After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled to left field in the Toronto slugger’s first career plate appearance against the Angels’ two-way superstar, Shohei Ohtani grinned and laughed.
Ohtani smiled and chuckled again two innings later when he struck out Guerrero with a wicked slider.
Ohtani had a lot of fun in his first mound meeting with the AL MVP’s most likely strongest competitor. He also did a lot against the rest of the Blue Jays to help the Angels win another game.
Ohtani won his third straight start with six innings of three-hit ball, and he also doubled and scored an early run in the Angels’ 6-3 victory on Thursday night.
Despite walking three batters for the first time since June and throwing two wild pitches in his 17th start of the season, Ohtani (7-1) only allowed two runs and struck out six batters to keep his ERA at 2.93.
“I haven’t been feeling really that great, but when I don’t have my best stuff, I’ve been finding ways to get outs and getting through innings,” Ohtani said through a translator. “Physically I feel really good, but I just feel I’m getting better each outing, and I feel like I really haven’t hit my potential yet.”
For the first time in their careers, Guerrero faced Ohtani’s pitching, and the majors’ No. 2 home run hitter went 1 for 2 with a bouncing single, a walk, and a strikeout against the majors’ home run leader.
“I had a lot of fun facing him, but not just him,” Ohtani said. “Their whole lineup is really good. They’ve got top-notch hitters, so I had a lot of fun facing all those guys.”
Charlie Montoyo, the manager of the Toronto Raptors, was also keeping a close eye on the match.
“It honestly was just OK,” Montoyo said. “Vladdy right now is struggling a little bit, so he’s not the Vladdy who’s locked in. It’s fun to watch. It’s two guys fighting for the MVP, so it was good to watch.”
Guerrero and Ohtani lead the American League in a variety of offensive statistical categories. Guerrero has a higher OPS (1.123 vs. 1.017) and more RBIs (88 vs. 84), while Ohtani has more home runs (38 vs. 35) and a higher slugging percentage (.655 to .617).
However, Ohtani’s game has never been matched in modern baseball, and Angels manager Joe Maddon believes it’s “overtly obvious” that Ohtani is the AL MVP.
“There’s no argument against it,” Maddon added. “Vladdy is having a great year, and I really like the kid a lot, but what our guy is doing has never been done before and is unprecedented. That’s where it ends for me, and I’m sure other people feel the same way.”
Ohtani hit a 386-foot double off the wall in the first inning to give him a major league-leading 68th extra-base hit as Los Angeles’ leadoff hitter. During the Angels’ four-run second, he also walked and scored, as they split four games with Toronto at the Big A.
To support Ohtani, who hasn’t lost in ten starts since May, Jared Walsh and Kurt Suzuki each drove in two runs.
José Berros (8-6) pitched into the fifth inning for the Blue Jays, allowing six runs on eight hits in his shortest start since mid-April with Minnesota. Only the fourth time in 16 games has Toronto lost.