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Where EAST meets the Northwest

TWO-WAY TRIUMPH. Pitcher Shohei Ohtani (top photo) of the Los Angeles Angels throws against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit during the first baseball game of a doubleheader on July 27, 2023. In the bottom photo, Ohtani is seen hitting a two-run home run against the Tigers during the second game of the July 27 doubleheader. The two-way Ohtani became the first player to throw a shutout in one game of a doubleheader and hit one homer — much less two — in the other. (AP Photos/Paul Sancya)

From The Asian Reporter, V33, #8 (August 7, 2023), pages 11 & 15.

Angels say they won’t trade Shohei Ohtani. He celebrates with a 1-hitter, 2 homers.

By Larry Lage

The Associated Press

DETROIT — Shohei Ohtani looked his manager in the eye and in just a few words, left no doubt of his intentions.

"I’ll finish it," Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin recalled Ohtani telling him after the eighth inning of what became his first complete game last month in Major League Baseball (MLB). "He wanted it. I could see it, too."

Ohtani polished off his one-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers, then continued his extraordinary day in the second game of the doubleheader, hitting two homers to increase his major league-leading total to 38 before leaving the game with cramps.

The two-way superstar became the first player to throw a shutout in one game of a doubleheader and hit one homer — much less two — in the other.

"It’s certainly something I’ve never seen — I’m not sure at any level," Nevin said.

Hours before Ohtani delivered the message to his manager, the Angels delivered one of their own.

The franchise, desperate to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014, made a win-now trade to bolster its pitching staff and confirmed that Ohtani will stay for the rest of the season before he becomes a free agent.

"We’re going to roll the dice and see what happens," general manager Perry Minasian said before Ohtani led Los Angeles to a 6-0 win over the Tigers in Game 1 of the doubleheader, just days before MLB’s trade deadline.

Ohtani’s start was his best in the majors. He gave up one hit, walked three, and struck out eight on 111 pitches, including fastballs nearing 100 mph and sliders and splitters that left the Tigers flailing. Ohtani improved to 9-5 with a 3.43 Earned Run Average (ERA) on the mound.

In Game 2, Ohtani returned to the designated hitter role. The left-handed hitter hit a two-run homer to left in the second inning and a line drive to right-center in the fourth before Nevin pulled him out of the game after he was grimacing in pain.

"He’ll get some fluids in him and he’ll be fine," Nevin said after the Angels’ 11-4 victory, which gave them a three-game sweep at Detroit and nine wins in 11 games overall.

Ohtani became the second player since at least 1900 to throw a one-hit shutout or better and hit a home run on the same day, joining Philadelphia’s Rick Wise, who hit a two-run homer during his no-hitter against Cincinnati on June 23, 1971.

"We try not to take for granted what we have in him," Nevin said. "Hate to say that you expect greatness every day, but it’s what we get. It’s awesome to watch. Him performing at this level, when there is so much focus on one person, only the mentally strong are able to do that and that’s what impresses me most about him."

It was just the latest display of why Ohtani could have landed a huge prospect haul in a trade, and why he’s expected to cash in on perhaps the world’s most lucrative contract in any sport this offseason.

Some speculate the 29-year-old might make $500-$600 million on the open market, but the recent developments don’t seem to affect his thinking.

"From the beginning, my plan was to finish strong this season with the Angels," Ohtani said through a translator after his gem on the mound. "I don’t think things are really going to change mentally.

"But all the people talking about the trades, that’s going to be all gone. So I feel like I’m just focused on taking this team to the playoffs."

The Angels are, too.

They’re motivated to get rid of their reputation for wasting the talents of MVPs Mike Trout and Ohtani. The Arte Moreno-owned ballclub has the majors’ longest streaks of consecutive losing seasons (seven) and consecutive non-playoff seasons (eight, tied with Detroit).

Los Angeles plans to hold onto Ohtani for as long as it can.

"I never went up to Shohei and said, ‘Hey, we’re not trading you,’" Minasian said. "Think I made it pretty clear the last time we talked, I think, that he wasn’t going anywhere."

The 2021 AL MVP leads the majors in homers and OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) at the plate and is among the leaders in opponent batting average and strikeouts on the mound.

"He’s doing the impossible," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. "We’re playing against a generational talent."

When Chad Wallach tracked down a pop-up in foul territory for the final out of the fifth, Ohtani went out of his way to pick up the catcher’s mask and hand it to him.

"It’s all about attention to detail with him," Nevin said. "He really does do it all."

Aiming to bolster their chances of challenging for the AL West title or earning a wild card if they fall short in the division, the Angels acquired right-handers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López from the Chicago White Sox.

"I think this is the first time in my six years that we’re buyers," Ohtani said.

The Angels also made another decision, designating 2021 All-Star slugger Jared Walsh for assignment. Walsh hit .119 with one homer and five RBIs in 28 games this season, coming off an injury-stunted 2022. He’s been struggling with headaches and insomnia this year.

"Gone through some hard times, and he’s trying to find it back," Nevin said. "I know he’ll keep working. I hope he remains with us because I know when he gets on top of his game, we’re a better team with him."

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