ANAHEIM, Calif. — Kody Clemens will never catch his father in career strikeouts. When it comes to their first one, though, the kid has the upper hand.
Mopping up in the eighth inning, Clemens froze last year’s AL MVP with a 68 mph pitch on the outside corner for his first major league strikeout and gave an exuberant strike three call on the mound.
Ohtani hit two home runs earlier — his sixth multi-homer game of the season.
“I’m just trying to get outs, and for it to come like that is obviously super cool,” Clemens said. “He’s the best player in baseball. So it’s a pretty cool moment for me.”
Grinning ear to ear, the 26-year-old Clemens tossed the souvenir ball into the dugout for safe keeping and is hoping to get it signed by the Angels’ two-way star during the final two days of the series.
“It was a wonderful pitch,” Ohtani said through his interpreter.
By far the hardest one of their encounter, too.
Ohtani fouled off a 54 mph delivery from Clemens, took a 57 mph pitch for a ball and then fouled off a 56 mph offering.
“I mean, obviously can’t do it slow enough for Ohtani. Maybe you can throw it slow and slow and slow and then maybe surprise him with a fastball,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “Big smile on Kody’s face, and Shohei tipped his cap.”
Those were four of the seven slowest pitches Ohtani has faced this season, according to MLB Statcast. The other three were by Tampa Bay outfielder Brett Phillips, including a 53 mph “fastball” during the Angels’ 12-0 victory on May 12, when Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter for Los Angeles.
Clemens was pitching for the third time in the past seven days to save Detroit’s bullpen with the game out of reach. He worked one inning and allowed one run on three hits.
He has pitched six times this season and given up three runs on 10 hits in six innings.
Roger Clemens had 4,672 strikeouts during his 24-year career, third on the all-time list behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. The Rocket’s first one came against Cleveland’s Mike Hargrove on May 15, 1984.
“I don’t know how (Kody’s) father would have done against (Ohtani), but he can always say he punched him out,” Hinch said.