ANAHEIM — It takes a special kind of player to be on perfect game watch as a pitcher and on cycle watch as a hitter in the same game.
But it’s exactly what two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani did in the Angels’ 8-7 victory over the A’s at Angel Stadium on Thursday afternoon, as he opened his outing with three perfect innings and fell just a few feet short of becoming the first player since 1888 to hit for the cycle in the same game he pitched on the mound, per Elias Sports Bureau. He had to settle for picking up his fourth win of the season despite giving up five runs over six innings, while going 3-for-5 with a single, a double and a triple at the plate.
Angels manager Phil Nevin admitted he had both the perfect game and the cycle on his mind after the third inning, when Ohtani was 2-for-2 with an infield single followed by an RBI double and had retired the first nine batters he faced, including five by strikeout.
“Those three innings, he was dominating, and it was the best three innings I’ve seen in a long time,” Nevin said. “I’ll be honest, after the third inning — after he had the single and double — it started entering my mind. And almost a perfect game and a cycle. You’re thinking those things every time he’s out there. It’s not out of the realm.”
Ohtani came to the plate with one out in the eighth and the chance to make history, as the last player to hit for the cycle and pitch in the same game was Jimmy Ryan of the Chicago White Stockings, who pitched in relief and hit for the cycle against the Detroit Wolverines on July 28, 1888.
Ohtani ripped a first-pitch slider to deep right-center, but Esteury Ruiz made the catch on the warning track to keep him from recording his second career cycle and just the 15th natural cycle in AL/NL history. The fans thought it was gone, but Ohtani and everyone in the Angels’ dugout knew based on the sound off the bat that it wasn’t going to be enough.
“It was off the end, so I knew it wasn’t gone off the bat,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I just wish it would have gone out, because we had runners on base. That’s all I was thinking about.”