DENVER — Shohei Ohtani became the first two-way All-Star in style, featuring a 100 mph fastball to pitch a perfect first inning against the National League after being denied a hit by a nice defensive play in his first at-bat.
Ohtani, the major league home run leader and one of the American League’s better pitchers for the Los Angeles Angels, was the center of attention Tuesday night as the All-Star Game returned after a one-year absence caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
He was both the starting pitcher for the AL and its designated hitter at Coors Field. He was replaced by Lance Lynn on the mound in the second inning but under a tweak of the rules made just for him was allowed to remain as DH.
Players in both dugouts were hanging on the rails to watch Ohtani, who grounded out in both of his early at-bats.
Washington’s Max Scherzer, just the sixth pitcher to start four All-Star Games, began Ohtani with a 95.5 mph fastball to begin the game. The left-handed batter grounded his second offering toward the right side of second base, where Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier ranged to make a backhand pickup and threw to first to retire the speedy Ohtani.
A 27-year-old right-hander, Ohtani retired Fernando Tatis Jr., Max Muncy and Rockies fan favorite Nolan Arenado in order in the bottom half, throwing 10 of 14 pitches for strikes.
Throwing at up to 100.2 mph, Ohtani used seven fastballs, four sliders, two splitters and one cutter.
Tatis, wearing spikes with pink trim and matching undershirt sleeves, flied to left on a cutter off the end of his bat leading off the bottom half. Muncy grounded to second and Arenado, traded to St. Louis last winter, grounded to shortstop.
Ohtani is the first player to regularly pitch and play a position since Babe Ruth made 19 starts for the Boston Red Sox in 1918 and 15 in 1919. Ruth hit 11 homers in 1918 and 29 the following year, and from 1920 on made just four starts for the rest of his big league career, which ended in 1935.
Ohtani is batting .279 with 33 homers and 70 RBIs in his fourth major league season. He is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts, striking out 87 and walking 35 in 67 innings.