Shohei Ohtani again hampered by shaky command as Angels edge ahead of Sailors

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani pitches at home plate in the first inning.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the first inning of a 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on Friday night. Ohtani is struggling to replicate his 2022 form on the mound. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani hasn’t felt like the 2022 version of himself this season.

On Friday night, the two-way star wasn’t as dominant on the mound as he has been, allowing three earned runs in five innings in the Angels’ 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium. .

The Angels, who have won five in a row, also worried about the health of rookie fire pitcher Ben Joyce, who left his relief outing after just five pitches.

“I didn’t feel really good today,” Ohtani said in Japanese through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “So far I haven’t really felt what I felt last year when I was really good on the mound. But today, especially, I didn’t feel so good.

Ohtani’s start on Friday, in which he also allowed three hits, walked five batters and struck out six on 97 pitches, reflects a trend this season in which he has looked closer to par.

In his first five starts of the season, Ohtani was so good he seemed like a lock to be a definite Cy Young contender. Those first five starts (shortened to two innings because of rain in Boston) earned him a 0.64 ERA. In his last eight starts, however, his ERA is 5.06.

This year, the right-hander is starting more games due to the schedule the team has worked out with him until 2023. Pitch by pitch, he is also working in a more condensed way due to the pitch clock.

Ohtani said it might affect his fatigue, but overall he feels healthy.

Shohei Ohtani follows up on a two-run home run on the Angels'  5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Shohei Ohtani connects on a two-run home run in the Angels’ 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night at Angel Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

“As you said, I’ve pitched more often than the last two years, the last two years,” Ohtani said, “and there are times when I feel a little more tired maybe because of of that.

“But for the most part I feel pretty good and healthy at the moment and the aim is to stay healthy until the end of the season.”

Ohtani was given an extra day of rest, his usual turn in the rotation being pushed back to Friday after a poor outing in Houston and because the Angels have only had six days off in 65 games. Ohtani said he wasn’t feeling the effects of the extra day off.

Ohtani walked his first batter, needing 31 pitches to pass the first inning. He also gave up a two-run home run to Jarred Kelenic, which sparked an early conversation with pitching coach Matt Wise.

The second inning went much easier, as Ohtani retired the team in order on a strikeout, a ground strikeout and a popup. And he helped keep the Mariners from scoring again until the fifth inning, when Ty France hit Jose Caballero at home.

Ohtani’s command, however, looked shaky throughout Friday’s game, with at least three high and inside pitches for three different hitters. One of those pitches hit Julio Rodríguez in the shoulder in the fifth inning.

“I feel like it’s the way I move my body,” Ohtani said. “I feel like I’m less efficient with how I move my body on the mound.”

At home plate, he went three-for-four, dropping just a short triple from the cycle and hitting a two-run blast from 440 feet into the right center field seats.

Ben Joyce leaves the game

Joyce replaced Ohtani to start the sixth inning but only lasted five pitches before leaving with what the team initially called a right hand chafing.

Joyce said after the game that it was after a mid-five pitch that he felt tingling and numbness in his hand and forearm.

Manager Phil Nevin said it’s usually not a good thing when a pitcher gets pulled like Joyce did, but the team is waiting for him to be further evaluated to determine the extent of his injury.

Joyce said the last time he had some sort of tingling sensation in his hand he had to have Tommy John surgery. He said he couldn’t say exactly if this feeling was like the previous one.

“I’ll just wait and see how it goes,” Joyce said. “I’m not going to jump to conclusions or anything. Just see how the tests go and learn more from there.

During the game, Wise ran to the mound after Joyce walked Teoscar Hernández, the only hitter he faced. Then the infielders, Nevin and an athletic trainer also gathered around Joyce.

Wise returned to the dugout and soon after Joyce left with the coach with his head down. Jacob Webb came into relief.

Injury Update

Veteran reliever Matt Moore (Grade 2 right oblique strain) could start throwing this weekend, Nevin said before the game. He will be evaluated again before that happens and the Angels will then create a throwing schedule.

Moore, a southpaw, was placed on the disabled list on May 28, retroactive to May 25, with his oblique injury occurring while playing catch before a game against the Miami Marlins. It was forbidden to launch after that.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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