OAKLAND (AP) — Back on the mound after nearly 23 months, Shohei Ohtani hardly felt comfortable. Rather rusty, in fact, the ball leaving his hand without the purpose and feel he is so accustomed to.
The way things started, Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon couldn’t see the day getting any better for his Japanese two-way star.
Ohtani didn’t record an out in his long-awaited return to the mound for the Angels, allowing the first six Oakland batters to reach base before his day was done in a 6-4 loss to the Athletics on Sunday.
He may be available as designated hitter in Monday’s series finale.
“I felt like I was ready,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “Looking back, I felt like I couldn’t throw with all my strength. There’s a lot of things I’ll look back on and work on on the pitching side, but we have another game tomorrow and I still have a chance to play so I’ve got to change my focus to tomorrow’s game.”
The right-hander gave up Marcus Semien’s leadoff single and three straight walks before a mound visit and Mark Canha’s two-run single. Robbie Grossman singled in another run, and Maddon replaced Ohtani (0-1) with Matt Andriese down 4-0.
“He just didn’t throw the ball very well,” Maddon said. “It just wasn’t his day. The fastball wasn’t coming out, there was no deception in his pitches. These are major league hitters. Walks were a big part of that.”
The Angels wasted a big day by Mike Trout, who hit a three-run homer in the third and a sacrifice fly in the fifth. David Fletcher wound up with four hits.
Yusmeiro Petit (1-0) worked out of a fifth-inning jam in relief of Mike Fiers for the win, and Liam Hendriks earned a four-out save after blowing a chance in Friday night’s 10-inning victory.
“It was a good bounce-back one,” Hendriks said.
This was a long time coming for the Angels and 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Ohtani, who took visible deep breaths between pitches. Ohtani made his first appearance on the mound since Sept. 2, 2018 after not pitching last season following Tommy John elbow surgery.
“Again, this is a young man coming off of a severe injury and right now requires all of our patience,” Maddon said.
Ohtani threw 30 pitches, reaching 94.7 mph with his fastball — he averaged 96.7 mph and touched 100 mph in 2018.
“Not so much for the mechanics but I just didn’t get that feel for the game back,” Ohtani said. “Today I just felt like I was throwing the ball rather than pitching. Just a little rust and I need to come up with a game plan so I can get efficient outs.”
He is expected to be the Sunday starter for the Angels this season and was under no pitch limit. Maddon insists he’s invested in Ohtani being a rare two-way player for what it also means to fans in Japan who have supported his quest. He will also make sure Ohtani stays healthy first.
“I’m looking forward to the day we can get a little bit more aggressive with him. I know he is, too,” Maddon said before the game.
Ohtani batted last season but didn’t pitch as he built his arm strength back up after surgery. He went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts and 51 2/3 innings in 2018 as a rookie.
“You go up there early in the game maybe expecting a little bit more as far as the (velocity) goes,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Coming off an injury, we really weren’t sure what to expect. We know he is an absolute terrific talent but probably didn’t have his best stuff, certainly didn’t have his best command today.”
Fiers gave up consecutive singles to Fletcher and Trout to start the game before getting three straight flyballs.
This was Fiers’ first outing since he revealed to The Athletic in November that his former Houston Astros club had stolen signs using a camera in center field during its run to the 2017 World Series championship.
The right-hander pitched his second career no-hitter last season and went 15-4, then didn’t get the ball for an AL wild-card loss to Tampa Bay when Melvin went with lefty Sean Manaea.
Angels: New 3B Anthony Rendon went through a workout on the field. He could be used as designated hitter initially once healthy to play after dealing with an oblique injury. “DH is open. It’s possible he could DH first, I can’t deny that,” Maddon said.
RHP Griffin Canning pitches the wraparound series finale Monday afternoon opposite Oakland RHP Chris Bassitt, who is in the rotation for now with left-hander A.J. Puk sidelined by a strained throwing shoulder.
Giants beat Dodgers 3-1, gain split of season-opening series
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mauricio Dubon singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth inning and the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 on Sunday night.
The Giants gained a split of the four-game series under new manager Gabe Kapler to open the shortened season after the Dodgers took the first two by a combined score of 17-2.
