Shohei Ohtani refused to allow the good vibrations from the 30th reunion of the 1992 World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays to mushroom to the current club on Saturday.
The Los Angeles Angels ace starter surrendered only two hits, striking out nine with only one walk in a masterful season-high 109-pitch, seven-inning performance for a 2-0 victory.
Ohtani versus Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah, plus the reunion, provided quite the atmosphere.
Joe Carter, Dave Winfield, Dave Stieb, manager Cito Gaston and other members from the 1992 Blue Jays were feted with a pre-game ceremony, creating a buzz among the 45,311 spectators at Rogers Centre.
“Regardless of being home or away, when the crowd is electric like this, as a player, I love pitching in those types of situations,” said Ohtani (11-8), the reigning American League MVP.
The Angels (54-73) shut out the Blue Jays (68-57) for the second straight time to open the three-game series.
Manoah (12-7) also lasted seven innings with four hits on 105 pitches, eight strikeouts and two walks. However, the reunion and facing Ohtani didn’t change his approach.
“Every game is game seven of the World Series for me,” Manoah said. “It doesn’t matter if Ohtani was on the mound over there or Roger Clemens. My job was to come out and compete. Give the team my all and do everything I can to try and get us the win.
“Seeing (the 1992 team) come back and celebrating was pretty amazing. So hopefully, we can return to work and try and do the same thing.”
Angels shortstop Andrew Velazquez gave his team some breathing room with a two-out homer to right field in the ninth inning off reliever Anthony Bass.
The Angels snatched a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning. David Fletcher led off with a single to left and advanced to second after a walk to Mike Trout.
Ohtani then stretched Manoah into an eight-pitch at-bat, in which the Angels slugger fouled off five pitches. On the eighth pitch, Ohtani hit a comebacker to Manoah, who threw to erase Trout at second base, but Ohtani beat the relay to first.
With Fletcher now at third, Luis Rengifo singled to left to score his teammate.
Ohtani retired 11 consecutive from striking out Alejandro Kirk to end the third inning to fanning Bo Bichette to begin the seventh inning. However, the streak ended when Velazquez bobbled a Cavan Biggio grounder for an error.
Manoah and Ohtani did not yield a run through five innings, with the Blue Jays starter and his counterpart surrendering two hits apiece.
Toronto avoided danger in the fifth inning when rookie Ryan Aguilar squeezed a line drive down the right-field line for a double. But Angels third-base coach Mike Gallego waived Aguilar to take an extra base. He was tossed out with a perfect throw from right-fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley started in place of Teoscar Hernandez, who departed from Friday’s series opener with a left-foot contusion after fouling a ball off his foot. Hernandez was available to pinch hit on Saturday.
George Springer also played centre field for the first time since returning from the disabled list because of a right elbow injury 10 games ago.
Springer extended his hit streak to 11 games with a leadoff single to left in the first inning.
Interim Toronto manager John Schneider was ejected in the top of the eighth inning for arguing the final pitch of Mike Ford’s walk to load the bases.
The back-to-back losses to the Angels meant the Blue Jays had lost their third straight series at Rogers Centre.
Before their successful 6-1 road trip against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Toronto lost back-to-back series to the Cleveland Guardians and Baltimore Orioles.
At the 125-game mark, the Blue Jays are two wins ahead of the 66-59 record they had at this point a season ago.
Right-hander Ross Stripling (6-3) will start for Toronto in the series finale against Angels lefty Tucker Davidson (2-4).
On Monday, the Blue Jays begin a three-game set at home against the Chicago Cubs. Former Toronto starter Marcus Stroman is scheduled to pitch for Chicago on Tuesday.