Add Shohei Ohtani’s nasty new sinker to his list of MVP-level accomplishments

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani signals to his teammates during the fourth game of his eight-inning effort Saturday in a win over the Houston Astros. (Raul Romero Jr./Associated Press)

Angels fans no doubt remember the Aug. 15 game against the Seattle Mariners that ended with the ninth inning gone awry in the most stormy way that went viral on social media.

That late mess, in which the Angels gave up four unearned runs and lost, overshadowed a start by Shohei Ohtani in which he unveiled a new tool in his pitching arsenal.

A sinker.

He threw it just six times. four were balls, one turned into a homer and one resulted in a strikeout.

It was a pitch Ohtani said he worked on in bullpen sessions and decided the game was the right time to show it off. He threw it six times on August 27 in a 2-0 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The development of this field has been impressive. On Saturday against the Houston Astros, he threw 18 times.

The results: seven known hits — one of which was a strike — seven walks, one foul, one pop out and two strikeouts (a single by Yuli Gurriel and a double by Jose Altuve). At his fastest, Ohtani’s sinker reached 100.6 mph. At its slowest, it was still 94 mph. It was flying between 97 and 99 mph.

“I felt pretty good about it for the most part,” Ohtani explained through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara after Saturday’s game. “He gave up a couple of hits, but they were pretty unlucky. I was able to spot it where I wanted it and I was able to fly a lot, so that was really good.”

It was a measured response compared to how interim manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani felt about it during the game.

“He said it himself [to Mizuhara], “My twin is ugly today.” To me that’s a pitch that makes a difference even for a guy who makes a difference himself,” Nevin said. “He’s only when he’s in the moment.

“He has confidence. When he’s in a groove and he knows he’s in a groove, he’s like Larry Bird in basketball or Magic or Jordan. This is not trash talk. He just knows what he has.”

The introduction of a new ballpark adds to Ohtani’s lore as an ever-improving two-way competitor. Ohtani, the consensus AL MVP last year, and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees are considered the favorites for this season’s award.

Angel pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros on Saturday night.

Angel pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros on Saturday night. (Raul Romero Jr./Associated Press)

Pitchers usually try to develop new pitches in the offseason, though it’s not uncommon to try to do so during the year. Angels left-hander José Suarez added a changeup this season. Ohtani developed his cutter midway through last season.

The introduction of an effective sinker has surprised no one in the Angels’ clubhouse.

“Nothing he does surprises any of us,” starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval said. “It’s a unicorn. He can do whatever he wants, however, as fast as he wants.

“It’s funny, we’ve been training in the offseason. I think we did jumps or something and he always wants to know, ‘What’s the record? What is the record?’ Because he wants to beat it. His goal is to be the best at everything.”

Saturday’s game against the Astros went 12 innings before the Angels won 2-1 on Matt Duffy’s RBI single. As a result of the late game, and with Ohtani throwing eight innings, he was given Sunday off by Nevin.

Also taking a scheduled day off, but for maintenance, forward David Fletcher.

Angels fall to Astros

Angels starting pitcher Tucker Davidson delivers against the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Angels starting pitcher Tucker Davidson delivers against the Houston Astros on Sunday. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

It wasn’t the hottest home game in Angels history — that was in 2020, when the temperature reached 109 degrees in a doubleheader with the Astros. Sunday’s game, also against the Astros, was the sixth hottest game (102 points) in team history in Anaheim.

The overall result of the game? Not so hot for the Angels, who lost 9-1.

Tucker Davidson got through the first inning unscathed. But in the second, he gave up five earned runs, including a two-run home run to Gurriel, on four hits, walked one batter and struck out one.

Davidson gave up another two-run homer in the seventh to Jose Altuve.

“I think it was a rollercoaster of a day, so it wasn’t too good,” Davidson said.

His biggest contribution, he said, was going into the seventh inning to help sustain the bullpen.

“One of the things was, ‘Let’s minimize it when we can,’ and I felt like I did that after the second inning,” Davidson said. “I have to do better in that second inning, when I gave up the home run, it should have stopped there.

“I think a month ago, it might have turned into a snowball fight and all of a sudden it’s down and then all of a sudden it’s 7-0 in the third inning over the seventh.”

Asked if the heat had any effect on his performance, Davidson said he had played in hotter games in Atlanta and as a minor leaguer during a game in Nashville.

Davidson has made five starts as an Angel since coming over in the trade that sent closer Raisel Iglesias to the Braves. In 25.1 innings, he has given up 18 earned runs and walked 16 batters. Sunday was the longest he has lasted in a major league this season.

The Angels had just six hits.

Their run came in the eighth inning on a home run by Mike Trout

The Astros scored two runs in the ninth on Yordan Alvarez’s two-run single off Jose Marte.

The return of Lorenzen

Pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who has been on the injured list since early July with a strained right shoulder, will likely start Friday at Houston, according to Nevin. Ohtani is scheduled to pitch Saturday.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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