Flashes of lightning filled the dark skies above Angel Stadium, and the theme song from “The Natural” played occasionally on the sound system Wednesday night, providing a fitting backdrop for Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ version of Roy Hobbs, to do his work.
Ohtani, who hit two homers and drove in career-high eight runs – two shy of the franchise record – Tuesday night, displayed the other side of his prodigious two-way skills Wednesday, giving up two hits in eight shutout innings and striking out a career-high 13 to lead the Angels to a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
A night that began with a stirring 20th anniversary celebration of the 2002 World Series championship team ended with Ryan Tepera retiring the side in order in the ninth as the Angels salvaged the finale of a three-game series against the last-place Royals.
Ohtani gave up singles to Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi to open the game and nothing else. He retired 16 straight batters from the first inning into the sixth inning before Merrifield’s one-out walk in the sixth. Merrifield was wiped out by a double play.
Relying more heavily on his 84.4-mph slider than his 97-mph four-seam fastball, the right-hander struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, two with split-fingered fastballs, two with sliders, one with a curve and one with a cutter.
He closed the seventh with strikeouts of MJ Melendez with a 79-mph curve and Hunter Dozier with an 89-mph splitter and finished his outing by whiffing Emmanuel Rivera with an 85-mph slider as a crowd of 34,792 serenaded him with “MVP” chants .
Of Ohtani’s 108 pitches, 71 were strikes. He induced only 14 swinging strikes but got 32 called strikes.
Ohtani hit a little rut on the mound in late May and early June, when he gave up a combined nine earned runs and 14 hits, five of them homers, in nine innings of losses to the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees.
But in three starts since, against the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City, Ohtani has given up only one earned run and nine hits in 21 innings, striking out 25 and walking five.
Royals starter Daniel Lynch, a hard-throwing left-hander, blanked the Angels on two hits through four innings before finally cracking in the fifth.
Andrew Velazquez struck out to open the inning. Taylor Ward and Ohtani followed with walks, and Luis Rengifo legged out an infield single to load the bases.
David MacKinnon, a 32nd-round pick out of Hartford in 2017 and the Angels’ cleanup hitter on a night Mike Trout and Jared Walsh did not start, drove a sacrifice fly to the right field for his first major league RBI and a 1-0 lead .
Velazquez led off the seventh with a walk off reliever Amir Garrett and scored from first on Rengifo’s two-out RBI double into the left-field corner for a 2-0 lead. MacKinnon’s RBI single to right – his first big league hit – made it 3-0.
Velazquez’s RBI single and Taylor Ward’s RBI double in the eighth pushed the lead to 5-0.
A six-man Angels rotation was reduced – temporarily – to four earlier Wednesday when Reid Detmers was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake just six weeks after throwing a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays, a demotion that will give the 22-year -old left-hander a chance to regain his form in a less stressful environment.
“It’s just a little bit of a reset for him,” interim manager Phil Nevin said.
“Look, there’s greatness in there. I’ve said that before. There have been a ton of guys who have had to go back down and kind of reset themselves. It’s a learning process, and I think this will be good for him. “
Detmers, a first-round pick out of Louisville in 2020, went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in his first six starts and threw the 10th individual no-hitter in franchise history when he blanked the Rays on May 10 in Anaheim.
But he went 0-2 with a 5.67 ERA in his next six starts, striking out 24, walking 13 and giving up eight homers in 27 innings.
“Sometimes things just snowball, and it weighs on you,” Nevin said. “You can tell from his demeanor a little bit. The confidence was not quite what it was. And a guy with his stuff, it should not be that way. He’s a first-round pick, he got here quick, but he’ll go down, take a deep breath, get some good work in and get back here. “
Reliever Jimmy Herget was put on the 15-day injured list because of a shoulder impingement. … The Angels:
recalled relievers Oliver Ortega and Elvis Peguero from triple A.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.