The only other time right-hander Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels has pitched against the Orioles was on Aug. 25, 2021, also at Camden Yards. He would not get a decision but he would allow four runs on five hits, including three homers, over five innings in a game the Orioles won 10-6.
The Orioles were on their way to 110 losses and that night ended a 19-game losing streak. Yep, times have changed around here.
But Cedric Mullins was the leadoff hitter in that game as he will be tonight. In 2021, he hit Ohtani’s first pitch of the game for a home run and went 2-for-3. Anthony Santander went 2-for-2 with a homer and DJ Stewart also homered on the first pitch that night.
“On our side, it was being aggressive,” Mullins remembered of the earlier game against Ohtani. “Being aggressive on the first pitch. Put a great swing on it and sent one out, got the guys on the board early. After that it’s about staying in your zone. He’s a great pitcher and it is one of those days where you are in for a battle and will try to come out on top.”
So yeah, Mullins said the Orioles, who this year are doing a good job working counts and taking pitches with solid plate discipline, may choose to be more aggressive against Ohtani, who is 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 12.9 strikeout rate. His .143 opponent average against ranks first in the major leagues. He is fifth in strikeouts and WHIP.
“He’s got good secondary stuff,” added Mullins. “If you are able to get a pitch early that you can handle, why not take a swing at it? Got him first pitch last time. But we don’t see him often, so we are working off a small sample size. So being aggressive against that type of pitcher is beneficial in the long run.”
But Ohtani is also smart enough that he will, no doubt, watch on video and/or recall that Mullins took him deep on the first pitch.
“I expect him to make adjustments based on last time he saw us. We have to come back with our plan and see how we fare in the end,” Mullins said, adding that Ohtani is great for baseball.
“Yeah, 100 percent. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent that you rarely see, even at a younger age. You rarely see a guy perform the way he can on both sides of the ball. Impressive to see, and for him to do it at this level is amazing.”
Austin Hays has never batted against Ohtani, but will tonight, hitting sixth and playing in left field.
Earlier today Hays marveled at an opponent who has won Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards already while finishing fourth last season for the American League Cy Young Award.
Ohtani and Babe Ruth are the only players ever with 500 strikeouts as pitchers and 100 homers as hitters.
“Very remarkable,” said Hays. “It’s great for the game of baseball. He is an international superstar and is exactly what the game of baseball needs. You just marvel at what he is able to do.
“He likes to attack the zone, so be ready to hit from the first pitch of the at-bat. He has swing-and-miss strikeout stuff, so the first available pitch that he puts in the middle part of the zone, you have to take advantage of that. You can’t foul off good pitches to hit. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, so if he does, you to have to capitalize on it.”
As a batter, Ohtani is hitting .288/.364/.521/.884 with eight doubles, eight homers and 26 RBIs. Hays knows he will be a real challenge for O’s hitters and a handful for their pitching staff as well.
“He controls the zone so well, so he makes you come into the zone to beat him (when hitting)," Hays said. "The upper-plane swing that he has, being able to get under the ball, you hope to live on the edges and stay out of the middle part of the plate. Make him hit the ball on the ground, because he is so good at elevating the ball and has a ton of power.”
O's skipper Brandon Hyde talked about the pitching matchup with Grayson Rodriguez (2-0, 5.08 ERA) facing Ohtani.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for Grayson," Hyde said. "But in only this case, this is a pitcher going against another pitcher, because this guy is hitting also. One of the best players on the planet. I think it is always special facing a guy with this much ability and this much talent."