Shohei Ohtani homers twice, strikes out 10 in win over White Sox

“There’s no one who has ever been like him,” White Sox’ Dylan Cease said.

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Shohei Ohtani throws to the plate during the fourth inning against the White Sox Tuesday, June 27, 2023, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP)

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws to the plate during the fourth inning against the White Sox Tuesday, June 27, 2023, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP)

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — A night after hitting his 26th homer of the season against Dylan Cease in an Angels victory, two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani made that performance look mundane.

“There’s no one who has ever been like him,” Cease said Wednesday. “He’s extremely talented, obviously. He’s a once in a lifetime player.”

Ohtani demonstrated that by pitching 6 13 innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts, belting a homer in the bottom of the inning against Michael Kopech and homering again in the seventh against Touki Toussaint in a 4-2 Angels victory over the White Sox. Ohtani leads the majors with 28 homers.

“He throws 100 pitches, comes out of the game and hits another home run,” Sox third baseman Jake Burger said. “What he’s doing is pretty incredible when you see it with your own eyes.”

It marked the ninth time in his career and fourth time this season Ohtani homered in a game as a pitcher. It was the first time he homered twice when he pitched.

In three career games and 16 2⁄3 innings against the Sox, Ohtani owns a 1.08 ERA. He has six homers against the Sox this season.

“He’s one of the best talents in baseball, if not the best,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “You make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay for it.”

Ohtani left in the seventh after 101 pitches because of a cracked right middle finger nail, which didn’t bother him when he homered to the opposite field in the bottom of the inning.

Kopech failed to finish five innings for the third straight game, laboring through a 31-pitch first inning and leaving in the fifth with two on, no outs and 102 pitches. He walked three batters and threw 22 pitches in the second but catcher Yasmani Grandal threw out Luis Rengifo and Chad Wallach attempting to steal second.

“Put myself in a lot of rough situations,” Kopech said.

“I feel like I never got ahead of anybody. When that happens guys start to be a little more patient. Whether the misses are close or not, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got to get ahead of guys.”

The Sox scored a run in the ninth on Andrew Vaughn’s single scoring Eloy Jimenez (double) and loaded the bases. But Seby Zavala struck out and Elvis Andrus hit into a game ending double play against reliever Carlos Estevez.

“We had a good opportunity there in the ninth,” Grifol said. “Seby took some really good swings. Just fouled a couple of balls off. Elvis got behind in the count there, trying to put the ball in play. We want guys to put the ball in play and not strike out in those situations. He did and hit it to the wrong spot.”

The result left the Sox with a 34-47 record at the halfway point of the season. They are 0-2 to start a seven game road trip that continues with two more against the Angels and three in Oakland this weekend.

Only four teams in the majors have a worse record than the Sox.

Hendriks to play catch Wednesday

Closer Liam Hendriks is slated to play catch Wednesday for the first time since going on the injured list June 11 with elbow inflammation, but there is still no timeline for his return.

“We have purposely not had a timeline,” Hendriks said. “Depending on how [Wednesday] goes we move to the next day.”

Hendriks, who made five appearances after coming back from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said the elbow responded well to exercises, treatment and Pylo ball work but he’ll get a better feel after he throws.

Hendriks’ high motor usually pushes him at top speed, whether he’s throwing a bullpen or working through soreness. But in this case, he said he’s making sure not to overdo it.

“After something similar [forearm flexor strain] last year — we definitely rushed back last year — I want to make sure this is done right because the alternatives aren’t great,” he said.

A long way to go

The Sox were 34-46 going into Tuesday, having lost 10 of their last 15 games, but pitchers Sox led the major leagues with a 3.10 ERA in June, giving the Sox “a chance to win every single night,” Grifol said.

But they were last with 3.23 runs scored a game and 29th in average (.212).

“We’ve done some good things, however we’ve got to get better at a lot of things,” Grifol said.

All 22 June games were decided by four or fewer runs, including 11 by one run.

“We’ve got to start putting up some crooked numbers,” Grifol said.

“We have to control the strike zone,” assistant hitting coach Chris Johnson said. “When this team swings at strikes we’re a really good hitting ballclub.”

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