July 15, 2023, 2:25 a.m. ET
ANAHEIM, California — Shohei Ohtani left the court with pain in his finger for his third straight start Friday night.
With his Los Angeles Angels in free fall and his future uncertain before the trade deadline, the two-way superstar is battling a number of challenges even more daunting than the blistered and cracked nails that have prevented him from reaching his unique peak.
Ohtani allowed four hits for five and left a mound in the sixth inning shortly before Mauricio Dubon’s record-breaking two-hit single goal in the Houston Astros’ 7-5 win over the Angels.
Ohtani (7-5) pulled after he walked with Corey Julks to open the sixth, consulting the Angels training staff before he dropped out with a persistent minor problem in his throwing hand. Ohtani’s last start before the All-Star break ended due to blisters on his fingertips, and he also injured his toenail last month.
“For the most part, things didn’t work out the way I wanted,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “It feels like that when I’m on the mound. … I haven’t really thought about when my next outing is. I’m just going to come on the court, see where my fingers are, and go from there.”
Ohtani said it was “hard to say” how significant this injury would be.
“I was frustrated to a certain point,” Ohtani said. “Not just me, but I feel the whole team is. I think it’s natural that we can’t win games so the frustration increases.”
Ohtani, who allowed three walks and had seven hits, stayed in the game at bat and threw up two singles, but his Angels lost six straight and 10 of 11.
“I just thought something was not right in the sixth minute,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin. “I noticed something wasn’t right after he walked (Julks), so I wanted to check it out, and he said his finger was a little sensitive. It wasn’t open, it wasn’t broken or anything, but decided it was good to get it out then.”
After receiving cheers and global attention during the All-Star celebrations in Seattle, Ohtani is back at work in Anaheim amid persistent questions about his future in Orange County. The Halos pre-break skid reduced their playoff chances and increased the likelihood they will consider trading Ohtani, who will become a free agent this winter.
“It didn’t look like he was alone tonight,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Ohtani. “Don’t know if the blisters still bother him but he didn’t throw some of the pitches he usually throws. Whenever you get five from Ohtani you do well. But he just doesn’t look like himself.”
After Ohtani left, reliever Jacob Webb allowed Dubon’s clutch single and Jose Abreu’s RBI single. The Astros then held on for a bullpen victory from the All-Star break by the reigning World Series champion, with Ryan Pressly fanning Ohtani while attacking the flank in the ninth for his 21st save.
Mickey Moniak hit three and Taylor Ward hit a homer for the Angels, who knocked Luis Rengifo out of the game in fifth shortly after the third baseman made a mistake and then took no time to prevent Kyle Tucker from scoring from second. Rengifo was withdrawn after a dugout conversation with Nevin.
“There are certain things that I will not tolerate,” Nevin said. “I don’t think he gave his best effort, and he knows exactly what we’re talking about.”
Rengifo admitted his mistake after the game – as did Mike Moustakas, whose poor handling of a late punch preceded Dubon’s tiebreaker.
JP France had nine hits and two earned hitting throwing a fifth for Houston. Phil Maton (2-2) had two outs in the fifth set.
The Astros tied it for fourth after loading the bases with a battering hit and two runs from Ohtani. Alex Bregman and Tucker then took the lead in the fifth with doubles to put Houston ahead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.