Shohei Ohtani comes up a single shy of cycle as Angels beat Rays 6-4
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Last time Shohei Ohtani visited Tropicana Field in June 2019, he hit for the cycle.
On Sunday, he orchestrated another dazzling performance that was perhaps equally impressive.
Ohtani didn’t complete the cycle in the Angels’ 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, coming up only a single shy of replicating the feat. But what he did accomplish was almost more meaningful, a three extra-base-hit, three-RBI masterpiece that provided the slumping Angels with a much-needed jolt as they snapped a five-game losing streak.
“He sees things,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “And then he goes and he does them.”
In the fourth inning, Ohtani opened the scoring after drawing a walk, stealing second and scoring on an infield single by Phil Gosselin.
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“He’s one of the fastest players in the league,” Gosselin said. “He flies. People don’t realize that. He’s such a big guy.”
In the sixth, he gave the Angels a 2-1 lead after driving an RBI double off the wall in right — a 104.3 mph line drive that, according to Gosselin, was hit off a broken bat.
“It’s just crazy,” Gosselin added.
In the seventh, a half-inning after the Rays retook the lead on Ji-Man Choi’s three-run homer, Ohtani leveled the score again by lacing an RBI triple into the right field corner, scoring Juan Lagares after he had doubled home a run earlier in the inning.
And in the ninth, with the Angels clinging to a one-run lead after Gosselin’s go-ahead home run in the top of the eighth, Ohtani provided important breathing room by blasting his 25th home of the season high the other way over the left-center field wall.
“I’d like to hit one every game,” Ohtani, who set a personal best with his 10th home run in June, said in Japanese. He added: “I think I’ve been having good at-bats.”
Was Sunday Ohtani’s best game of the season?
“It’s up there,” starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval said. “But there’s so many that are up there, I couldn’t rank this.”
Ohtani is now batting .277 and has an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.031. Only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has more home runs. And his 46 extra-base hits lead the majors.
“This guy really likes to compete, he really likes the moment,” Maddon said. “There’s all this ubiquitous talent that he’s got. But it’s about: He loves to compete, and he plays the game.”
Maddon added: “How about the stolen base today? How about hitting [the triple down] the right-field line, then hitting [the home run] left-field oppo? That’s a really big knock in this ballpark for a lefty. He loves to play. That’s what I get from this guy.”
The Angels (37-40) needed every bit of Ohtani’s heroics on Sunday, struggling to pull away from a Rays (47-32) team that had beaten them in six previous meetings this season.
Sandoval had a no-hitter going through 42/3 innings, but then gave up a solo home run to Brandon Lowe in the fifth and exited the game after yielding back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth.
Reliever Mike Mayers ran into trouble after that, giving up the three-run homer to Choi in the sixth before letting two more Rays reach base in the seventh, forcing Maddon to summon Tony Watson from the bullpen to end the inning and keep a 4-4 tie intact.
Gosselin, who already had two infield singles and an RBI in his first three at-bats, finally put the Angels back in front in the top of the eighth, hooking his second home run of the season inside the left-field foul pole.
Then with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, closer Raisel Iglesias entered the game and completed a four-out save, retiring each batter he faced while picking up a couple strikeouts.
The agreement in which Anaheim sold Angel Stadium and parking lots to a company affiliated with team owner Arte Moreno may violate state law.
“It’s a tough place to play, against a good club,” Maddon said. “I’m certain they thought they had it, and then we came back. It definitely does something for your inner confidence.”
And once again, it was Ohtani who helped make such a rally possible.
With Mike Trout out injured and Anthony Rendon still struggling to rediscover his form, it has been Ohtani — who along with Trout were the only two Angels to advance to the second phase of fan voting for the All-Star game on Sunday — providing the Angels right now with a superstar boost.
It has been his two-way exploits, including a team-high 59 RBIs at the plate and team-best a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts as a pitcher, that are helping the Angels stay even somewhat afloat in the standings as the season approached the halfway mark.
And it is his highlight reel moments, several more of which were produced on Sunday, that are reverberating most around the rest of the team.
“I don’t know if they show the dugout [on TV] after whatever he does, but everyone is fired up and it keeps everyone locked in,” Sandoval said. “It’s awesome. What he does for this team, it’s indescribable.”
Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout advance to next phase of All-Star Game voting
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout each advanced to the second phase of All-Star Game fan voting, the league announced Sunday.
Ohtani was the top vote-getter among American League designated hitters, advancing to the next phase with fellow finalists J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox and Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros.
Trout, who has been out since May 17 with a calf strain that may prevent him from playing in next month’s All-Star Game in Denver, finished first among the nine AL outfielder finalists.
First baseman Jared Walsh missed the cut, finishing fourth among AL first baseman.
Only the top-three vote-getters at each position (nine for outfielders) advanced to the second phase of fan voting, which will determine the starters for the game. Voting in the second phase ends on July 1.
Ohtani, who has already announced he will participate in the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game, is looking to earn his first selection to the Midsummer Classic. Trout has been an All-Star in all eight of his full MLB seasons (last year, the game was not held because of the coronavirus pandemic).
Walsh is the Angels other legitimate All-Star candidate, but finished behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros and José Abreu of the Chicago White Sox in voting totals announced Sunday.
Walsh could still make the All-Star team as a reserve. Those spots will be chosen through a combination of Player Ballot selections and choices made by the Commissioner’s Office.
There is also a chance Ohtani could play both ways in the game, something Angels manager Joe Maddon said he would support.
The All-Star Game will be played on July 13 at Coors Field.
