ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani left the mound with a sore finger for the third straight start Friday night.
With the Los Angeles Angels in free fall and his future uncertain before the trade deadline, the two-way superstar is battling a series of challenges even more daunting than the blister and broken fingernail that prevent him from pitching at his unique peak.
Ohtani allowed four earned runs on five hits and left in the sixth inning shortly before Mauricio Dubon’s tiebreaking two-run single in the Houston Astros’ 7-5 win over the Angels.
Ohtani (7-5) was pulled after he walked Corey Julks leading off the sixth, consulting with the Angels’ coaching staff before his departure with those lingering issues in his pitching hand. Ohtani’s last start before he ended the All-Star break with a blister on his fingertip, and he also dealt with a broken nail last month.
“For the most part, things just didn’t go my way,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “It’s been like that when I was on the mound… I haven’t really thought about when my next start is. I’m just going to go out on the field, see where my finger is and go.” from there.”
Ohtani said it’s “difficult to know” how significant this injury will be.
“I’m frustrated to a certain degree,” Ohtani said. “Not just me, but I feel like the whole team is. I think it’s natural when we can’t win games that frustration builds up.”
Ohtani, who allowed three walks and struck out seven, stayed in the game as a hitter and hit two singles at the plate, but his Angels have lost six straight and a season-high 10 of 11.
“I thought something wasn’t right in the sixth,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I saw something that wasn’t there right after he walked (Julks), so I wanted to see how it was, and he mentioned that the toe was a little tender. It didn’t open up, it didn’t break or anything like that, but I decided that it was good to get it out then.”
After receiving worldwide applause and attention during the All-Star Game festivities in Seattle, Ohtani returned to work in Anaheim amid strong questions about his future in Orange County. The Halos’ slump before the break reduced their playoff chances and raised the possibility that they will consider trading Ohtani, who will be a free agent this winter.
“It seemed like he wasn’t really himself tonight,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Ohtani. “I don’t know if that blister still bothers him, but he didn’t throw some pitches that he normally does. Every time you get five runs out of Ohtani, you do well. But he doesn’t look like himself.”
After Ohtani left, reliever Jacob Webb allowed Dubón’s game-winning single and José Abreu’s RBI single. The Astros bullpen then hung on to win the defending World Series champions at the All-Star break, with Ryan Pressly fanning out Ohtani as he struck out the sideline in the ninth inning for his 21st save.
Mickey Moniak had three hits and Taylor Ward homered for the Angels, who knocked Luis Rengifo out of the game in the fifth shortly after the third baseman made an error and then didn’t rush to stop Kyle Tucker’s scoring from second. Rengifo was withdrawn after a conversation on the bench with Nevin.
“There are certain things I won’t stand for,” Nevin said. “I didn’t think he was doing his best, and he knew exactly what we were talking about.”
Rengifo acknowledged his mistake after the game, as did Mike Moustakas, whose mishandling of a late-inning bunt preceded Dubon’s tiebreaking hit.
JP France allowed nine hits and two earned runs while pitching into the fifth inning for Houston. Phil Maton (2-2) got two outs in the fifth.
The Astros tied it in the fourth after loading the bases on a hit batter and two walks by Ohtani. Alex Bregman and Tucker then led off the fifth with doubles to put Houston ahead.
Associated Press contributed to this report.