Ohtani flirts with perfection in his 2nd career MLB start

Shohei Ohtani’s rough time during spring training is already a distant memory. Ohtani’s MLB career is off to a flying start in every way imaginable, from crushing home runs at the plate to throwing 12 strikeouts in a near-perfect outing against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Ohtani leads the Los Angeles Angels with three home runs, each more towering than the last. The 23-year-old rookie hit a three-run homer in his first home at-bat, hit one off American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber the following day, and made it three in three games with a 449-foot shot on Friday.

While his hitting alone would be impressive, Ohtani is also finding instant success on the mound as he tries to be a rare two-way talent. He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning in his second career start on Sunday against Oakland. Marcus Semien got the hit that ended Ohtani’s perfect game bid, and he was pulled at the end of the seventh after throwing 91 pitches. Mike Witt is the only Angels player ever to record a perfect game, and the franchise’s last no-hitter was thrown by Jered Weaver in 2012. With a little more experience and a more lenient pitch limit, Ohtani could be writing his name into those record books before long.

It’s too early to know what Ohtani’s stellar first week will mean for the rest of his rookie season and his career in general, but he is in uncharted territory as Los Angeles’ - and possibly the entire American League’s - best hitter and pitcher. His .389 batting average leads the Angels, and the list of pitchers to last seven innings while allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out 12 in their second career start is a very short one.

Ohtani’s next start is on the road Friday against the Kansas City Royals. He doesn’t hit in the games where he’s pitching, but he’s appointment viewing in either role. The Angels already had one generational talent in Mike Trout, and if Ohtani keeps playing like a two-way All-Star, Los Angeles might have enough to compete with the star-studded lineup of the defending champion Houston Astros in the AL West.