HOUSTON -- A week after a blister on Shohei Ohtani's right middle finger limited the two-way star to two innings pitched in a loss to Boston, he still couldn't command his renowned splitter and failed to complete six innings in the Los Angeles Angels' 8-7 slugfest win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday.
In his first encounter of the season with the reigning world champions, Ohtani gave up six hits over 5⅓ innings pitched, allowing four earned runs and striking out seven Astros in his Minute Maid Park debut.
"I feel a lot better than last outing, so it pretty much had no bad effects on me tonight," Ohtani said, referring to his start against Boston.
Ohtani's command was off in a season-high 98-pitch effort, in which he threw only 55 pitches for strikes. He gave up five bases on balls, with two of those free passes coming around to score.
Ohtani knows he needs to throw more first-pitch strikes to help his pitch count, but he said a team such as the Astros makes a pitcher work for everything he gets.
"The Astros have a great lineup, and they made me work really hard," Ohtani said. "So I need to kind of outwork them, outlast them. And if the pitch count goes up, there's nothing I can do about that, but I just need to outlast them."
The Angels' trainer checked Ohtani's hand in the sixth inning, but manager Mike Scioscia said after the game that the blister wasn't an issue.
"[Catcher] Martín [Maldonado] thought the ball came out funny there [in the sixth inning] in the last pitch he threw to [Yuli] Gurriel, and then he came back and struck out [Alex] Bregman, and we made the change," Scioscia said. "But [the trainer] went out there, and [Ohtani] said he's fine."
Maldonado agreed that the blister wasn't an issue for Ohtani on Tuesday.
"I saw it today, and it looked pretty good," said Maldonado, "and it's a matter of him knowing how to pitch with it, and I think he's doing a good job, this time today, especially today."
The right-handed pitcher did display the best fastball he has thrown in four starts this season, staying in the 97-98 mph range, throwing six pitches of 100 mph or more and hitting 101.0 twice. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 23-year-old became just the seventh starter in the past decade to reach at least 101.0 mph with a pitch.
The biggest damage against Ohtani was done by Astros nine-hole hitter Derek Fisher, who hit a two-run shot to dead center in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Angels, who didn't trail until Ohtani exited the game in the sixth, scored in the first inning with Mike Trout's MLB-leading 10th home run of the season and regained the lead in the seventh with Andrelton Simmons' second home run of the evening.
In his effort to prove that he can be a legitimate two-way player in the majors, Ohtani is 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 20.1 innings pitched after Tuesday's start. As a left-handed hitter, the 23-year-old rookie owns a .333 average with three homers and 11 RBIs.