ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani presented the game ball to Phil Nevin during the cathartic clubhouse celebrations after the Los Angeles Angels snapped their 14-game losing streak.
While the Angels’ new manager greatly appreciated the gesture to mark the first victory of his career, he also knew who deserved nearly all of the credit for stopping the longest skid in franchise history.
“He carried us on his back,” Nevin said of the Halos’ matchless AL MVP.
Ohtani pitched seven stellar innings and hit a two-run homer, and the Angels won for the first time since May 24, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Thursday night.
Ohtani (4-4) yielded four hits and a run while striking out six in a performance befitting an ace. He also had two hits, and he put the Angels ahead for the first time by crushing his 12th homer of the season off Nick Pivetta (5-5) in the fifth inning.
“It’s been long, but it always feel great to win,” Ohtani said through his translator. “Obviously, I definitely wanted to win this one. Especially on the days I pitch, I just want to put the team in a spot to have a chance to win, and I was able to do that today.”
Andrew Velazquez added a three-run homer in the sixth as Los Angeles won for the first time in three games under Nevin, who replaced the fired Joe Maddon after Monday’s series-opening loss. The Halos won for only the fourth time in 22 games since May 15, when they were 24-13 and in first place in the AL West.
“I think everybody exhaled, took a deep breath,” Nevin said. “For the last 14 (games), they’ve come every day expecting to win … and when you come in after the game, you see the pain on their faces. I know it’s hurting them, and that means a heck of a lot, because they care. These last two weeks were painful for them. Painful for everybody, but when you see that care in your players, that means a lot.”
Ohtani was sharp on the mound after struggling in his two previous starts, notably ending the third inning by striking out Rafael Devers with a 101-mph fastball — the third-fastest pitch of his career and his fastest strikeout pitch ever. He induced 18 swings and misses after getting just three in his previous start against the Yankees last week.
The Angels had a lead after the sixth inning for the seventh time in the past 15 games, but their inconsistent bullpen hung on to this advantage after Ohtani finished his start with two strikeouts in the seventh.
Ryan Tepera yielded two hits and a run in the eighth, and Raisel Iglesias threw a perfect ninth for his 12th save, allowing Angel Stadium to light its celebratory postgame fireworks for the first time in 16 days.
Alex Verdugo had an RBI single in the eighth for the Red Sox, whose seven-game winning streak ended with their first loss in the first two stops of their 10-game West Coast road trip. Boston has still won 16 of 22 overall.
Pivetta struck out 11 to match the most by a Boston pitcher this season while yielding six hits. He walked his final two batters leading off the sixth, but reliever Hirokazu Sawamura nearly escaped the jam before Velazquez’s two-strike, two-out homer.
“I didn’t know I had so many strikeouts until after the game,” Pivetta said. “I wasn’t really focused on that at all. I was focused on competing and trying to put us in the best position to win, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
Velazquez then ended an 0-for-22 slump with his first hit of June — and with the ball still in flight, he looked back at the dugout for a preview of the Angels’ postgame celebrations.
“It felt like we won a playoff game tonight,” Velazquez said. “I think everybody is going to sleep easy tonight. … Shohei kind of took matters into his own hands.”
The Angels had played 18 consecutive scoreless innings against Boston before Ohtani’s blast in the fifth, and their lineup struggled again early without six starters. Mike Trout missed his second straight game with groin tightness.
Ohtani barely avoided being hit by Franchy Cordero’s broken bat in the second inning. Velazquez fielded the resulting grounder and made a poor throw home, but Max Stassi fielded the bounce and tagged out Verdugo to keep the game scoreless.
Red Sox: Reliever Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in his return from the injured list after sitting out two weeks with back spasms. Robles recorded 26 saves during parts of three seasons with the Angels, including an outstanding campaign in 2019 and a terrible one in 2020, leading to his departure.
Angels: “That’s the plan,” Trout said when asked if he plans to play Friday. He took swings in the batting cage and felt good before Thursday’s game.
Red Sox: After a late-night flight up the coast, Rich Hill (2-3, 4.40 ERA) takes the mound Friday to open a three-game series in Seattle.
Angels: Tylor Megill (4-2, 4.41 ERA) takes the mound for the Mets on Friday when New York opens a three-game weekend series at the Big A. Los Angeles hasn’t announced a starter, but is expect to recall someone from the minors.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports