Shohei Ohtani does things on a nightly basis that cause a person to question whether their grip of reality is slipping away to never return. And yet, he continues to find unique ways to showcase just how much of a unicorn he really is, constantly updating an already-impressive résumé that really pops in both the analytical and artistic sense.
Witness his afternoon in Boston on Thursday. Ohtani started on the hill for the Los Angeles Angels, which meant his number was hanging on Fenway Park's famous hand-operated scoreboard. Meaning that Ohtani was in position of knocking it off via an opposite-field RBI double.
That feels very much like a Babe Ruth bit. Ohtani, of course, was the first starting pitcher to bat in the top four spots of the lineup at Fenway since Ruth.
It was one of Ohtani's two knocks on the day to raise his average to .240. His traditional offense has yet to emerge during the first month of the season, yet there's no reason to expect anything other than another 25-homer year with an OPS in the high .800s. Water tends to find its level.
But the pitching has been locked and loaded from Day 1. Ohtani twirled seven scoreless innings to capture his third victory, striking out 11 and walking zero along the way. He made Red Sox batters swing and miss 29 times, an MLB-high for the year and threw 81 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Eighty-one! Ohtani has now fanned 41 batters in 26.1 innings of work for a K/9 rate north of 14, best in the majors.
Rich Hill, channeling Captain Obvious, spoke for us all.
“He’s the best player in the league," he said. “I think that’s one thing everybody can pretty much unanimously agree upon. It’s pretty special to see somebody like that come along. I think everybody should be really appreciating what we’re seeing, because it’s something we haven’t seen in 100 years, and we may never see it again for another 100 years.”
Ohtani's exploits have to be seen to be believed. Seeing them so often makes them more believable. But it's really worth taking a pause and considering the historic feats he put on the record on an otherwise sleepy afternoon in May.
Scarier still is the idea that he's yet to reach his prime. That more seasoning will provide him an even better chance to excel. The best story in baseball keeps delivering exciting chapters with plenty of book left to go.