ANAHEIM, CALIF. – A player can learn only so much from scouting reports. The Twins saw Sunday in their 2-1 loss to the Angels that Shohei Ohtani — the pitcher — is the real deal.
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier led off the game by pulling a 95-mile-per-hour fastball from Ohtani past third baseman Zack Cozart for a single.
When Dozier batted again in the third inning, Ohtani struck him out on three pitches using only breaking balls and offspeed pitches.
Ohtani unleashed a 98-mph fastball in striking out Bobby Wilson in the third inning. Wilson was geared up for the heater when he hit two innings later, but when the Twins catcher missed badly on a slider, Ohtani stuck with the pitch and watched Wilson drop to a knee while striking out again.
Then there was the encounter with Eddie Rosario in the sixth. Ohtani dropped a 1-0 curveball clocked at 76 mph over for a strike. The next pitch was 99 mph, and Rosario barely fouled it off. The next pitch was a nasty splitter Rosario swung at and missed for Ohtani’s 11th and final strikeout of the game.
“When you have a guy who has strikeout stuff, he can make mistakes,” Dozier said. “You still have to make adjustments, but when you do make those mistakes, they don’t get hit as often because of the stuff that he has. I was very impressed with him, first time facing him.”
Ohtani can exploit overaggressive hitters. Wait for a fastball, he will drop in a curve or a splitter. If he finds a weakness, he will exploit it.
In 6⅓ innings, he gave up one run on three hits and two walks with those 11 strikeouts.
“Seemed to me he got the majority of his outs on non-fastballs,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I think it’s in the back of everybody’s mind that he throws as hard as he does.”
Romero keeps it close
Fernando Romero wasn’t as sharp as Ohtani, but the Twins rookie righthander began Sunday’s game with four shutout innings before giving up his first major league run when Martin Maldonado scored on a fielder’s choice in the fifth as Justin Upton beat out a potential double-play grounder.
The Twins were pleased that was the only run the Angels scored off the 23-year-old. In three starts, his ERA sits at 0.54.
“He pitches amped up,” Molitor said. “We had to try to make sure he stays in control. Got a little frustrated at times with the command and the pitches and how they were climbing. But he did a good job. He minimized and kept it to one run.”
Romero gave up four hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts. He still needs to economize his pitches better so he can pitch deeper into games. He threw 92 pitches to record 15 outs, pitching with runners on in each of his final four innings following an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 first.
“I still felt good,” Romero said. “Like I still wanted the ball.”
LoMo creeps closer
Logan Morrison was 2-for-2 with a walk, all against Ohtani, and he was the only Twins starter who didn’t strike out.
“I was just battling,” the first baseman said. “I found a couple holes. I didn’t hit anything especially hard. Just trying to battle and get on base.”
Morrison reached in the second when he beat out an infield hit up the middle, as the Angels infield was playing him deep and to pull. He added a single in the fifth when his hard-hit grounder to right sneaked through the shift.
In the seventh, Morrison fouled off three 1-2 pitches and drew a walk with one out. That led to the end of Ohtani’s day, as well as the Twins’ only run.
The hits lifted Morrison’s batting average to a season-high .190. He was 0-for-11 and 1-for-23 to start 2018 and has been fighting to get above .200 ever since.
The Twins outscored opponents 51-32 during their 7-3 road trip. They outhit opponents 82-67 over the 10 games and batted .342 with runners in scoring position.