CLEVELAND, Ohio — When Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani looks back on his American League Rookie of the Year performance of 2018, he will notice a preponderance of Cleveland Indians pitchers in the highlight reel.
Ohtani achieved benchmarks no other baseball player has reached both on the mound and at the plate in nearly 100 years, and he did so early on by finding success against the Tribe’s top-flight starting rotation. For the year, Ohtani hit .500 (11-for-22) with a double, four home runs and nine RBI against Cleveland.
He hit his first big-league home run off Indians starter Josh Tomlin on April 3, a three-run blast that propelled the Angels to a 13-2 win in his first home game at Angels Stadium. Ohtani added a two-run homer against Corey Kluber the next day in a game that LA won 3-2 in 13 innings.
After that, Ohtani became a monster on the mound, looking every bit like a big-league ace in averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He allowed just 19 earned runs in a little over 50 innings of work. But none of those outings were against the Indians’ lineup.
When the Angels finally did come to Progressive Field in August, Ohtani was no longer pitching. However, he continued torching the Tribe at the plate. He went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and three RBI against Mike Clevinger in a 7-4 Angels victory on Aug. 3, and collected a pair of hits including a double against Shane Bieber in a 4-3 loss two days later.
Clevinger said both of the pitches Ohtani hit out against him were poorly executed, but gave the rookie his due.
“He’s got tremendous power — don’t get me wrong,” Clevinger said. “I still think if I executed like my third AB against him, he’s not peppering the ball like he did in his first two. The first one was inside and he still put it the other way, so that’s pretty impressive on his part.”
Kluber found the only degree of success against Ohtani on Aug. 4, holding him hitless in four at-bats, including a pair of strikeouts. Manager Terry Francona said the Indians had a plan to attack Ohtani, but for the most part, they were unable to get the job done.
“He’s an interesting guy,” Francona said. “He’s got a chance to be pretty special.”