OAKLAND, Calif. — Logan O’ Hoppe finished batting practice, greeted his parents, then made his way past the hoards of reporters in front of the dugout. Asked what the young catcher, making his first opening night appearance, expected his starting pitcher to do, O’Hoppe’s eyes lit up and he grinned.
“Do Shohei Ohtani things.”
Ohtani pitched three innings of no-hit baseball against the Athletics before he got tagged by back to back hits in the fourth inning. Needing two outs to get out of the jam, Ohtani struck out the next two batters — Jesus Aguilar and Ramon Laureano, on a 100.7-mph fastball. Ohtani yelled as he walked back to the dugout.
Ohtani struck out 10 over six innings at Oakland Coliseum, giving up just the two hits and walking three. Not that any of it mattered in the end. Ohtani exited his start with the Angels ahead by a run. In the eighth inning, the A’s Tony Kemp hit an RBI double to tie the score and the A’s went on to win 2-1.
Thursday was opening night, and for Ohtani and the Angels, the start of a season where they’ll try to end end their eight-plus year playoff drought. The ceremonial bunting hung in the Coliseum, the “2023 OPENING DAY” MLB logo painted on the field, the fireworks were launched into the sky.
And the announced crowd of 26,805 fans — the ones supporting the Athletics, the ones cheering for the Angels and the ones who showed up wearing A’s shirts underneath Ohtani jerseys — shivered in the low temperatures, witnessing all of Ohtani, and sticking around for the A’s late comeback, a surge that started in the eighth inning.
The A’s rally started with Angels reliever Aaron Loup on the mound.
Consecutive hits from Esteury Ruiz and Kemp got the A’s their first run. Loup struck out the next batter before being replaced by Ryan Tepera, who was greeted with a single by Aledmys Diaz to drive in Kemp.
Before the game got away from the Angels late, Ohtani’s start needed a few batters to find his dominance. Kemp was the first batter walked by Ohtani. O’Hoppe had to make an early trot out to his pitcher during that at-bat.
But Ohtani, with the help of the position players behind him, never let it unravel. Brandon Drury expertly fielded a grounder hit down the first base line by Conner Capel, securing the forceout on Kemp at second.
Capel reached on a fielder’s choice. Ohtani retired the last two batters of the inning on a strikeout and flyout.
Another one of those key moments came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jace Peterson hit a deep line drive to right field. Hunter Renfroe tracked the shot the whole way and, despite the catch looking improbable, he made one.
Renfroe caught Peterson’s shot on the fly, behind his back, not even fully looking at the ball. Even Ohtani appeared stunned as he raised his arms in the air, then on top of his head.
It also took the Angels’ offense three innings before it produced a hit, let alone a run.
Gio Urshela broke through against A’s rookie starter Kyle Muller in the third inning.
He also scored their first run of the game in the fifth, driven in by O’Hoppe.