I try to watch as many games that Shohei Ohtani plays as possible, not just because it’s fun to watch a guy hit ridiculous dingers and throw mind-breaking splitters, oftentimes in the same game, but also because his singular status as an elite two-way player always brings with it the possibility for a truly novel sports-watching experience. Ohtani’s work during last night’s game against the Oakland A’s provided one of these experiences.
Ohtani started the game on the mound and occupied the second spot in batting order. The game unfolded as most Angels games tend to, with Ohtani performing brilliantly and the rest of his teammates not doing very much to help him. The big fella pitched six shutout innings, surrendering just three hits while striking out eight. He also hit a two-out double in the top of the third, but the inning ended on the same play when David Fletcher tried to score from first and got himself thrown out at the plate.
So anyway, Ohtani left the mound with the game scoreless, and Joe Maddon moved him out of the DH spot and into right field so as to not lose one of the few functional bats in his lineup. That meant that Ohtani, in the bottom of the seventh inning, had to stand out there in the field and watch Angels reliever Steve Cishek walk the first two batters he faced and then give up a three-run homer. Suddenly the Angels were down 3-0, and Ohtani was still in the game to witness the undoing of his impeccable start.
This was very funny, to me. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of starting pitchers bury their faces in their hands while sitting in the dugout after some doofus reliever blows the game, but it’s an entirely new thing to be able to watch a pitcher receive that gut-punch while still playing the field. Poor Steve Cishek must have been finding every excuse not to glance towards right field after that ball sailed over the fence.
I would like more of this. I want Max Scherzer standing at shortstop, glaring at Wander Suero after the latter blows a 4-1 lead. I want Walker Buehler sent to left field after pitching eight shutout innings, where he will be forced to make a futile leap at the wall as a walk-off homer sails over his head. This is how we fix baseball, once and for all.