Ward homers twice, Ohtani earns win as Angels beat Twins 4-2

The Associated Press
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani blows on his hand in the first inning of Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Taylor Ward homered twice and Shohei Ohtani took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, helping the Los Angeles Angels beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2 on a cool, rainy Friday night.

Ohtani seemed to have trouble adjusting to the weather conditions, tying his career high with six walks. He also hit a batter in the first, when Minnesota scored without a hit, but he managed his way through five-plus innings to earn his fourth straight win.

Ohtani (14-8) allowed two runs and struck out seven to reach 203 Ks on the season, reaching 200 for the first time in his career. He’s the first player in MLB history to have 200 strikeouts and hit at least eight home runs in the same season.

“It’s a big milestone for me,” Ohtani said through an interpreter of reaching 200 strikeouts. “It just shows that I’ve been able to consistently take the mound every fifth or sixth day.”

While Ohtani is in the MVP discussion after winning the award last year, Angels interim manager Phil Nevin believes the Japanese right-hander should also be considered for the Cy Young award.

“I think he’s right in that talk,” Nevin said. “He’s going to get there with the innings, I think. Personally, there’s nobody better I want. There’s nobody I want on the mound more if I want to win a big game. I certainly think he should be in the discussion.”

Ohtani added an RBI single in the seventh for Los Angeles. Ryan Tepera got three outs for his fourth save.

The Twins (73-78) lost for the eighth time in nine games. The team also announced that All-Star outfielder Byron Buxton is done for the season and will have surgery on his troublesome right knee.

Luis Arraez singled with two outs in the fifth for Minnesota’s first hit of the game.

“I was actually reasonably pleased that we didn’t just go out there just swinging,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We actually made him get back in the zone and make some pitches.”

Rookie Louie Varland (0-2), a Minnesota native making his first MLB start in his home state, gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings in his third career start for the Twins.

“It was nerve-wracking, still very exciting,” Varland said, noting he left 41 tickets for family and friends and that there could have been 200 friends and family in attendance. “After everything’s done with, it was a lot of fun. It was unreal.”

The first-pitch temperature was 53 degrees and rain fell throughout the early innings. The grounds crew had to repair the mound several times but the game was never delayed.

Ohtani settled down after a shaky first, allowing just three baserunners over the next four innings. At one point, he struck out five batters in a row before Arraez’s hit to the opposite field with the infield shifted.

“I was having some trouble with my landing spot,” Ohtani said. “I was afraid I might slip a little bit. But this is going to happen in the future, so something I need to get used to and just keep on working on.”

The first four batters reached in the sixth, and Jake Cave singled in Nick Gordon for Minnesota’s second run. But Aaron Loup relieved Ohtani and got a strikeout and a double play to end the threat.