DENVER – Shohei Ohtani made major league history Tuesday night, controlling the All-Star Game as no player ever has before – leading off the game for the American League, and then pitching a scoreless bottom half of the inning.
It was routine, yet somehow remarkable.
Ohtani was aggressive on both sides of the ball, swinging at all three pitches he saw in two at-bats, managing a groundout to second off future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer in his All-Star debut.
On the mound, he faced a daunting and diverse trio of hitters – NL home run leader Fernando Tatis Jr., the patient and punishing Max Muncy and former Colorado legend Nolan Arenado – and attacked them all, to great success.
He won a five-pitch battle with Tatis, getting him on a fly to left, before inducing a three-pitch groundout from Muncy.
With Arenado receiving a rousing ovation from Rockies fans – clearly siding with the superstar traded to St. Louis over the winter after an ongoing fallout with club management – Ohtani emptied the tank for his one inning stint.
He fired three consecutive fastballs at Arenado, topping out at 100.2 mph on a ball Arenado fouled off. On the next pitch, Arenado grounded a cutter to shortstop for the third out.
Ohtani acknowledged that, like many pitchers in the All-Star Game, he threw a little harder knowing he was only throwing an inning; his average fastball this season is 95.5 mph.
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He was similarly rapid in his second at-bat, hacking at the first pitch from Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes, grounding the 96-mph cutter to first for an 0 for 2 start. Moments later, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crushed a Burnes pitch 468 feet for a home run and a 2-0 AL lead.
After that, Ohtani’s night was done, though he still did more work than just about anybody this week. He was brought to his knees by the Home Run Derby on Monday night, gasping in the Mile High air after smashing 28 home runs in a tiebreaker loss to Juan Soto in the first round.
But a good night’s sleep – he slept in until 10:30 a.m., he said – had him poised for double duty a night later.
And the totality of the week – the Derby, meeting peers he at first thought “intimidating” but then loosened up, and finally his historic two-way turn – was a career highlight.
“I think so far this has been the best experience, the most memorable,” he said through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. “Obviously, I haven’t played in the playoffs or the World Series yet. Once I do that, it’s probably going to surpass it. but for now, it’s most memorable.”
Ohtani, the first player selected to the game as a pitcher and a position player, led the major leagues with 33 home runs – breaking Hideki Matsui’s record for most homers by a Japanese-born player even before the second half commenced. Meanwhile, he struck out 87 batters in 67 innings and posted a 3.49 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels.
It was the sort of dominance many dreamed the two-way star might have been capable of when he joined the big leagues before the 2018 season. After injuries and questions about how the Angels might best deploy him, it all came together this season.
He’s been mostly spectacular since Opening Day. Tuesday night at Coors Field, he merely made history.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shohei Ohtani pitches perfect inning, goes 0-for-2 in All-Star Game