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Ohtani nearly hits for cycle in his own start as Halos tag all of Grayson Rodriguez’s mistakes, 9-5

Shohei Ohtani was such a beast as a hitter, it didn’t much matter that the Birds scored five runs off of him as a pitcher. Tonight was a wild one.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles
Tonight’s starting pitcher, hitting a 456-foot tank on a night he also went 4-for-5. Unreal.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It is with mixed emotions that I report that Shohei Ohtani is as much of a freak as advertised. The guy is mindboggling, a physical specimen who throws seven different pitches, hits 99 mph with his four-seam fastball, has a vicious sweeper, controls the zone … and also crushes 456-foot tanks as a hitter.

The ball was flying in Camden Yards tonight. No, it was flying straight out of it, and the “Swing for the fences” game plan worked more to Los Angeles’s favor than Baltimore’s. Orioles hitters proved impressively resistant to the Ohtani hype, tagging the Angels ace for five runs on a trio of home runs by Adam Frazier, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins. But the Angels did them one better, blasting young Grayson Rodriguez out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings in which he allowed eight runs on nine hits.

These kinds of starter numbers will induce scary flashbacks to 2019, when Baltimore trotted out one of the worst pitching outfits in history. Rodriguez isn’t that. It’s just that he has yet to learn a painful lesson: it doesn’t matter if you can hit the high-90’s with your fastball, MLB hitters will tag pitches in the middle of the zone. And this is what they did.

That’s what happened in the second, when Halos hitters Luis Rengifo, Chad Wallach and Zach Neto manufactured a run on a pair of singles, a walk and a sac fly.

Also in the third, when, staked a 2-1 advantage, Rodriguez gave the lead back on a two-run double to Gio Urshela with two men on, two outs and an 0-2 count. This time, the former Yankee sat on a changeup, a flabby little thing that practically came with the label “Hit Me.”

And again in a fourth inning that the O’s entered leading 4-3, and exited down 8-4. The catcher Wallach drove a 3-1 fastball over the heart of the plate into the bleachers. Bye, Orioles lead. After a Taylor Ward single, Mike Trout almost blasted a two-run home run, but it sailed just foul, so Trout settled for a single. Shohei Ohtani didn’t settle for anything at all: Grayson threw him a first-pitch curveball and Ohtani annihilated it. The Camden crowd was stunned. “Good grief,” said MASN’s Kevin Brown of the 456-foot bomb, “You just don’t see anyone hit it out there.” I never post opposing teams’ offensive highlights on this blog, but I have a feeling this one could be part of Ohtani’s Cooperstown induction reel, so, sorry:

A walk later, G-Rod’s frustrating night was over. Fresh off the Norfolk shuttle, Logan Gillaspie was summoned for mop-up duty, and he looked pretty bad, if I’m being honest. Gillaspie allowed an inherited eighth run to score, as three of the first four Halos he faced reached. He returned in the fifth to provide length, and it was unpleasant. The ridiculous Ohtani casually added a triple to his 4-for-5 night (plus a walk), then Hunter Renfroe doubled in the Angels’ ninth run noisily.

I may be stating the obvious, but this is no way to win a baseball game. It was too bad, because even while Ohtani-the-hitter was running amok in Oriole Park, Orioles hitters had made life difficult for Ohtani-the-starter. In seven innings, the Birds tagged him for three home runs and five runs, tied for his most allowed in any start this season.

The Birds first got to Ohtani-san in the second. The first to reach was young Gunnar Henderson, confidently driving through a first-pitch fastball. The next was everybody’s favorite offseason signing Adam Frazier, who hung in against Ohtani long enough to get a hanging breaking ball, which he sent blazing onto the flag court. Frazier hit all of three home runs in 2022 and now has a two-run bomb against Shohei Ohtani. Huh. Baseball.

Right after wasting a scoring chance in the third, the O’s got the lead back in the third. That’s a weird sentence to write but it’s true! Ohtani’s command momentarily faltered as he surrendered a leadoff walk to Jorge Mateo, mired in an 0-for-16 slump. It was, like, totally obvious Mateo would steal second, and he did, taking third, as well, on a Cedric Mullins grounder. But Mateo ran into a TOOTBLAN at home. Sigh.

Awesomely, however, there are three outs in baseball, and with Adley aboard, Ohtani hung another sweeper. Anthony Santander was all over it, and 416 feet to deep center later, the O’s were back in front, 4-3.

Shame it couldn’t last. Here, with the game out of reach, is one more Shohei mistake (if you’re into that sort of thing), a fifth-inning fastball to Cedric Mullins, who has a .364 average and 1.045 OPS in his last week. Mullins also chipped in two shoestring catches, prompting MASN’s Ben McDonald to start beating the “Gold Glove” drum once again.

But these are what they call consolation prizes. So is the fact that Bryan Baker, Austin Voth, and Mike Baumann pitched scoreless innings in relief. Baumann is by far the most fun of the three to watch right now, even though he walked Mike Trout in the ninth. Ohtani came to bat against him with the chance to hit for the cycle, and I feel like parts of Camden Yards wouldn’t have minded. He settled for a single, a.k.a. 9 total bases tonight. The guy is unreal.

Anyway, Birdland just got Shohei’d. As a fan of the game I’m glad I got to watch this guy up close. As a fan of the Orioles, I’ll be very glad when he leaves town.