Angels’ Shohei Ohtani returns to mound to face Mariners

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani will be on the mound against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., one week removed from being lifted from a game because of a blister on his finger.

Ohtani gave up one run and struck out seven through five innings against the Houston Astros last Saturday. When he threw a couple warm-up pitches before the start of the sixth, however, the blister on his right index finger bothered him enough to convince Angels interim manager Phil Nevin to take him out.

“He manages his body as well as anybody,” Nevin said. “It was about getting him out of there before it opens to not jeopardize his next start.”

That “next start” is Saturday against the Mariners.

With 188 strikeouts as a pitcher, Ohtani (12-8, 2.55 ERA) needs 12 more to become the first player in major league history with at least 200 strikeouts and 30 homers at the plate.

After going 1-for-4 with a double in Friday’s 8-7 win over the Mariners, Ohtani is hitting .265 with 34 homers, 88 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and an OPS of .888 — enough to convince those close to him that Ohtani should win the MVP for the second year in a row.

“I’ve been on record that (Ohtani) is the best player and the most valuable player in our game right now,” Nevin said. “I’m going to stay with that. I love (New York Yankees star Aaron Judge) like a son, but until someone else does something like Shohei, I just don’t see it.

“I think the trophy is his, as long as he continues to do what he is doing on both sides of the ball. No one else can do what he is doing. When you talk about the best player, which I believe that’s what the trophy is about — the best player and most valuable player to our game — it’s our guy Shohei.”

Ohtani is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners.

Rookie right-hander George Kirby (7-3, 2.98) will make his 22nd start of the season for Seattle.

Kirby improved to 5-0 in his last seven starts last Saturday. He gave up one unearned run and three hits in six innings against the Atlanta Braves, striking out six and walking none in a 3-1 win.

If it wasn’t for his teammate Julio Rodriguez, Kirby might get some consideration for the Rookie of the Year Award. And he stepped up in his last start under the spotlight of a pennant race against a playoff team in the Braves.

While Ohtani recently incorporated a two-seam fastball into his repertoire, Kirby relies heavily on his own two-seamer.

“It’s like his little toy in his pocket,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You know what I mean? Or a secret weapon, whatever you want to call it. His ability to (say), ‘If I execute here, I know if I throw this pitch, I got him.’ That’s a nice feeling to have.”

Said Kirby: “I’m just getting more confident with it,” Kirby said. “I’m able to move it on both sides now. It’s just been a really good weapon.”

Kirby has made three starts against the Angels this season, going 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

–Field Level Media

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