Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes case to start in All-Star Game

There is less than a week until the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. On Wednesday at Angel Stadium, Dusty Baker, who will manage the American League team, got a chance to see one of his potential starting pitchers in person.

Shohei Ohtani delivered another stellar performance, on the mound and at the plate, as the Angels played Baker’s Houston Astros.

Ohtani had 12 strikeouts, walking two batters and giving up four hits and one earned run over six innings and 105 pitches. He became just the second pitcher in Angels history to record 10 or more strikeouts in four-consecutive starts. The other pitcher to do so was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Ohtani is 6-0 in his last six starts, with a 0.45 ERA in that span. The offense has produced in each of those last starts, including Wednesday.

“I’m in the lineup the other games we’re losing, so in that sense I do take [the losses] personally and try to win the games that I pitch,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara after the game.

Ohtani also contributed two RBI on a triple he hit off Astros starter Cristian Javier in the second inning and got a single off reliever Bryan Abreu in the sixth — he was driven home in the sixth during the team’s four-run rally. The Angels beat the Astros 7-1.

“He’s not just an All-Star, he’s a megastar,” Baker said of Ohtani before the game. “He’s one of the top offensive players and one of the top pitchers. And he’s smart — I can tell the way he plays the game that he’s not only talented, but he’s smart.”

Ohtani was named the AL starting designated hitter and added to the list of eligible starting pitchers for the All-Star Game for a second year in a row. He was the first player to be a starting pitcher and hit in the leadoff spot, which happened during the 2021 Midsummer Classic.

He is a fan favorite to make the start for the game, for a potential starting pitching matchup with the DodgersClayton Kershaw.

Baker said on Tuesday that Astros ace Justin Verlander would not pitch in the All-Star Game, so that rules him out.

Another more statistically deserving starter, however, would be Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan.

McClanahan had the best ERA in baseball (1.71) among starting pitchers this season as of Wednesday. He also logged 147 strikeouts with just 19 walks over 18 starts (10-3). For reference, Ohtani had a 2.44 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 20 walks over 14 starts (8-4) before Wednesday.

But that’s all for Baker to decide by Monday, the day before the All-Star Game.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani slides safely into third base on a second-inning triple.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani slides safely into third base on a second-inning triple as Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman waits for the ball at Angel Stadium on Wednesday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Baker said on Wednesday he just started his process of figuring out how to manage his All-Star roster, which begins with getting in touch with those players’ managers to find out how they’re feeling, whether they’ll be available to play in the game and their overall comfort level of when to play in the game.

“I gotta take care of their players as well as mine,” Baker said, explaining that he knows not every player available will be feeling 100% healthy. “I know the game doesn’t count… You might play to win, but you don’t win at all costs in this situation,” Baker added.

Among the players Baker said he inquired about was Mike Trout, who was out of the Angels starting lineup on Wednesday. Trout was pulled from the middle of the game on Tuesday with upper-back spasms.

Trout, before Wednesday’s game, said he felt a lot better than the night before and that he had started feeling soreness in his back and has been playing through it. Tuesday night, his upper back felt more uncomfortable.

The Angels are confident that Trout will not go on the injured list and he is optimistic he will be able to play in the All-Star Game.

Home run derby

Ohtani said he had not made a decision over whether he will participate in Monday’s home run derby. He said he still had not heard how much he will be used during the All-Star Game and that’s affecting his decision on the derby.

The derby bracket is revealed Thursday at 4 p.m. PDT.

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