ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Shohei Ohtani steps on the hill in any stadium, the expectations are high.
“Anytime he’s on the field, there’s a chance of something special happening. I mean, that’s just how good of a player he is,” said today’s starting catcher, Chad Wallach.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, the two-way superstar made his 10th start of the season against the Minnesota Twins, and in true Ohtani-fashion, his performance did not disappoint as he struck out nine batters and gave up only one run, two hits and three walks through six innings.
Ohtani’s performance on the mound, supported by the bullpen — who only gave up one additional run — and a late jump from the offense, earned the Halos a 4-2 victory against the No. 1 team in the AL Central.
“He’s sharp always. I think he understands how the game is being dictated and makes his pitches when he needs to, as he always does. He has five wins, and he’s kept us in every game,” said manager Phil Nevin after the game.
Earlier this month on May 9 in his start against the Houston Astros, the 28-year-old officially passed Babe Ruth in total career strikeouts. Ruth and Ohtani are the only two players to record 500+ strikeouts and 100+ home runs in their career.
Following Ohtani’s strong start, Jared Walsh had his first hit since returning from the injured list on Saturday. His single in the third inning moved Hunter Renfroe to third, and Gio Urshela brought him home with a sacrifice fly that left the score tied, 1-1. Mickey Moniak drove in two runs in the seventh with a double, and Matt Thaiss – who stepped in for Wallach – solidified their lead in the eighth with an RBI double to score Urshela.
Carlos Estévez wrapped up the victory with a career-high 12th save of the season.
It’s worth noting that the Angels bullpen saw its fair share of changes coming into the team’s final game of the series against the Twins. Aaron Loup, who was on the IL with a right hamstring strain, was reinstated. Right-handed relievers Jacob Webb and Reyes Moronta joined today’s lineup as Jimmy Herget, Zack Weiss and Andrew Wantz were optioned to Triple-A.
“We needed some fresh arms. We had a lot of uses these last couple of days, and it was an area we know we need to get better at,” said Nevin.
Entering his sixth major league season, Moronta, 30, has moved around quite a bit in his career, moving from the San Francisco Giants to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers before signing a minor league contract with the Angels on May 11.
In Salt Lake, he recorded four scoreless innings and nine strikeouts across three outings. He has a career 3.02 ERA across his time with the Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Nevin worked with Moronta when he was a coach with the Giants, and said before Sunday’s game that the righty is a hard worker who’s always ready to take the mound and he’s not afraid to step into any situation.
Moronta got the call that he would be joining the team yesterday, and although he wasn’t expecting it, he said he’s excited to be with the club and looking forward to hopefully putting down roots with the team by throwing strikes, keeping up healthy communication and being a good teammate.
“First of all, thank God I’m here. The process was tough, but in my mind, everywhere I go, I needed to pitch, and that was my process — to pitch and to pitch well,” said Moronta. “I feel fortunate. I’m healthy, and I feel great.”
Moronta made his Angels debut in the seventh inning on Sunday, coming in to pitch relief for Ohtani. However, his first outing didn’t last long as he gave up two hits and a walk. He was able to retire two batters, but loaded the bases before Chris Devenski was brought in to get the final out. Devenski was the winning pitcher of today’s game after he escaped a bases-loaded jam.
Sunday also marked a homecoming for Jacob Webb, who had 16 friends and family members watching from the Big A stands. Originally from Riverside, California, Webb said he “definitely grew up an Angels fan,” and is excited to be back in his hometown with his support system cheering him on.
Webb was first signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2014, and he played 78 MLB games with the Braves across three seasons from 2019-21.
The Angels signed him to a minor league deal in November of last year. Since joining the Salt Lake City Bees, Webb has pitched in 16 games, including one start, and he went 1-for-3 with one save. Through 17.1 innings pitched, he struck out 21 batters and gave up 20 hits and 14 runs, earning a 6.75 ERA in the minors.
Webb said he got the call that he would be traveling to Anaheim at about 12:30 a.m. early Sunday. After a quick round of packing and a few hours of sleep, the 29-year-old reliever caught an early flight and was in the clubhouse by Sunday morning.
“This is definitely a cool experience here. This is my hometown, so I’m going to have a lot of family out and be able to enjoy that,” said Webb before the game.
Nevin said after today’s game that Jaime Barría will get the start tomorrow against the Boston Red Sox, and Chase Silseth will transition back into the bullpen to be used as a high-leverage reliever.