Denver: It was a night of pyrotechnic offence, the show literally stopping Coors Field and forcing everyone’s eyes skyward.
Then, unfortunately for the Angels, the game began.
Unable to duplicate the fireworks-filled batting practice of Shohei Ohtani, the Angels fell 4-2 to Colorado on Tuesday night.
“You’re disappointed when you come in and you don’t swing the bat as well as you want,” shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “You gotta shake it off and come back tomorrow and try again.”
Playing in a National League park that doesn’t allow for a designated hitter, Ohtani didn’t start. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning, grounding out as the potential tying run with the Angels trailing 2-0.
But it was his thin-air batting practice that mesmerised the stadium as he hit baseballs into places generally considered reachable only via Uber.
Ohtani deposited multiple would-be home runs into the park’s third deck in right field, 400-who-knows-how-many feet away.
Each one was marked by oohs and aahs. When Ohtani was done, he received an ovation particularly hearty given that the game was still an hour or so away from starting.
Once play commenced, the Angels were unable to figure out Jon Gray and lost at Coors Field for the first time in nine games, a streak that began in 2001, a month before Mike Trout’s 10th birthday.
Beforehand, manager Mike Scioscia talked about the importance of being productive here, noting the need to “score whatever runs are available” in a place famous for serving all-you-can-eat offence.
Then he watched his team load the bases with two outs in the first inning and fail to produce against Gray, Zack Cozart striking out on a full-count slider to end the threat.
“He made a good pitch,” Scioscia said. “But there was a lot of baseball left.”
There just weren’t many chances to come as the Angels were dominated by Gray, who continued a run of unprecedented success by Rockies starters.
The right-hander retired 11 batters in a row during one stretch and gave up only two more singles, striking out eight over seven innings.
Gray’s performance was Colorado’s ninth consecutive quality start, a franchise record.
“He made good pitches,” Simmons said. “He didn’t give anything away.”
For the Angels, Andrew Heaney provided another start that was good in every way other than the fact it wasn’t as good as Gray’s.
He gave up a solid RBI single to DJ LeMahieu in the third and, three innings later, an RBI single that Gerardo Parra just sort of coaxed into left field.
Beyond that, only one other Colorado runner advanced past second, Heaney holding down a team that had scored 24 runs in its previous four games.
“We had a game plan going in there,” Heaney said. “I think with the exception of a couple mistakes on my part, we executed it pretty perfectly.”
Since moving back to the first-base side of the pitching rubber three games ago, the left-hander has a 2.12 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings.
Heaney started the game most impressively, setting down the Rockies in order in the first inning on eight pitches, which one of which was a strike.
“I think Andrew is starting to get into the flow of the season,” Scioscia said. “He’s giving us chances to win games. Andrew’s doing his part, no doubt.”
Heaney was good, but he wasn’t enough, not on a night when the Angels’ offence was better in practice than in the real thing.