QUEENS — True to the spirit of Japanese Heritage Night at Citi Field, Shohei Ohtani and Kodai Senga were the focal point of a 3-1 Los Angeles Angels win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citi Field.
With the loss, the Mets (59-70) — who were held to just four hits — have sunk into last place in the National League East following the Washington Nationals’ victory over the Miami Marlins earlier in the day. They haven’t finished last in the division since 2002.
The Japanese compatriots faced each other three times in Ohtani’s first-ever appearance at Citi Field against a team he has been linked to in trade and free agency talks over the last two seasons. It was the Angels star that came out on top each time at the plate, going 1-1 for with a pair of walks against Senga, who otherwise had yet another solid outing in his rookie season.
“He’s a very special player,” Senga began. “And I think that in itself makes [pitching against Ohtani] very special.”
He was retired in his fourth at-bat of the night by Mets reliever Adam Kolarek, who coaxed a groundout to first and was intentionally walked in the ninth inning to load the bases with two outs after the Angels scratched their third run of the night across thanks to Nolan Schanuel’s RBI single.
Ohtani helped spark the Angels’ two-run third inning that provided the difference when he ripped a double that left the bat at 115.4 mph beyond the outstretched glove of Jeff McNeil in right field — who had been turned around by the knuckling screamer — to put runners on second and third. Following a Brandon Drury sacrifice fly to bring in the opening run on Senga, Mike Moustakas scored Ohtani from third with a clean single.
Senga rebounded to once again allow three or fewer runs for an 11th straight time, yielding just those two third-inning runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts across 6.2 innings of work. He was once again paced by his dominant ghost forkball, which generated 15 whiffs on 18 swings. Eight of his 10 punchouts came on that pitch.
After striking out Mickey Moniak and Randal Grichuk to lead off the seventh inning, raising his pitch count on the night to 105, Showalter pulled him with Ohtani just two batters away.
“We’re proud of him,” Showalter said of Senga. “He won’t admit it, but I’m sure [this game was special for him].”
Francisco Lindor accounted for the only Mets’ run of the night when he lined his 24th home run of the season just inside the left-field foul pole in the bottom of the third to halve New York’s deficit. It was the only dent the Mets could make in Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, who held the Mets to just two hits in six innings of work while striking out six.
Against reliever Matt Moore in the seventh inning, though, New York had the tying run 90 feet away following a Danny Mendick double before moving to third on Jonathan Arauz’s sacrifice bunt that was booted by Los Angeles catcher Logan O’Hoppe to put runners on the corners.
But Tim Locastro struck out before Brandon Nimmo’s shallow fly ball prompted Mets third-base coach Joey Cora to send Mendick, who was thrown out by 10 feet for an inning-ending double play.