Heading into the top of the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday afternoon, Shohei Ohtani gave Los Angeles Angels fans double-barreled delusions of grandeur on a two-way scale nobody ever considered — even for MLB's Great Unicorn.
In the 8-7 victory at Angel Stadium, Ohtani found himself halfway to hitting for the cycle while also being a third of the way to pitching a perfect game. Here's what Ohtani's batting lines and pitching lines looked like in the moment:
- • 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI
- • 3 innings pitched with nine batters faced and five strikeouts
The perfect game bid ended in the fourth inning when the A's scored three runs. The potential cycle stayed viable until the bottom of the eighth when, after hitting a single, double and triple in that order earlier, Ohtani missed a home run by just a few feet with a fly out to the warning track in center field.
Hitting for the cycle and pitching a perfect game (or even a no-hitter) in the same game would have been a first in major league history, just like practically everything else Ohtani does. Nobody since Jimmy Ryan of the Chicago White Stockings (now called the Cubs) in 1888 had even pitched in the same game that they also hit for the cycle. Ryan's was a relief appearance. Ohtani, typically, was working on something bigger.
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Angels manager Phil Nevin said it occurred to him, at the time, that Ohtani could accomplish something so fanciful. Ohtani had a cycle to his credit, in 2019, but he didn't pitch in that game. Before he's finished with his unprecedented bilateral onslaught on MLB, Ohtani — with the way he pushes himself — just might write himself into the record books with a perfect game-cycle.
In the meantime, there is something else Ohtani could do, if he's looking to push himself in other ways: He could play the outfield on (some) days when he doesn't pitch. He'd become a three-way player!
When he came over from Japan before the 2018 season, Ohtani apparently came to an agreement with the Angels that he wouldn't play outfield when he didn't pitch, as a way to preserve energy and sidestep injuries. He wasn't a designated hitter with Nippon Ham when he wasn't pitching because the NPB's Pacific League didn't use a DH, like the National League in MLB. His second position in Japan (for 64 games) was outfield.
He would obviously be good at it. He has a good arm — the guy throws 100-plus mph on the mound — and he has great wheels. Watch him scoot on this infield single in the first inning Thursday.
Shohei Ohtani breaks his bat but still gets a hit
Ohtani beating out an infield hit against the A's was not a one-off occurrence. He is one of the fastest players in the league running around the bases.
Ohtani does have 8 1/3 innings registered in the outfield in MLB, but it occurred in seven games during the 2021 season. The Angels played him there only to keep his bat in the lineup when he was done pitching, and it occurred before MLB tweaked the DH rules in 2022.
But what if we could get a look at Ohtani patrolling center or right (or, fine, even left) once or twice a week? What else could he show us as a triple threat?
Everything else he does is magical. And he wouldn't have to play every day instead of Mike Trout, Taylor Ward or Hunter Renfroe. Just once in a while.
As an individual, playing another position on defense is really the only thing Ohtani has left to prove. Yeah, he wants to compete in the playoffs, but that's mostly going to be up to the Angels collectively. Ohtani certainly is doing his part.
Well, what if he did even more? It's not too much to ask. Plus, it’s a long way until the postseason.
Shohei of hands: Who else wants to see Ohtani play the outfield too?