Shohei Ohtani developed a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand nine days ago during his second start for the Los Angeles Angels.
The rookie right-hander thought it had healed enough for him to pitch effectively when he took the mound again Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd eager to see Ohtani’s next incredible feat.
Instead, the blister and the powerful Boston Red Sox were far too much to overcome.
Mookie Betts led off with the first of his three homers, and the Red Sox chased Ohtani after just two innings in a 10-1 victory over the Angels.
Ohtani (2-1) yielded four hits and three runs on 66 pitches before exiting with a blister on his pitching hand. The two-way Japanese sensation couldn’t throw his breaking pitches for strikes, and the Red Sox jumped on him, starting with Betts’ full-count homer on a low, 97 mph fastball.
“The stuff is there,” Betts said of Ohtani. “He’s got it all. But our team, we had a good approach tonight. He wasn’t able to land that splitter for strikes, and we did a good job laying off it and backing him into a corner where he probably had to throw a couple of pitches he didn’t want to throw.”
Ohtani has had intermittent issues with blisters during the past few months, and he had a bandage on one of his fingers last week.
“I felt like it would be fine today, (but) in the high intensity of a game, it didn’t hold up too well,” Ohtani said through a translator. “But I’m not going to be at the top of my game every start. When I don’t have my best stuff, I still have to fight through the game.”
Ohtani’s fastball still hit 99 mph during his first career night start, but the evening began poorly when Betts cracked his 12th career leadoff homer.
Ohtani allowed another single and threw a wild pitch in the first inning. Betts drew the only walk issued by Ohtani during the second inning despite mostly dismal control. Boston scored two more runs on Holt’s RBI single and Andrew Benintendi’s sacrifice fly.
“That wasn’t the same split as his last outing,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Betts each homered in the third inning after Ohtani departed, and Rafael Devers homered in the fourth. Betts hit his third solo shot in the seventh inning, matching his career best while Boston’s formidable lineup pounded out 15 hits in its fifth consecutive victory.
“You’ve got to ride the wave,” Cora said. “We’re playing good baseball, but they don’t even know how many games they’re winning. They just prepare and execute.”
David Price (2-1) yielded three hits and four walks over five comfortable innings as the Red Sox improved to 14-2, extending the AL’s best start since 1987 by winning the opener of a three-game series between two clubs off to impressive starts.
The Angels (13-4) are still off to the best start in franchise history, but their seven-game winning streak ended in front of their second-biggest home crowd of the 21st century. The Big A was packed with 44,822 fans eager to see Ohtani, whose impressive opening month has drawn unprecedented early season attention to the Orange County club.
The defeat was a reality check on the mania surrounding the 23-year-old Ohtani, who has said he still has plenty of work to do on the mound and at the plate. He won his first two starts in impressive fashion earlier this month, and he is off to a .367, three-homer start as a designated hitter.
Ohtani and manager Mike Scioscia both said the blister shouldn’t affect his ability to swing the bat.
Scioscia also said he’s optimistic Ohtani can make his next start on the mound. The Angels have given Ohtani one week between starts so far, which likely would put his next start on the road against defending World Series champion Houston.
Albert Pujols got his 2,989th career hit with an RBI single in the third inning, but the Angels’ designated hitter was ejected in the fifth after slamming his bat and helmet into the dirt while protesting a called third strike by umpire Vic Carapazza.
Red Sox: Betts was in Boston’s lineup for the first time since Saturday, when he injured his foot in a home plate collision. He sat out Sunday, and the Red Sox were rained out Monday.
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker said his injured right forearm feels considerably better after some rest, but he still hasn’t been cleared to throw. He missed several months last season due to a compressed nerve in the same forearm, and he hasn’t pitched since March 31 this season.
Red Sox: Rick Porcello (3-0, 1.83 ERA) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start against the Yankees. He has won five straight decisions since last September. He also has thrown a complete game in each of his last two starts in Anaheim.
Angels: Tyler Skaggs (2-0, 1.69 ERA) makes the fourth start of his promising season after getting pushed back due to the Kansas City weather. The left-hander hasn’t yielded more than two runs in a start this year.
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