DENVER (AP) — Shohei Ohtani shined as he turned the All-Star Game into his Sho-case.
Featuring a 100 mph fastball, the first two-way All-Star pitched a perfect first inning for the American League on Tuesday night. He went 0 for 2 with a pair of groundouts at the plate, denied a hit by a nice defensive play leading off the game.
“More people are watching baseball,” he said through a translator. “It makes me happy and it’s good for the sport.”
It seemed as if the entire focus was on the Los Angeles Angels sensation as the All-Star Game returned from a one-year absence caused by a pandemic. He is the major league home run leader and one of the American League’s better pitchers.
He was both the starting pitcher for the AL and its designated hitter at Coors Field. He was replaced by Lance Lynn on the mound in the second inning but under a tweak of the rules made just for him was allowed to remain as DH. He left for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning.
Players in both dugouts were hanging on the rails to watch him.
“This has been the best experience, most memorable,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve never played in the playoffs or World Series, so once I do that, that’s probably going to surpass it. But this has been the most memorable.”
Ohtani took part in the Monday night Home Run Derby won for the Mets’ Pete Alonso. Ohtani hit 28 dingers, the longest 513 feet, and was eliminated by Fernando Tatis Jr. in the second overtime of the first round.
Following a full day, Ohtani slept until 10:30 a.m.
“It was a lot more tiring compared to the regular season, but if everyone had fun I’m good with it,” he said.
Washington’s Max Scherzer, just the sixth pitcher to start four All-Star Games, began Ohtani with a 95.5 mph fastball to begin the evening. The left-handed batter grounded his second offering toward the right side of second base, where Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier ranged to make a backhand pickup and threw to first to retire the speedy Ohtani.
A 27-year-old right-hander, Ohtani retired Tatis, Max Muncy and Rockies fan favorite Nolan Arenado in order in the bottom half, throwing 10 of 14 pitches for strikes.
Throwing at up to 100.2 mph, Ohtani used seven fastballs, four sliders, two splitters and one cutter. His velocity was above the 95.5 mph regular-season average for his fastball.
“It was by design,” he said. “I was going only one inning, so I didn’t have to think about going further into the game, so let it rip.”
Tatis, wearing spikes with pink trim and matching undershirt sleeves, flied to left on a cutter off the end of his bat leading off the bottom half. Muncy grounded to second and Arenado, traded from Colorado to St. Louis last winter, grounded to shortstop.
Ohtani is the first player to regularly pitch and play a position since Babe Ruth made 19 starts for the Boston Red Sox in 1918 and 15 in 1919. Ruth hit 11 homers in 1918 and 29 the following year, and from 1920 on made just four starts for the rest of his big league career, which ended in 1935.
Ohtani is batting .279 with 33 homers and 70 RBIs in his fourth major league season. He is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts, striking out 87 and walking 35 in 67 innings.
“It was definitely more fun than nervous,” Ohtani said. “I definitely want to be back at the All-Star Game.”
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