Ohtani Ks 11, extends scoreless streak in 4-1 win over White Sox

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Whether Shohei Ohtani is unleashing his 101 mph fastball or dispensing his large array of breaking balls, the Angels’ two-way ace has overpowered every opponent during his shutout surge through June.

Ohtani still had to dig deep into his nearly bottomless bag of pitches to beat the White Sox.

The right-hander extended his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings while pitching five-hit ball into the sixth with 11 strikeouts in Los Angeles’ 4-1 victory over Chicago on Wednesday night.

“This one was huge for us because we wanted to win the series, and it’s going to lead to better stuff down the road,” Ohtani said through a translator after winning his fourth consecutive start.

Ohtani (7-4) yielded five singles and a walk, and the White Sox had to work for every small success against him. The reigning AL MVP hasn’t allowed a run since the fifth inning of his brilliant seven-inning outing in Boston on June 9, giving him an 0.34 ERA in his last four starts with 36 strikeouts – 24 in the last two games.

“(The slider) was working really well for me, especially early in the game,” Ohtani said. “I think they started to catch onto the softer stuff later, so I mixed in more fastballs. Just going with the flow.”

Translator Ippei Mizuhara says this matter-of-factly, but Ohtani’s array of pitches is maddening for opponents and eye-popping to his teammates.

“He’s got six, seven, eight pitches, and he can change speed on all of them,” said his catcher, Max Stassi. “It’s special what he can do and how he can manipulate it. … You never know what you’re going to get. It’s the kitchen sink coming at you all the time.”

Ohtani went 0 for 3 with a walk at the plate, but Luis Rengifo hit a two-run homer and Mike Trout had an early RBI double as the Angels finished their disappointing 4-5 homestand on a positive note because of their superstar’s work on the mound.

Michael Kopech (2-5) yielded five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings for the White Sox, who have lost six of eight. Chicago loaded the bases in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize.

“We didn’t put the ball in play enough,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We had a real good shot in the fourth. I thought we had good at-bats, (but Ohtani) has got weapons. He’s for real.”

Ohtani’s streak included scoreless efforts in victories over Seattle and Kansas City before this tough challenge against the White Sox, who pounded out 17 hits and 11 runs one night earlier. After he struck out a career-high 13 Royals last week, Ohtani reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time this season against Chicago.

He gave up two singles while racking up three strikeouts in the first inning, and the Angels scored moments later when Taylor Ward delivered a leadoff single and came around on Trout’s double. Trout then scored when Kopech made an error at first base while Chicago tried to turn a tricky 3-6-1 double play.

Ohtani escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth after allowing two more singles and a walk, striking out Josh Harrison with a slider. Ohtani also reached back for two fastballs over 100 mph during the inning.

Rengifo doubled Los Angeles’ lead and chased Kopech with his two-run shot into the ficus trees beyond center field in the sixth.

GOOD HOOK

Angels acting manager Ray Montgomery pulled Ohtani with Jose Abreu on first after Ohtani struck out Gavin Sheets with his 108th pitch, matching his season high.

“I think he did everything he could do for us tonight,” Montgomery said.

Abreu got to third when reliever Jose Quijada gave up a long single to A.J. Pollock, but Quijada escaped the jam and kept Ohtani’s streak intact.

“Ideally, I would have liked to finish that inning off,” Ohtani said. “But they have a really good lineup, and they were fighting each at-bat and getting my pitch count up.”

LATE RUN

Chicago avoided its third shutout loss of the season when Luis Robert reached on shortstop Andrew Velazquez‘s throwing error and eventually scored on Ryan Tepera‘s wild pitch in the eighth.

Tepera escaped that jam, and Raisel Iglesias pitched the ninth for his 15th save.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: Yoan Moncada was in major pain after fouling a ball off his foot in the eighth, but he stayed in. He went to get X-rays after the game.

Angels: Ohtani appeared to be favoring his back in a late-game plate appearance, but he said it should be fine. “Fortunately, we’ve got an off day tomorrow,” he said.

UP NEXT

White Sox: After a travel day, Lance Lynn (1-1, 6.19 ERA) takes the mound in San Francisco on Friday to open a weekend series against the Giants.

Angels: After a travel day, Michael Lorenzen (6-5, 4.24 ERA) takes the mound in Houston on Friday to open a nine-game road trip and a three-game series against the AL West-leading Astros.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.