Royals starter Daniel Lynch blanked the Angels on two hits through four innings before cracking in the fifth when Taylor Ward and Ohtani walked, and Luis Rengifo legged out an infield single to load the bases.
David MacKinnon, a 32nd-round pick out of Hartford in 2017 and the Angels cleanup hitter on a night Mike Trout and Jared Walsh were off, drove a sacrifice fly to right field for his first major league RBI and a 1-0 lead.
Andrew Velazquez walked and scored from first on Rengifo’s two-out RBI double into the left-field corner for a 2-0 lead in the seventh. MacKinnon’s RBI single to right — his first big league hit — made it 3-0. Velazquez’s RBI single and Taylor Ward’s RBI double in the eighth pushed the lead to 5-0.
“It’s so awesome to help the team and get two RBIs,” said MacKinnon, a first baseman who was called up Saturday. “It’s wild that I’m in the Show. It’s just crazy to me. I’ll probably be awestruck for the rest of my career that I’m here, because I’ve dreamed about this forever.”
A six-man Angels rotation was reduced — temporarily — to four earlier Wednesday when Reid Detmers was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake just six weeks after throwing a no-hitter against Tampa Bay, a demotion that will give the 22-year-old left-hander a chance to regain his form in a less stressful environment.
Detmers, a first-round pick out of Louisville in 2020, went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in his first six starts and threw the 10th individual no-hitter in franchise history on May 10 in Anaheim. But he went 0-2 with a 5.67 ERA in his next six starts, striking out 24, walking 13 and giving up eight homers in 27 innings.
“It’s just a little bit of a reset for him,” Nevin said. “Look, there’s greatness in there. I’ve said that before. It’s a learning process, and I think this will be good for him.”
Reliever Jimmy Herget was put on the 15-day injured list because of a shoulder impingement. … The Angels
recalled relievers Oliver Ortega and Elvis Peguero from triple A.