Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani made personal and league-wide history on Wednesday night in a 5-0 win against the Kansas City Royals (box score). Not only did Ohtani set a new career-best in strikeouts, with 13, but he became the first player since runs batted in became an official statistic in 1920 to have consecutive games in which he punched out 10 or more batters and drove in eight or more runs, according to researcher Sarah Langs. (Ohtani plated eight in a loss on Tuesday.)
Ohtani’s final line saw him allow two hits and a walk without giving up a run, earned or otherwise. He struck out those aforementioned 13 batters on 108 pitches, with 71 going for strikes. Statcast classified him as recording 14 swing-and-misses on the night, including seven on his slider. Ohtani being Ohtani, he also recorded a hit, an infield single, and drew a walk as a batter.
Ohtani set his previous career-high in strikeouts back in April, when he dismissed 12 Houston Astros. He’s still yet to record an out in the ninth inning during his time in Major League Baseball, though he threw several complete games with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Ohtani entered the night having started 11 times this season. In those contests, he’d recorded a 3.28 ERA (122 ERA+) and a 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Offensively, he’d batted .260/.331/.489 (132 OPS+) with 15 home runs and seven steals.
Langs added that just one other player has ever recorded at least eight RBI and at least 10 strikeouts in a game in a season or a career. That individual is former Atlanta Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger, who accomplished the feat in 1966. Cloninger struck out 12 batters on April 12, and he later drove in nine runs on July 3.
Cloninger’s career, it should be noted, saw him post a 4.07 ERA (88 ERA+) and a 1.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio over parts of 12 seasons. At the plate, he batted .192/.205/.277 with 11 home runs and 67 runs batted in. He did receive downballot Most Valuable Player Award consideration in 1965, but he never made an All-Star Game or received a vote for any other piece of hardware. He was not, then, an Ohtani prototype.
The Angels are now 34-38 on the season following Wednesday’s victory. They’ll have Thursday off before beginning a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners.