ANAHEIM, Calif. – Shohei Ohtani struck out the side on 12 pitches in the first inning Friday night, throwing sweepers that broke horizontally like Frisbees and punctuating them with a 98.7-mph fastball. Angels manager Phil Nevin said he had never seen an inning more dominant during his nearly three decades in the big leagues.
Ohtani remained far too much for the Kansas City Royals to handle in his latest outstanding start.
Ohtani struck out a season-high 11 and allowed two hits over seven innings, and fill-in catcher Chad Wallach hit a two-run homer in Los Angeles' 2-0 victory.
Ohtani (3-0) returned to the mound just four days after a lengthy rain delay limited him to two innings in Boston, and the two-way superstar didn't miss a beat in his spectacular season on the mound. After fanning the side in that incredible first, Ohtani also struck out his final six batters — and in between, Kansas City managed two singles and two walks while getting just one runner to second base.
“From a hitter's standpoint, I would have no idea what to prepare for,” Nevin said. “Because he's got 98 in there, but he doesn't usually throw the fastball a lot. The sweeper is kind of unhittable when he's throwing it for strikes. I'm glad I don't have to face him. I'm glad he's on my side.”
Ohtani has given up two runs and eight hits over 28 innings with 38 strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 0.64 — the lowest in franchise history through a pitcher's first five starts. Ohtani also extended his franchise record with his 12th consecutive start allowing two runs or fewer.
Wallach stepped up impressively in the absence of injured rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe, helping Ohtani behind the plate and also delivering the decisive homer in his first major league at-bat of the season.
“I love catching him,” Wallach said. “Probably the best stuff I've ever seen, so it's fun for me to be back there and just catch pitches. ... (The first inning) was the best I've ever seen. He was throwing it exactly where he wanted to, and just all the pitches were nasty.”
After issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth, Ohtani fanned six in a row to secure his major league-best 12th double-digit strikeout game since the start of 2022.
Carlos Estévez and Jose Quijada completed a three-hit shutout, with Quijada giving up a one-out single to Bobby Witt Jr. before finishing his fourth save in front of Angel Stadium's third sellout crowd of the year.
Kansas City opened a 10-game trip with its seventh consecutive loss and its 10th in 11 games.
“He’s special pretty much any night he takes the field,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said of Ohtani. “He came out, struck out the side in the first, and then I think our at-bats got better over the next four innings or so, and then he introduced that curveball late. We hadn’t seen that, and it kept us off balance. He’s got a huge arsenal. Overall, the at-bats were pretty good, considering we were facing him. But it wasn’t good enough. … (Ohtani) seems like somebody who can do whatever he sets out to do.”
Wallach, who joined the Angels earlier Friday from Triple-A Salt Lake, drove a changeup from Ryan Yarbrough (0-2) 424 feet in the third inning for just his second big league homer since 2020.
Kansas City pitched a bullpen game in the rotation slot of injured left-hander Kris Bubic, with opener Taylor Clarke throwing two scoreless innings.
Mike Trout got the night off for the Angels in their return from a disappointing seven-game East Coast trip.
Angels rookie shortstop Zach Neto was hit by a pitch in each of his first two at-bats. He already has been hit by five pitches in his first seven games in the majors.
Royals: Bubic will have Tommy John surgery next week. He made three starts this season and showed improved form before his elbow ligament woes were diagnosed.
Angels: O'Hoppe went on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder problem. The promising rookie hurt himself on swings Monday and again Thursday, but the team hasn't revealed much about the nature of his injury. Wallach and Matt Thaiss are the Angels' two remaining catchers, with Max Stassi yet to make his season debut.
Tyler Anderson (1-0, 6.75 ERA) makes the fourth start of his Angels career in search of his first victory over the Royals, who counter with former Angels right-hander Zack Greinke (0-3. 4.03).