ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani was only facing his second batter, and Phil Nevin, on his third night as interim manager of the Los Angeles Angels, sensed something special was afoot. He turned to his pitching coach, Matt Wise, and shared his hunch.
“He has that look, doesn’t he?” said Nevin.
The Angels were struggling, floundering and Ohtani – the anchor of a team suffering from the loss of Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Taylor Ward – delivered for them. His seven one-run innings and well-timed home run propelled the Angels to a 5-2 win over a Boston Red Sox team on Thursday night and ended their franchise-record 14-game losing streak.
It was the type of performance the Angels desperately needed.
It was the type of performance that only Ohtani could deliver.
“Shohei was amazing,” Trout said. “Like always.”
The Angels’ losing streak was the longest on record for a team with a reigning MVP on its roster, passing 13th straight by Ryne Sandberg’s 1985 Chicago Cubs and 11th straight by the 1995 Houston Astros by Jeff Bagwell. But Ohtani, who unanimously won the American League Most Valuable Player award last season, made sure it didn’t carry over any further. He became the fifth player since 1900 and the first since 1969 to hit a home run and earn a win in the win that ended a losing streak of at least 10 games, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. .
“Obviously I absolutely wanted to win this one,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “Especially on the days I’m pitching – I just wanted to put the team in a position to have a chance to win, and I felt I was able to do that today.”
After allowing nine runs in nine innings in his two previous starts, Ohtani limited the Red Sox — who have won seven straight — to six baserunners and generated 18 swings and misses, 15 more than he did. accumulated seven days. earlier against the New York Yankees. He set a new season record in shots (100) and fastball speed (101 mph), and he also seemed to come alive offensively.
Ohtani cut just .192 / .333 / .383 in the Angels’ 14-game losing streak, but he gave them a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer in the backfield at fifth and added a single online in The Seventh. Andrew Velazquez, a hard-hitting infielder who was leading an 0-for-22 drop, opened the game with a three-run homer in the sixth, sending the Angels to their first win since May 24, when the team was 10 games down. above .500.
The Angels’ home postgame celebrations have been particularly boisterous this season, with strobe lights, fire pits and giveaways. The prolonged absence of a Thursday elevated to another level.
“It felt like we won a playoff game today,” Velazquez said. “Just a big relief.”
The Angels’ losing streak was the longest for a team that had at least 10 games above .500 when that streak began, according to Elias. Only three teams reached the playoffs despite a double-digit losing streak – the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, the Atlanta Braves in 1982 and the New York Giants in 1951, none of which lost more than 11 straight matches.
The Angels, who abruptly fired Joe Maddon as manager on Tuesday, are currently three games below the .500 mark and 2½ games from sixth and last place in the American League playoffs, but they believe they can return to look like the team that dominated the first six weeks.
“We know what we are capable of,” Velazquez said. “We have the same guys here.”
The Angels outscored opponents by 53 points in their first 44 games, but were outscored by a combined 45 points in their next 14.
Trout went through a career-worst 26-hit no-hitter streak, then polished his groin on Tuesday night. Rendon (wrist) and Ward (hamstring) landed on the injured list, robbing the Angels of the menacing top roster that made them such a force through most of April and half of May. Ohtani struggled, the bullpen imploded, starters couldn’t dive deep in games, and a shorthanded offense still failed to score runs.
The Angels lost three straight one-point games to the Toronto Blue Jays, then were outscored 17-3 by the Yankees. The Philadelphia Phillies swept them in a three-game series, capturing the Finals thanks to Bryce Harper’s Grand Slam in the eighth inning. Then the Red Sox won three straight one-point games, two of which saw the Angels shut out.
On Tuesday, Angels general manager Perry Minasian fired Maddon, a three-time manager of the year who previously helped make the Angels franchise a consistent winner. On Wednesday, one of Maddon’s closest friends, assistant coach Tim Buss, had every Angels batter walk over to the batter’s box to listen to a Nickelback song in a bid to lighten the load. vibe. But Ohtani’s dominance proved to be the only effective antidote.
It gave Nevin his first win as a major league manager – and it ultimately won him the ball.
“Shohei gave it to me,” Nevin said. “It was great.”