In the end, the result was more of what the Angels have known all too well during their seven-year playoff drought. But the route the team took during Thursday’s 3–1 Opening Day defeat against the Astros could provide hope that this year, finally, maybe, could be different.
There was certainly something different about reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani. After averaging 95.6 mph on his fastball in 2021, he topped out at 99.8 on Thursday and never threw a fastball slower than 95. If that’s the new normal for baseball’s two-way sensation, opposing hitters would be wise to take notice.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Ohtani said after the game when asked whether his added velocity was sustainable. “It’s going to be a long season, so I don’t know how fatigue is going to play into it, but I’m going to try to pick my spots and throw hard.”
Ohtani lasted just 80 pitches and 4 2/3 innings, giving up one run with nine strikeouts, but it’s what transpired after he left the mound that should give the Angels some belief that 2022 could mark a return to the postseason.