“The first few games were unquestionably sloppy and this game was equally clean,” Kapler said. “That’s a good sign. It’s a sign of a team that can make adjustments.”
The Dodgers left the bases loaded in the eighth, including the potential tying and go-ahead runs, after Kiké Hernández grounded out. Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger had back-to-back singles, the team’s first consecutive hits in the game.
In the ninth, Los Angeles had the potential tying run at the plate when Trevor Gott struck out Max Muncy to earn saves in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Los Angeles managed five runs over the final two games of the series.
“You’ve just got to give credit to those guys. They matched up really well,” manager Dave Roberts said. “They did a good job finding ways to scratch out runs.”
Donovan Solano led off the sixth with an infield single. He went to second on pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval’s single and scored on Dubon’s single to left field that snapped an 0-for-10 skid, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.
San Francisco added a run in the seventh on Solano’s single that scored Darin Ruf, who walked and stole second. Dubon had a hand in two of the team’s three runs.
“Going into that game, a pretty, pretty low probability,” Ruf said of stealing a base. “It was a good situation to (steal) because (Pedro) Baez was kind of slow to the plate, first pitch, nothing to lose with Donny up and try to get in scoring position and make something happen. He came up really clutch and drove me in.”
Ruf moved from first base to left field in the sixth and caught Corey Seager’s fly while running into the Dodgers’ bullpen gate and forcing it open. In the third, Ruf’s RBI single made it 1-0.
The Dodgers tied the game 1-all in the third on Bellinger’s first RBI of the season, a two-out single on the first pitch from Drew Smyly.
Wandy Peralta (1-0) got the win with one scoreless inning of relief.
Brusdar Graterol (0-1) took the loss, allowing two hits and one run in one-third of an inning.
Smyly gave up one run and four hits in 3 1/3 innings of his first start after pitching in relief on Thursday. He struck out two and walked one.
Dodgers starter Julio Urías permitted one run and five hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked three.
Kenley Jansen retired the side in the ninth in his season debut for the Dodgers.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw 15 pitches off a mound and it went well, Roberts said. The left-hander will do the same thing Tuesday in Houston. Roberts expects Kershaw, on the injured list with a bad back, to make his season debut when the team is in Arizona from July 30 to Aug. 2.
Kapler didn’t reveal his starter for either the second or third game of the series until hours beforehand. It wasn’t until the series finale on Sunday that starter Smyly’s name was released well before game time. Kapler turned conventional after the game, saying Jeff Samardzija will start Tuesday’s home opener and Johnny Cueto will take the mound Wednesday. Samardzija did not appear against the Dodgers despite being the projected No. 2 starter. The 35-year-old right-hander was 11-12 with a 3.52 ERA last year.
Dodgers minor leaguer Connor Joe is cancer free after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in March, agent John Boggs tweeted Sunday. The 27-year-old was a non-roster invitee to spring training in Arizona when he found out. Joe had 15 plate appearances for the Giants last year. With the Dodgers’ Triple-A team, he hit .300 with a .929 OPS, 15 home runs and 68 RBIs.
IN YOUR FACE
Dodgers fan Austin Donley of Hermosa Beach is keeping an eye on his mail after his cardboard cutout nearly got decapitated by Will Smith’s home run. Donley and his father bought cutouts in the new home run seats in the left field pavilion for $299 each since fans aren’t allowed at games. Donley tweeted at Smith on Saturday and asked if he got to keep the ball. “Sorry I took your head off,” Smith replied, using three joy emojis while asking Donley to reach out to him so he could “hook it up for you.”
The Giants host San Diego in their home opener Tuesday. The Dodgers travel to Houston to play the Astros on Tuesday in a highly anticipated rematch of the 2017 World Series, except without fans. RHP Walker Buehler will start for the Dodgers, who have not forgotten the illegal sign stealing committed by the Astros three years ago.
Diamondbacks rally against Padres’ pen for 4-3 win
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Ketel Marte hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly off struggling Kirby Yates on Sunday, and Arizona rallied for four runs off San Diego’s vaunted bullpen to earn a 4-3 victory after the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo became the first manager to be ejected in the COVID-19 era.
The Padres had been MLB’s last undefeated team after St. Louis and Houston lost earlier in the day.
