Rangers strike out 15 Astros in second straight shutout


Alexi Ogando wasn’t quite Yu Darvish today, but he did surrender just four hits and strike out 10 Astros over 6 1/3 innings in the Rangers’ 4-0 win.

Michael Kirkman and Joe Nathan combined to fan five in relief, giving the Rangers their second straight 15-strikeout game. Darvish racked up that many all by himself in his near-perfect game last night.

The Astros became the fourth team since 2000 to strike out 15 times in back-to-back games. The 2002 Brewers did it against the Diamondbacks and the duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. It also happened last year to the Mariners (versus the Rays) and the Pirates (versus the Brewers). In all, the Astros fanned 43 times in the three-game series, though they did sneak in a win in Sunday night’s opener.

That made the Rangers the first team in big league history (well, at least since 1916 and probably before) to strike out at least 13 batters in the first three games of the season. The 2001 Diamondbacks, again with Johnson and Schilling, were the only team since 1916 to start off with two such games.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

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Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.