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Shohei Ohtani homers in first at-bat at home as Angels dominate Indians

After all those frowning concerns, a dugout of smiles.

After all those doubts, an answer most definitive.

After all those grounders, the biggest of flies.

No way, Shohei!

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One of the most anticipated rookies in baseball history, Shohei Ohtani delivered dramatically for the second time in three days, rewarding that anticipation this time with a three-run homer in his first Angel Stadium at-bat.

“That was ridiculous,” Justin Upton said after the Angels’ 13-2 victory over Cleveland. “It’s awesome, man. Just in that situation … first at-bat at home. … You can’t draw it up any better than that.”

The arching first-inning drive came on an otherwise unsuspecting 74-mph curve from Josh Tomlin.

As the ball sailed over right-center and landed an estimated 397 feet away, the stadium boomed with noise and chaotic delight. Fireworks crackled overhead.

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Ohtani touched home and, as he headed toward the bench, shook the hands of the next two scheduled batters — Rene Rivera and Zack Cozart.

Then, he arrived back in the dugout to find the only silent space around. The Angels, honoring a baseball tradition, flatly ignored their conquering teammate.

Finally, Ohtani broke the stillness by wrapping his arms around Ian Kinsler’s shoulders and the Angels converged, giving Ohtani high-fives and back slaps.

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With the crowd’s roar rising again, Rivera put one foot outside the batter’s box, delaying the game long enough for Ohtani to do quick curtain call, his helmet held aloft.

“I thought it was going to hit the fence,” Ohtani said. “I’m glad it went into the stands.”

Said Kinsler: “It’s great to see something like that from a guy who has a huge spotlight on him.”

All of this, after a spring training that saw Ohtani hit nothing but singles and not very many of them, a spring training during which he struggled with those very breaking pitches.

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The lacking performance prompted speculation that he could start the season in the minor leagues, the Angels insisting they would stick to their plan and encouraging the outside world to be patient.

Turns out, there wasn’t much patience necessary. In his first pitching start, on Sunday in Oakland, Ohtani beat the A’s by limiting them to three runs — all in the span of three batters — in six often-dominant innings.

His first appearance on the mound at Angel Stadium is set for Sunday, against the same Oakland team. After the flair he has displayed of late, the anticipation for that start should now only increase.

This was Ohtani’s second game as a designated hitter. In the Angels’ season opener Thursday, he singled — a ground ball to right — in his first at-bat, and then made four rather routine outs.

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In his second career DH appearance, routine was harder to find, Ohtani also lining a single off the glove of Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis and another single up the middle.

“He’s got a lot on his shoulders in terms of expectations,” winning pitcher Garrett Richards said. “It was good to see him go out there and have fun and produce.”

Ohtani’s theatrics highlighted a night when the Angels ended a 12-game losing streak to the Indians, a slide that equaled the franchise record for consecutive defeats to one team.

Upton, Rivera, Mike Trout and Luis Valbuena also homered, drives memorable in the moment but made more mundane by what Ohtani did.

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jmiller2929@yahoo.com


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