Shohei Ohtani hits a three-run triple in Angels’ 7-1 win over Royals
Before his latest improbable act — a two-out, two-strike bases-loaded triple — Shohei Ohtani did something even more improbable.
The lone two-way sensation in baseball found a third way to wow fans.
Prior to the game, while greeting visitors on the field, he presented a child with a bat simply because the kid asked, the reigning best story in the sport delivering yet again.
“He looked really sad when he was asking me,” Ohtani explained through his interpreter after the Angels beat Kansas City 7-1. “He really wanted that bat. Hopefully, he can swing with that and become a really good player some day.”
After a brief pause, he added, “But I can’t be doing this all the time. I’ll run out of bats.”
So the charmed life of Ohtani and the Angels continued Thursday, the team winning on a night when Mike Trout homered and Nick Tropeano triumphantly returned, as did Ian Kinsler.
Still, it was Ohtani’s exploits — his three-run career-first triple — that topped all, adding another chapter to the unlikely tale of an experiment that so far has gone staggeringly well.
“I feel like the team’s momentum has been helping me,” said Ohtani, who, in 26 at-bats, is hitting .346 and slugging .769, his 11 RBIs tied with Trout for the team lead.
Remember, this is the Angels’ No. 8 hitter, a batting position rarely intentionally walked in the American League.
Social media continues to be overrun with demands that manager Mike Scioscia bat Ohtani somewhere other than eighth, somewhere closer to the middle of the lineup than the end.
Given his performance, such suggestions are understandable. But it should be noted that the Angels’ order — as currently constructed — has been the second-most productive through 14 games in franchise history.
No team in baseball has scored more runs, delivered more extra-base hits or generated more total bases than the one with Ohtani batting eighth and not even every day.
Against Kansas City, it began with Kinsler, who came off the disabled list and — in just his second appearance as an Angel — hit the third pitch of the game 412 feet for a home run.
That gave Tropeano a lead even before he threw a pitch, his first in the big leagues since July 18, 2016.
Rebounding from elbow reconstruction surgery, the right-hander gave the Angels 62/3 shutout innings, allowing six hits — five of them singles — and two walks while striking out six.
“I had plenty of time to reflect on that,” Tropeano said when asked about his journey back. “All I wanted to do was get out there and compete. Year and a half watching all your buddies play.… I just wanted to leave it all out there on the field.”
In his previous big league start, the Angels’ lineup included Daniel Nava, Ji-Man Choi and Jett Bandy.
These current Angels are just a bit deeper than that and more accomplished. They’ve won five in a row and eight of nine and, at 11-3, continue to match the best start in franchise history, equaling what the 1979 team did through 14 games.
They’ve had the lead at the end of 44 of the 45 innings played during their winning streak.
The other inning ended with the score tied. That means they haven’t trailed since Saturday, outscoring their opponents 39-8.
All that and Shohei Ohtani, too.
“You can see why he was such a force when he was hitting over there in Japan,” Scioscia said. “He’s got a great swing and great feel for hitting.”
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