HOUSTON — From pitching to hitting to playing right field, Shohei Ohtani did a little bit of everything for the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
But a strong performance from Lance McCullers Jr. combined with a late surge by Houston’s offense kept the Angels and their two-way star from getting a win.
Ohtani struck out 10 in an impressive duel with McCullers, and the Astros broke loose against the Angels’ bullpen to beat the Angels 5-1.
Ohtani allowed one run and four hits with one walk in seven innings, solving his control troubles in his longest start of the season.
“To see Shohei find fastball command, that’s what it’s going to look like most of the time,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He looked spectacular. He was not overwrought with sliders and splitters. He challenged with fastballs. I think his full complements of talent were on display tonight.”
Ohtani exited with a 2.10 ERA this season and then moved to play right field, and Yuli Gurriel homered during Houston’s four-run eighth.
Ohtani batted second and went 1 for 4, striking out twice.
“My body felt a little heavy, a little sluggish, but I think that worked the best for my performance today,” he said through a translator. “Since my body felt a little heavy, my mechanics I felt were very efficient. No wasted movement.”
McCullers (3-1) yielded three hits, including a homer by Taylor Ward, while tying a season high with nine strikeouts in going eight innings, his longest start this season. He walked two.
It was the first time he’s pitched eight innings or more since July 22, 2016, against the Angels. McCullers loved the energy in the ballpark as he and Ohtani matched each other inning for inning.
“You can feel it,” McCullers said. “I know apparently people don’t like pitchers’ duels, but I thought tonight was a pretty fun game.”
Angels reliever Aaron Slegers (2-1) walked Martin Maldonado to begin the eighth and Aledmys Diaz singled with one out. Alex Claudio took over and was greeted with an RBI single by Michael Brantley that put Houston on top 2-1.
Gurriel homered with two outs.
Ohtani’s appearance in right field marked the second time in his MLB career that he’s played a position other than pitcher. He played left field for an inning in his last trip to Houston this season.
Maddon asked him if he was OK with the move to the outfield after he was done pitching and the 26-year-old didn’t hesitate before agreeing.
“I had a lot of fun,” Ohtani said. “It was a close game and I figured my part of the batting order was coming up in the ninth inning. I was all for it.”
It was the third time this season that he’s hit on the same day he’s pitched, making him the first player in MLB history to do so in three games where a designated hitter was available, passing Ken Brett, who did it twice in 1976 for the White Sox.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him throw,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “He had 95-99 (mph) and he was dotting that fast ball low and away. And boy, he’s some athlete to do that and go play right field and get a hit, too.”
Ohtani had allowed just two singles when Tucker opened Houston’s fifth with his solo shot to the seats in left field to put the Astros up 1-0.
McCullers had given up only one hit and retired 11 in a row when Ohtani singled to start the seventh. Mike Trout walked after that, but Jared Walsh grounded into a double play before Justin Upton grounded out to end the threat.
There was one out in the eighth when Ward homered to the third row of the seats in right field to tie it at 1-all.
Angels: 3B Anthony Rendon, who has been on the injured list since May 3 with a left knee bruise, said Tuesday night he’s feeling “pretty good,” but isn’t sure when he’ll return. Manager Joe Maddon is hopeful that Rendon can return sometime during this weekend’s series at Boston. … RHP Junior Guerra was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday with a strained right groin.
Astros: RHP Jake Odorizzi is expected to throw live batting practice on Wednesday. He’s been on the injured list since April 24 with strained muscle in his right arm. … LHP Framber Valdez, who has been out since fracturing his left ring finger on March 2, is expected to throw a bullpen in Houston this week before beginning a minor league rehab assignment.
Los Angeles left-hander Andrew Heaney (1-2, 4.11 ERA) opposes Jose Urquidy (3-2, 3.51) when the series wraps up on Wednesday night.