Shohei Ohtani spent a chunk of Friday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field playing Super Smash Bros., the Nintendo crossover fighting video game, with teammate David Fletcher.
The Angels slugger had so much fun he turned Friday night’s 7-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians into his own personal video game, smashing two home runs, one of them a prodigious 443-foot blast, and sparking a tie-breaking, four-run eighth-inning rally with a single and a stolen base.
Ohtani’s power and speed, along with some clutch hits by Fletcher, Jose Briceno and Eric Young Jr., and some solid pitching, gave the Angels their first win in Progressive Field in almost four years. The Angels had lost 10 straight games here, their last win coming on Sept. 8, 2014.
“That’s what Shohei can do, that’s his talent,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was dynamic in a lot of areas — running the bases, driving the ball. That was a great pick-up game for us after a rough series.”
The Angels had lost four straight, including a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay, and pitching for the Indians Friday night was Mike Clevinger, the long-haired, hard-throwing right-hander who had a 3-0 record and 2.95 ERA in four career starts against the team that drafted him and traded him to Cleveland in 2014.
The left-handed-hitting Ohtani found Clevinger’s fastball to his liking. He drove a low-and-inside 96-mph offering over the 19-foot-high left-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning, a 374-foot poke that was Ohtani’s first road homer and first opposite-field homer of the season.
Then in the third inning, Ohtani, who had a career-high four hits, obliterated a 94-mph, full-count fastball, blasting his 443-foot shot with an exit velocity of 111 mph to deep right-center field to tie the score 3-3.
“You have to watch him, man,” shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “I’ve played against Giancarlo Stanton. I play with Mike Trout. I played with Evan Gattis.
“I’ve played with guys who can do some special stuff, and whenever they’re hitting, you don’t want to miss their at-bats because they can do something special. When he hit that ball to right field, it was loud and far.”
Ohtani’s second homer made jaws drop in the Angels dugout, and Scioscia said it was “one of the longest we’ve seen here.” But the manager thought Ohtani’s first homer was even more impressive because it’s so tough for a left-handed hitter to home run to left field here.
“It’s tough to get it out to that part of the park,” Scioscia said. “It’s almost like a Green Monster out there, but it’s normal distance, it’s not short like Fenway. You have to hit it hard to get it out of that part of the park, and he hit it like a right-handed pull hitter.”
Angels starter Jaime Barria gave up two runs in the first three innings but blanked the Indians from the third through fifth innings. Clean innings by relievers Jose Alvarez (sixth) and Justin Anderson (seventh) kept the score tied.
With one out in the eighth, Ohtani, who entered with a .170 average (nine for 53) and 22 strikeouts against left-handers, fought off a 90-mph inside fastball from left-hander Oliver Perez and stroked a single to left.
Submarine-throwing right-hander Adam Cimber replaced Perez. Ohtani got a green light from third-base coach Super Smash Bros and stole second. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked. Simmons grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Fletcher fell behind in the count but was able to slice a 1-and-2 slider down the right-field line for an RBI ground-rule double and a 4-3 lead.
“I guess the more pitches you see against a guy like that, the better,” Fletcher said. “I got to see quite a bit of him, and he finally left one out over the plate.”
Luis Valbuena was intentionally walked to load the bases. Briceno beat out a slow roller to third for an RBI infield single and a 5-3 lead. Young banged a two-run double off the right-center field wall to make it 7-3.
Ohtani’s stolen base changed the complexion of the inning. With him at first, the Indians would have pitched to Pujols, who is good in the clutch and a double-play threat.
“Shohei being aggressive … it set the table for a bigger inning, which we needed,” Scioscia said.