Shohei Ohtani makes another start as Angels’ skid reaches 6 runs

ESPN News ServicesJuly 15, 2023, 02:25 AM ET3 minutes of reading

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani left the mound Friday night for the third time with a sore finger.

With his Los Angeles Angels in a freefall and his future uncertain before the trade deadline, the two-way superstar is battling far more difficult challenges than blisters and cracked fingernails preventing him from landing at his unique peak.

Ohtani allowed four earned runs in five hits just before Mauricio Dubon’s tiebreaking two-run single in the Houston Astros’ 7-5 win over the Angels.

Ohtani (7-5) was pulled after Corey Jules walked to open the sixth, consulting with the Angels’ coaching staff before exiting with those persistent issues with his pitching arm. Ohtani’s final start before the All-Star break ended with a blistered fingertip, and he also dealt with a cracked nail last month.

“For the most part, things didn’t go the way I wanted them to,” Ohtani said through his translator. “It was like that when I was on the mound. … I don’t think about when my next outing is, I just come to the field, see where my finger is, and go. From there.”

Ohtani said it’s “hard to say” how significant the injury will be.

“I get frustrated at a certain point,” Ohtani said. “I feel like it’s not just me, it’s the whole team. I think it’s natural to get frustrated when we can’t win games.”

Ohtani, who allowed three walks and struck out seven, remained a hitter in the game and delivered two singles at the plate, but his Angels lost a season-high six straight and 10 of 11.

“I thought something didn’t feel right in the sixth,” Angels manager Bill Nevin said. “After he walked (Julks) I saw something wasn’t right, so I wanted to look at him, and he noted that the finger was a little sensitive. Didn’t open or break or anything like that, but then decided it was better to get him out.

After receiving excitement and global attention during the All-Star festivities in Seattle, Ohtani returned to work in Anaheim amid loud questions about his future in Orange County. The Halos’ pre-break skid has diminished their playoff chances and raised the possibility that they will consider trading Ohtani, who will be a free agent this winter.

“It just seemed like he wasn’t really himself tonight,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Ohtani. “I don’t know if that blister is still bothering him, but he wasn’t throwing some of the pitches he normally throws. Anytime you hit five runs on Ohtani, you did well. But he just wasn’t himself.”

After Ohtani left, reliever Jacob Webb allowed DuPont’s clutch single and Jose Abreu’s RBI single. The Astros’ bullpen then hung on for a win over the defending World Series champions at the All-Star break, with Ryan Pressley fanning Ohtani in the ninth for his 21st save.

Mickey Moniak had three hits and Taylor Ward homered for the Angels, who retired Luis Rengifo in the fifth shortly after the third baseman made an error and then didn’t hustle to prevent Kyle Tucker from scoring in the second. Rengifo is pulled over after a confusing conversation with Nevin.

“There are certain things I’m not going to put up with,” Nevin said. “I don’t think he gave it his best effort. He knows what we’re talking about.”

Rengifo admitted his mistake after the game — as did Mike Moustakas, whose late-inning ball handling was poor before DuPont’s tiebreaking victory.

JP France had nine hits and two runs in the fifth game for Houston. Phil Matton (2-2) walked with two out in the fifth.

The Astros loaded the bases on a hit batter and tied it in the fourth on two walks from Ohtani. Alex Bregman and Tucker led off the top of the fifth with doubles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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