ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Whether Shohei Ohtani is unleashing his 101 mph fastball or dispensing his large array of breaking balls, the Angels’ two-way ace has overpowered every opponent during his shutout surge through June.
Ohtani still had to dig deep into his nearly bottomless bag of pitches to beat the White Sox.
The right-hander extended his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings while pitching five-hit ball into the sixth with 11 strikeouts in Los Angeles’ 4-1 victory over Chicago on Wednesday night.
“This one was huge for us because we wanted to win the series, and it’s going to lead to better stuff down the road,” Ohtani said through a translator after winning his fourth consecutive start.
Ohtani (7-4) yielded five singles and a walk, and the White Sox had to work for every small success against him. The reigning AL MVP hasn’t allowed a run since the fifth inning of his brilliant seven-inning outing in Boston on June 9, giving him an 0.34 ERA in his last four starts with 36 strikeouts — 24 in the last two games.
“(The slider) was working really well for me, especially early in the game,” Ohtani said. “I think they started to catch onto the softer stuff later, so I mixed in more fastballs. Just going with the flow.”
Translator Ippei Mizuhara says this matter-of-factly, but Ohtani’s array of pitches is maddening for opponents and eye-popping to his teammates.
“He’s got six, seven, eight pitches, and he can change speed on all of them,” said his catcher, Max Stassi. “It’s special what he can do and how he can manipulate it. … You never know what you’re going to get. It’s the kitchen sink coming at you all the time.”
Ohtani went 0 for 3 with a walk at the plate, but Luis Rengifo hit a two-run homer and Mike Trout had an early RBI double as the Angels finished their disappointing 4-5 homestand on a positive note because of their superstar’s work on the mound.
Michael Kopech (2-5) yielded five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings for the White Sox, who have lost six of eight. Chicago loaded the bases in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize.
“We didn’t put the ball in play enough,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We had a real good shot in the fourth. I thought we had good at-bats, (but Ohtani) has got weapons. He’s for real.”
Ohtani’s streak included scoreless efforts in victories over Seattle and Kansas City before this tough challenge against the White Sox, who pounded out 17 hits and 11 runs one night earlier. After he struck out a career-high 13 Royals last week, Ohtani reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time this season against Chicago.
He gave up two singles while racking up three strikeouts in the first inning, and the Angels scored moments later when Taylor Ward delivered a leadoff single and came around on Trout’s double. Trout then scored when Kopech made an error at first base while Chicago tried to turn a tricky 3-6-1 double play.
Ohtani escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth after allowing two more singles and a walk, striking out Josh Harrison with a slider. Ohtani also reached back for two fastballs over 100 mph during the inning.
Rengifo doubled Los Angeles’ lead and chased Kopech with his two-run shot into the ficus trees beyond center field in the sixth.
Angels acting manager Ray Montgomery pulled Ohtani with José Abreu on first after Ohtani struck out Gavin Sheets with his 108th pitch, matching his season high.
“I think he did everything he could do for us tonight,” Montgomery said.
Abreu got to third when reliever José Quijada gave up a long single to A.J. Pollock, but Quijada escaped the jam and kept Ohtani’s streak intact.
“Ideally, I would have liked to finish that inning off,” Ohtani said. “But they have a really good lineup, and they were fighting each at-bat and getting my pitch count up.”
Chicago avoided its third shutout loss of the season when Luis Robert reached on shortstop Andrew Velazquez’s throwing error and eventually scored on Ryan Tepera’s wild pitch in the eighth.
Tepera escaped that jam, and Raisel Iglesias pitched the ninth for his 15th save.
White Sox: Yoán Moncada was in major pain after fouling a ball off his foot in the eighth, but he stayed in. He went to get X-rays after the game.
Angels: Ohtani appeared to be favoring his back in a late-game plate appearance, but he said it should be fine. “Fortunately, we’ve got an off day tomorrow,” he said.
White Sox: After a travel day, Lance Lynn (1-1, 6.19 ERA) takes the mound in San Francisco on Friday to open a weekend series against the Giants.
Angels: After a travel day, Michael Lorenzen (6-5, 4.24 ERA) takes the mound in Houston on Friday to open a nine-game road trip and a three-game series against the AL West-leading Astros.
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