San Diego’s Garrett Richards left with a 1-0 lead after holding Arizona to one hit in five innings, but the Diamondbacks, who struggled offensively in their first two games, came alive three innings after the masked Lovullo was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Mark Ripperger, who wasn’t wearing a cloth facemask.
“Today was a great win for this team,” Lovullo said. “We’ve been grinding, that’s not a mystery. Started to see us come back to life and do what we do well. … It was how we won, one of those special wins that give you a little push, a little momentum. Right now my brain is spinning pretty fast.”
Padres newcomer Emilio Pagán blew the lead in the eighth by allowing the first three Diamondbacks to reach. Marte walked, advanced on David Peralta’s single and scored on Starling Marté’s single to right. Another run came in on Eduardo Escobar’s double-play ball.
The Padres tied it in the bottom half after Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers drew consecutive walks off Andrew Chafin. Jake Cronenworth, who made his MLB debut as a pinch-runner for Hosmer, advanced on Jurickson Profar’s fly ball to center and scored on pinch-hitter Greg Garcia’s single to center off Archie Bradley (1-0).
Bradley got designated hitter Josh Naylor to pop up and then ended the threat by striking out Fernando Tatis Jr., who slammed down his bat as he walked away.
Yates (0-1), who had a major league-high 41 saves last year, entered in the ninth and retired Carson Kelly before loading the bases on a single and consecutive walks. Ketel Marte hit a sac fly and Peralta followed with an RBI single.
The Padres beefed up their bullpen in the offseason with the addition of Pagán and Drew Pomeranz, among others.
Manager Jayce Tingler said he has “zero issues, zero fears” about the bullpen.
“When you’re carrying a 1-0 lead, you expose yourself, especially with those hitters over there, as skilled as they are, they provide a lot of tough matchups,” Tingler said. “When you’re holding onto a 1-0 lead, anything can happen and unfortunately it didn’t go our way today.”
The Padres had the bases loaded with two outs in the first and failed to score. In the second, Diamondbacks first baseman Jake Lamb made a nice diving stop of Trent Grisham’s grounder to end the inning and save a run.
Cronenworth hit an RBI double in his first big league at-bat, but Bradley retired Myers to end the game.
Peralta made a sensational running catch of Tommy Pham’s fly ball to left for the second out of the ninth.
“It was just a matter of time for everything to go the way we wanted,” Peralta said.
In the fifth, Arizona’s Kevin Cron was hit on the left elbow by a pitch from Richards. Ripperger didn’t award him first base, either believing he leaned into it or didn’t try to get out of the way. Kron wears a protective pad on the elbow.
A masked Lovullo came out to argue, and at first seemed to keep a safe distance from Ripperger. The umpire took off his protective facemask but was not wearing a cloth facemask. He ejected Lovullo and then turned his back on him. Lovullo followed for a few steps but then headed to the dugout.
“It was a quick judgment call,” Lovullo said. “I didn’t believe we saw it the same way. Obviously I got a little frustrated. He explained to me that Kevin leaned into the ball and exposed the elbow. I told him if it was going to be a strike I could have lived with it a little more. … I just became a little frustrated by his explanation and went a little too far with it, and that’s on me.”
“I asked the umpire to make sure he stayed away from me,” Lovullo said. “That was the most important thing for me. I remember my mask riding up on my face and I felt very uncomfortable. I felt it was my responsibility to cover my face up. … I was very mindful of the space that needed to be created.”
Cron ended up striking out.
Richards struck out six and walked three. He signed a two-year deal in free agency in December 2018 even though he was coming off Tommy John surgery. He made three starts last September.
Hosmer, who has struggled to hit the ball in the air in previous seasons, homered to center field on a 2-2 pitch from Zac Gallen with two outs in the third inning.
Hosmer drove in six runs on two bases-clearing doubles in a 7-2 victory on Friday night, but missed Saturday night’s 5-1 win with an illness.
Diamondbacks: RHP Luke Weaver is scheduled to start the series finale Monday afternoon. He is 2-3 with a 2.27 ERA in six career starts against San Diego.
Padres: Tingler said LHP Joey Lucchesi will start Monday, or he will go with an opener. Lucchesi went 10-10 with a 4.18 ERA in 30 starts last year.