ARLINGTON, Texas >> That was quite a two-way Sho in a big league start like none since Babe Ruth a century ago.
Shohei Ohtani struck out nine after a shaky first inning on the mound, and also scored three runs and drove in two as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 9-4 on Monday night.
“A pretty complete game of baseball,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “If you weren’t entertained by watching him tonight, you can’t be entertained watching the game of baseball.”
A day after hitting his seventh homer to tie for the MLB lead, Ohtani (1-0) became the first home run leader to be the starting pitcher for a game since Ruth for the New York Yankees against Detroit on June 13, 1921. It was the second time this season Ohtani pitched and batted second.
After giving up four runs while throwing 28 pitches in the first inning — when he walked two, hit another batter and threw a wild pitch — Ohtani got the Angels even at 4-4 in the top of the second when he had a two-run double and then scored on a single by Mike Trout, who had four hits in his return to the lineup.
“I was able to drive in those two runs, that was huge for me, and we were able to tie the game up in the second inning,” Ohtani said through his translator. “So it felt like a fresh start, I treated it like a brand new ballgame.”
The Japanese right-hander retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced in five innings, with all of his strikeouts in that span. It was his first big league win since 2018, before Tommy John surgery that kept him off the mound for all of 2019 and most of last season.
“I’m very happy for the team victory,” Ohtani said. “Personally that first inning was terrible, so I can’t be overly satisfied.”
Ohtani drew a one-out walk and scored on Jared Walsh’s single in the Angels first. He bunted against the shift for a single in the sixth and scored on Walsh’s double, and was done.
“He’s impressive. Clearly, he’s vulnerable in the first inning, and he’s shown that twice against us,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “But, you know, to watch him settle down … just amazing. Then he’s doing some things with the bat. You just don’t see kind of what he can do.”
Justin Upton and Albert Pujols put the Angels ahead to stay with back-to-back homers to start the third off Texas starter Jordan Lyles (1-2), who allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 2 2-3 innings. José Iglesias later went deep off Hyeon-Jong Yang, the lefty from South Korea making his big league debut.
Trout also had an RBI double while raising his average to .426. He had missed three games because of a bruised left elbow after getting hit by a pitch in the series opener at Houston on Thursday.
Texas led on Nate Lowe’s sixth homer, a three-run shot that gave him an MLB best-matching 21 RBIs. David Dahl’s sacrifice fly made it 4-1.
In his previous start on the mound, last Tuesday at home against the Rangers when he didn’t bat, Ohtani became the first starting pitcher since at least 1901 with four scoreless innings with at least six walks and seven strikeouts. He allowed only one hit in the Angels’ 6-2 victory.
That was his first time on the mound since April 4 after dealing with a blister issue on the middle finger of his throwing hand. In that first start, Ohtani both smashed a 451-foot homer and pitched two-hit ball into the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox.
Ohtani settled in needed only 47 pitches to get through the his final four innings, and was done after Maddon said he started to develop another blister. Ohtani said afterward it wasn’t a big deal.
“His offensive performance tonight while he was pitching was a big contributor to our win,” Maddon said.
Upton’s go-ahead shot leading off the third was his 313th career homer in his 15 MLB seasons. The 41-year-old Pujols, in his 21st season, followed with his 667th career homer — he is fifth on the MLB list, 30 from passing Alex Rodriguez for No. 4 all-time. … Yang allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings in his big league debut, the longest for a Rangers reliever since 1989. The 33-year-old Yang played 14 years with the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he was the MVP in 2017 and the league ERA champion twice. … Rangers RF Joey Gallo extended his season-opening on-base streak to 22 games with a walk.
Angels: 3B Anthony Rendon was back in the lineup after missing 11 games with a left groin strain. He was activated from the injured list before the game. To make room on the roster, the Angels optioned infielder Luis Rengifo.
Rangers: To make room on the 40-man roster for Yang, the Rangers transferred first baseman/outfielder Ronald Guzmán (torn meniscus right knee) from the 10-day to 60-day injured list. Guzmán was placed on the injured list April 13, and is scheduled to have season-ending surgery Wednesday.
Rangers RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 5.32 ERA) and LHP José Quintana (0-1, 9.00) are the starting matchup again, like last Wednesday in a series finale at Los Angeles that the Rangers won 7-4. Foltynewicz has given up an MLB-high eight homers, including solo shots to Ohtani, Trout and Upton last week.