O's game blog: O's face Shohei Ohtani in series opener with LAA

The Orioles, who are 10-3 in series this year, open a new one tonight at home versus the Los Angeles Angels. It is a four-game series that will wrap up a 10-game homestand.

The Orioles lost Sunday to Pittsburgh, but took two of three over the weekend and are 9-1 in their last 10 series since April 10, losing a set only to Atlanta.

The Orioles have reached the 40-game mark at 26-14 (.650) and begin play today four games behind Tampa Bay for the best record in the majors. They have the second-best record in the bigs and are playing at a 105-win pace.

Orioles pitching has allowed just 16 runs in the last seven games and 25 in the last nine, pitching to a 2.40 ERA in that span. O’s starting pitchers have a 2.26 ERA the past nine games, allowing two earned runs or fewer seven times, with five quality starts in that span.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (2-0, 5.08 ERA) has yet to throw six innings in the majors but came darn close Tuesday against Tampa Bay. He went 5 2/3, allowing seven hits and two runs in one of his best starts this season. He used his fastball just 31 percent of the time in that start, but it had some nice life, averaging 97.4 mph. He threw his changeup 26 percent and cutter 20 percent.

Rodriguez gets better as the games go on this year, per the stat sheet. He allows a .987 OPS when facing the lineup for the first time, but that goes down to .792 the second time and to .529 the third time through.

Tonight his mound opponent and a hitter he will face in the lineup is right-hander Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 2.74 ERA) who will be making his ninth start on the mound this year. In 46 innings he has allowed just 22 hits, with 20 walks to 66 strikeouts. He has given up 0.913 WHIP and recorded a 3.9 walk rate and 12.9 strikeout rate.

He has been more hittable lately. In his first five starts of the year his ERA was 0.64. But over his past three games, he is 1-1 with an ERA of 6.00, allowing 12 runs in 18 innings.

The 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, Ohtani was also a unanimous winner of the 2021 AL MVP and last season finished second for the MVP Award and was fourth in the Cy Young vote. He is the first player to ever be selected to the All-Star game as both a pitcher and position player, doing that in 2021 and 2022.

Currently, he ranks 21st in the majors in ERA but is first in opponents’ batting average at .143. An Oriole is second in that stat, with Tyler Wells at .152. Ohtani ranks second to Spencer Strider of Atlanta in strikeouts per nine innings.

In his last start, against Houston, Ohtani allowed three runs over seven innings and fanned seven. That gave him 507 career strikeouts as a pitcher. And he equaled the legendary Babe Ruth (according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ruth had 501 career pitching strikeouts). Ruth and Ohtani are the only players all-time with 500 or more pitching strikeouts and 100 or more home runs as a batter in a career.

Two starts ago, Ohtani matched his single-game career high with 13 strikeouts in just five innings at Houston, allowing him to finish that night with 500 career strikeouts in the major leagues. He is the 10th Japanese-born pitcher with 500 strikeouts in the bigs. And Ohtani reached 500 strikeouts in 388 2/3 innings, which is second fastest as a starting pitcher all-time, behind Corbin Burnes (365 innings), per Elias.

Ohtani has three starts this season with 10 or more strikeouts. He recorded 10 or more strikeouts in 10 starts last season, which was the most such games in the American League. And he joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in franchise history with 10-plus strikeouts in at least six consecutive games.

The Baltimore bullpen owns a 3.05 ERA, second-best in the majors behind Seattle (2.81). Baltimore's 2.45 reliever ERA at home ranks as the second best in the AL and third best in the majors. O's relievers have 12 wins this season, tied with Arizona, Cincinnati, and Miami for the most in the majors. The Orioles are second with 179 strikeouts from the 'pen, and they have struck out 28.7 percent of batters faced, highest in the majors this year.

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