Shohei Ohtani struggles as Angels blast way past Pirates

Anything for Shohei, they say, and so Miki Taguchi and Grace Kramp were packed into a store line at Angel Stadium, the two middle-aged women far from the concrete and clouds of home in Chicago.

Sure, they tried to pop up at every White Sox game when the Angels were in town. Not enough. They’d driven to Kansas City, and showed up in Anaheim Friday night just to see Shohei Ohtani pitch. Anywhere to catch the shooting star.

An uncertainty hangs within these summer nights at Angel Stadium, a tension thickening the July humidity, that the Angels might sputter and slide in the standings and have no choice but to trade the best player in baseball. That come August 1, the Taguchis and Kramps and super-fans covered in mini Ohtani-heads might not be coming around anymore. So a swell came when Ohtani walked off the mound in Friday night’s start against the Pirates despite a crooked ledger — despite an improbable four homers surrendered in an 8-5 win.

An ovation that felt not like a celebration for a pitcher who’d given up five earned runs in 6⅓ innings. An ovation that felt like a celebration for a pitcher who could, under an avalanche of outside musings pressing in on a tight-lipped clubhouse, be making the final start of his six enrapturing years at Angel Stadium.

“It’s up to the front office, it’s not really up to us … it’s going to happen if it’s going to happen,” said Angels reliever Tucker Davidson pregame, when asked if Ohtani had discussed trade rumors with teammates.

Shohei Ohtani celebrates after scoring on an RBI double by Mickey Moniak in the fourth inning against the Pirates.

Shohei Ohtani celebrates after scoring on an RBI double by Mickey Moniak in the fourth inning against the Pirates.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“If we put ourselves in that situation, well, we did it to ourselves,” Davidson continued. “And we don’t want to do that to ourselves. We just have to go out there each day and try to get a W.”

They did on Friday night, thanks to a wacky slugfest hardly matched in season memory, four Angels going yard despite Ohtani’s wobbly start. Recent acquisition Mike Moustakas hit a three-run shot in the fourth inning, rookie Trey Cabbage followed shortly with his first homer of his career, and Zach Neto and Taylor Ward added blasts in the fifth to power the Angels.