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Shohei Ohtani Rebounds from Recent Struggles on the Mound

Angels ace Shohei Ohtani tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Minnesota Twins. Although he didn't get the win, the Angels are 8-2 in his starts.

When Shohei Ohtani is penciled in as the starting pitcher, the Los Angeles Angels are thriving this season.

They are 8-2 in his 10 starts.

What about the rest of the time?

The Angels are 17-21 in games without Ohtani as a pitcher.

Ohtani held the visiting Minnesota Twins to three hits and one run over six innings on Sunday, May 21. He struck out nine, walked three batters and hit another. 

The pride of Oshu, Iwate Prefecture left the game after throwing 99 pitches with the score tied 1-1.

Angels leadoff hitter Mickey Moniak, who started in left field, delivered a two-run double in the seventh and the hosts added an insurance run in the eighth en route to a 4-2 victory.

After a stretch in which he allowed three or more runs in three consecutive starts ― and yielded eight home runs over his past four starts ― Ohtani was more dominant against the Twins.

He looked more like the pitcher who opened the season by allowing zero runs or one run in five straight starts.

Shohei Ohtani has 80 strikeouts in 59 innings this season. (KYODO)

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Taking Away the Twins' Comfort Zone

Given his recent struggles, Ohtani said he wanted to minimize the chances for Twins hitters to go deep.

"It's hard to control whether they hit a home run or not, but I just tried to make them feel uncomfortable and not take good swings," Ohtani said through an interpreter, according to "That was the game plan."

Speaking to reporters after Sunday's game, Angels manager Phil Nevin summed up Ohtani's performance this way: "It was a really good one today."

Looking at the larger picture, Nevin noted that the Angels have been competitive with their Japanese star on the mound.

"He's got five wins and kept us in every game," Nevin said, according to The Associated Press, "[and] "he's given up some runs when we've taken the lead. But he seems to have got us to the finish line with us having that lead."

The manager added, "He knows when to dial it back for sure."

Shohei Ohtani has allowed only 28 hits in his 10 starts this season. (KYODO)

Ohtani Having a Stellar Pitching Season

Ohtani is third among MLB pitchers in strikeouts (80) through Sunday. Opponents are hitting .142 against him. It's the lowest batting average in MLB against any starting pitcher.

As the 2023 World Baseball Classic MVP noted after the weekend finale, not letting batters make good contact on his pitches is a priority.

And he was quite effective in this aspect of pitching in his latest start, throwing 62 of his 99 pitches for strikes ― and 22 times hitters failed to make contact.

"Getting the swings and misses are huge and better than having them fouled off," Ohtani was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "So I'm making my pitches and that's a good sign."

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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