MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Did you get a load of what the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani did on Tuesday night?

He struck out 10 over 6 1/3 innings and also went 3-for-3 with two home runs to lift the Angels to a 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. That’s all.

Oddly enough, given all the 6-4, 210-pound right-hander has already done, and is capable of doing in conceivably any game, it was the first time Ohtani had homered twice in a game that he had pitched in, which is understandable given the select company he just joined in the long history of Major League baseball.

Since 1900, the only pitchers to strike out 10 and hit two bombs in the same game are former Orioles ace Milt Pappas (1961, five years before becoming THAT Milt Pappas), Pedro Ramos (1963), Rick Wise (1971, pitching a no-hitter in the same game, to boot), Madison Bumgarner (2017) and Zack Greinke (2019).

All great pitchers, but here’s where Ohtani is different from any of them, although pitching a no-hitter in the same game you strike out 10 and hit two home runs and being traded for Frank Robinson in both his and your own prime are pretty exceptional — Ohtani now leads the Majors with 28 home runs this season.

This guy is just something to see and to marvel over. We heard and read all of the hype before he even arrived from Japan to play in the big leagues, but he has far exceeded that hype and continues to get better every game he plays, which is mind-boggling.

Ohtani is a member of the Angels’ starting rotation with a 7-3 record, 3.02 ERA (9-2, 3.18 and 15-9, 2.33 previous two seasons) and 127 strikeouts in just over 95 innings; then plays another position in every other game and continues to hit home runs and drive in runs. He was American League Rookie of the Year in 2019, Most Valuable Player in 2021, came in second behind Aaron Judge last year and certainly seems to have the inside track on reclaiming the award this year.

Baseball fans are seeing something every game from Ohtani that we’ve never seen before, so, given our collective attention span, it might seem easy to take it for granted. Yet what a sad, sad mistake it would be if we ever do.

Entering Wednesday night’s game in Anaheim (and who knows what that brought?), Ohtani, in June alone, had hit 13 home runs, seven doubles and two triples with four stolen bases and 26 RBIs in 24 games. On top of that, he carries a 3.26 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings across five starts.

For the season, he leads all of baseball in homers, RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages). His six games with at least 10 strikeouts rank second in MLB, and he leads all qualified pitchers with a .180 batting average against.

As White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said, Ohtani is probably the best player in the game because he is tough to hit and tough to pitch to.

And just in case anybody has forgotten what happened at the end of March in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic? In a match-up of the best baseball player in the world vs. the best baseball player in the world, Ohtani struck out his Angels teammate Mike Trout swinging three times to send Japan to the title over the United States. Prior to that, in 6,174 career at-bats, Trout had gone down on three swinging strikes just 24 times – that was 0.39 percent of his career at-bats.

Just as there has never been a player like Babe Ruth, there has never been a player like Shohei Ohtani. Still, there is no real comparison for one to the other. Yes, Ohtani is a tremendous pitcher who also hits the daylights out of the ball. Yes, Ruth was a tremendous pitcher who also hit the daylights out of the ball.

Yet when Ruth was primarily a pitcher, he was arguably the best pitcher of his day, having held World Series pitching records for decades following his death. When the Yankees made him primarily a position player in 1920, he pitched very little for the remainder of his career.

Ohtani is primarily a pitcher and primarily a position player at the same time, playing 150 games each season; but let us not forget, Babe Ruth to this day remains arguably the best and certainly the most iconic baseball player in the history of the game.

One tends to believe that in time, perhaps six years into his career just as with Ruth, Ohtani’s pitching days may be behind him, given the absolutely amazing hitter he has become. But who knows? Ohtani is an absolutely amazing baseball player, the likes of which no one has ever seen before.

So just enjoy him and appreciate what you are seeing. No one will ever see it again.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT