Down 6-0, Angels’ bats awaken with homer by Ohtani and beat the Athletics 13-9
The Shohei Ohtani of Japan is now the Shohei Ohtani of the United States.
And of the Angels, the team’s prized two-way sensation officially cementing himself in franchise lore by homering for the third consecutive game — this one a launched laser that came down 449 feet away.
That was just the first blow in a game during which the Angels never stopped swinging, overcoming an early six-run deficit to beat Oakland on Friday, 13-9. The biggest punch was a Justin Upton three-run homer in the seventh, putting the Angels up for the first time and for good.
But, even more notably, the madness being produced by Ohtani marched on as, barely a week into his career, he continues to captivate this sport upon which he has been unleashed.
No Angels rookie had hit home runs in each of his first three home games. The most recent player to homer in three straight during a season in which he also started a game as a pitcher was Babe Ruth in 1930.
Does that sound old? Well, Ohtani just became the first American Leaguer with at least one home run and two RBIs in each of his first three home games since the run batted in was invented as an official statistic. That’s old.
His latest moment came in the second inning, against Daniel Gossett, Ohtani homering for the third time in his first 10 at-bats at Angel Stadium.
Know who else has three home runs this year? The Dodgers. All of them. Combined.
Ohtani has more homers at the moment than the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins.
Now, just imagine if the guy did this full-time. Ohtani’s workday began in the afternoon by throwing a bullpen session in preparation for his second pitching start, Sunday in the finale of this series.
Because of his schedule, Ohtani won’t be the designated hitter Saturday, despite his roll.
“At some point, he has to become a pitcher,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We have to get him ready to pitch.”
A few hours after throwing, Ohtani and his teammates rebounding from that early 6-0 hole, he came up in the fourth, representing the tying run.
It was 6-4 and with Luis Valbuena on second, for the first time in his major-league career, Ohtani heard his name being chanted during a game.
“Oh-TAH-nee” was the serenade as he took another mighty cut. This time his bat shattered and the ball died as a harmless fly to center.
No worries, there was more drama waiting just an inning away. With the bases loaded and the Angels trailing 8-6, Ohtani walked to the plate and the A’s countered with a pitching change.
Reliever Liam Hendriks was summoned and responded by walking Ohtani — he heard those same chants again as the stadium came to life — on four pitches, none of which was particularly close.
The walk forced in a run, giving Ohtani seven RBIs, which tied for the lead among the Angels and are roughly six more than most No. 8 hitters have after only four games.
Friday afternoon, Scioscia faced his first question about moving Ohtani up in the order. He has batted eighth in each game he has started as designated hitter.
Scioscia downplayed the possibility but acknowledged it could happen in the future, a future that might be approaching faster than almost anyone had anticipated.
One thing is certain: The adjustments made over the past few weeks by Ohtani — most noticeably replacing an exaggerated front leg kick with a subtle toe tap — have produced results.
“It’s not like he’s changing his mechanics drastically,” Scioscia said. “He’s just modified it a little bit to where he’s closer to the ground and can work a consistent approach.”
A consistent and damaging approach, the Shohei Ohtani of the Angels feeling right at home.
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