ANAHEIM, Calif. — Say it ain’t Sho.
That phrase could have been uttered by fans in Angel Stadium who headed for the concession stands or restrooms after the fourth inning Wednesday night and returned to their seats expecting to see Shohei Ohtani on the mound in the fifth.
The right-hander seemed fine, with the exception of some command issues and a slight dip in velocity, through four innings of a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals, allowing one run and four hits, striking out four and walking three.
Then, as Ohtani completed his warmup pitches for the fifth, manager Mike Scioscia, athletic trainer Eric Munson and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara hustled to the mound.
A 20-second examination of the middle finger of Ohtani’s pitching hand, where a blister had formed, yielded a swift decision. Ohtani was pulled in favor of reliever Jim Johnson.
“He started to feel it somewhere in the third or fourth inning,” Scioscia said. “We talked to him between innings to see how it would feel. He didn’t look good in his warmups, and we went out to talk to him. It was time to get him out.”
This marked the second time this season that Ohtani left a game because of a middle-finger blister, which is usually caused, and exacerbated by, his split-fingered pitch. He lasted only two innings of a 10-1 loss to Boston on April 17.
Ohtani, who missed two months of the 2016 season in Japan because of a blister but also pitched entire seasons with blisters, made his next scheduled start a week later.
“It’s in the same place,” Scioscia said. “I haven’t checked it yet, but it didn’t look as bad” as the blister from the Red Sox game. Ohtani was not available for comment afterward.
The Angels trailed 1-0 when Ohtani departed. Three innings later, they had a 4-1 lead. Johnson, Cam Bedrosian and Jose Alvarez kept the Angels in front with scoreless relief innings.
Justin Anderson, who walked the bases loaded before saving Sunday’s win over Texas, walked two in the eighth, threw a wild pitch and gave up a two-run single to Alex Gordon that pulled the Royals to within 4-3.
Hunter Dozier’s single advanced Gordon to third, but Blake Parker relieved Anderson and struck out Ryan Goins with a nasty split-fingered pitch in the dirt to snuff out the rally.
Parker retired the side in order in the ninth for his fifth save to complete a three-game sweep of Kansas City and a 5-1 homestand.
Back-to-back doubles by Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart to start the fifth tied the score 1-1.
The Angels loaded the bases with one out on walks to Mike Trout and Luis Valbuena, but Royals starter Ian Kennedy got Martin Maldonado to pop out to the catcher and Chris Young to pop out to second.
Kaleb Cowart, recalled from triple-A Wednesday to replace injured shortstop Andrelton Simmons on the roster, doubled to right-center field off reliever Scott Barlow to open the sixth.
Kinsler, who snapped an 0-for-14 skid with his earlier double, hit a towering two-run home run to left to give the Angels a 3-1 lead.
Scioscia gave Justin Upton the green light on a 3-0 pitch in the seventh. Upton clobbered a 90-mph fastball, lining over the wall in left for his 14th homer of the season and a 4-1 lead. He went eight for 11 (.727) with two homers and three RBIs in the series.
Ohtani’s fastball touched 99 mph in the first and hit 98 mph in the second, but it dipped to the 96-mph range in the third, when he allowed a leadoff single to Mike Moustakas and a two-out RBI single to Gordon for a 1-0 Royals lead.
A pair of walks to Dozier and Goins loaded the bases with two outs, but Ohtani struck out No. 9 hitter Abraham Almonte with a split-fingered pitch in the dirt to minimize damage.
“He had a little problem early commanding his split and slider,” Scioscia said, “but he made some great pitches with guys on base to put up some zeroes.”