In other roster news Sunday: Maddon moved David Fletcher back to the leadoff spot in the Angels’ batting order, the first time Fletcher has led off since May 14 ... Catcher Kurt Suzuki returned to the lineup, his first start since leaving Wednesday’s game early after taking a ball off his cage ... Reliever José Quijada was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake. Left-hander Dillon Peters was recalled in his place.
Angels drop fifth straight, suffer 13-3 ‘butt-kicking’ against Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Angels did what they were supposed to do early this month, taking advantage of a soft stretch in their schedule at the beginning of June to get back above .500 and, briefly, reignite the belief they could be a playoff team.
But to earn true contender status, the Angels were always going to have to beat top-end teams too.
And to this point, they haven’t been able to consistently do so.
The latest evidence came Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field, where the Angels were thumped 13-3 by the Tampa Bay Rays to drop their fifth consecutive game.
Starting pitcher Alex Cobb, one of the team’s bright spots earlier this season, lasted just four innings and gave up six runs as his earned-run average rose to 5.09.
As the MLB trade deadline nears, the Angels are in gray area between buying and selling. There’s no telling which direction their campaign might turn.
Four of the runs came with two outs in the fourth, the third time this month Cobb has been hurt by an inning of four or more runs. Saturday’s explosion was capped by a two-run triple from Brett Phillips to break open what had been a 3-3 game.
“It’s just not barreling down and getting that third out,” Cobb said. “You’ve got to shut the door. It’s OK to let a run here or there cross the plate. But giving up that bases-clearing hit to Phillips is the one that’s going to keep me up at night.”
The bullpen, a source of inconsistency throughout this season, was tagged for seven more runs, including five in a seventh inning in which one run scored on a throwing error by right fielder Luis Rengifo and another on a bases-loaded walk issued by Junior Guerra.
The lineup, meanwhile, scored its only runs on two weakly hit doubles into shallow right field during the third inning. After that, the Angels generated only two baserunners the rest of the game.
Highlights from the Angels’ 13-3 road loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
“Today we just got beat up,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s just a butt-kicking right there.”
The defeat not only sealed a series loss to Tampa Bay (47-31), forcing the Angels (36-40) to try to avoid a sweep Sunday, but it also added to the club’s recent woes against opponents with winning records.
On the season, the Angels are 19-33 against teams that entered Saturday above .500 and have now lost eight straight such games.
The Angels’ last series win against a winning team: May 7-9, when they took two of three from a then-slumping Dodgers squad. Since then, they have lost seven of 10 such series, splitting the other three.
This week’s five-game skid, meanwhile, matches the Angels’ season high.
The agreement in which Anaheim sold Angel Stadium and parking lots to a company affiliated with team owner Arte Moreno may violate state law.
“We haven’t won the games we could have won, and that’s what separates moments like this,” said Maddon, whose team lost two extra-inning games earlier this week and a one-run contest Friday before suffering Saturday’s 10-run setback.
“Obviously, [today] we didn’t pitch that well. Overall, their pitching [stopped] our hitting. It really comes down to, you’re not going to win 10 in a row all the time, but the games you are in position to win, you’ve got to win.”
The Angels have done well against teams at the other end of the standings, including nine wins this month against the struggling Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers that had them back above .500 as recently as last week.
However, there aren’t many easy stretches on the near horizon, with 17 of the Angels’ next 20 games coming against winning clubs.
And unless they begin beating some of those teams again, they will be in danger of slipping further and further out of the playoff race.
“Losing sucks, doesn’t matter who you’re facing,” Cobb said. “We’ve had some really good stretches, and some .500 ball, and then we’ve hit some skids that’ve just kind of crushed us. … The effort is there from the guys. It’s just not coming all together right now.”
Angels vs. Rays updates: Rays win 13-3
Live updates as the Angels look to even their series with the Rays...
Bottom 2nd — Manuel Margot homers, Rays lead 2-0: The Rays strike first as Manuel Margot hammers a line drive home run into the left-field seats, a two-run blast on a sinker at the knees from Angels starter Alex Cobb. It was only the third home run yielded by Cobb this year, and the first to come against his sinker.
Top 3rd — Angels get good batted ball luck, take 3-2 lead: Shohei Ohtani hit a grounder. Anthony Rendon lifted a bloop. Most times, both of the weakly hit balls would’ve led to outs. Both in the third inning Saturday, each were hit to the perfect spots, a pair of doubles that plated three Angels runs.
After Juan Lagares laced a leadoff double in the inning and David Fletcher singled to put runners on the corners, Ohtani came up and hit a chopper to the right side.
If first baseman Ji-Man Choi was playing at his normal depth, it would have been a routine play. But because he was pulled in to protect against the runner at third, it bounced over his leaping attempt and into right field, allowing one run to score and Ohtani to race to second.
With two runners still on two batters later, Anthony Rendon got jammed on a 100 mph up and in. But, his blooper found unoccupied space in shallow right field and landed just inside the foul line, scoring two more runs to give the Angels the lead.
Bottom 4th — Rays strike for four runs, take 6-3 lead: Alex Cobb was an out away from escaping a fourth-inning jam. Instead, the Rays exploded for four runs.
After singles from Randy Arozarena and Ji-Man Choi put runners on the corners, Joey Wendle sliced a single into left to score one run and tie the game. One batter later, Brett Phillips snapped an 0-for-15 slump at the plate by lifting a two-strike sinker off the wall in center for a two-run triple.
Phillips scored in the next at-bat, sliding home in plume of dust after a wild pitch.
It marked the third time this month Cobb has surrendered at least four runs in one inning. It also was the final inning of his day, with José Quintana coming in to begin the fifth.
Bottom 6th — Rays add insurance, lead 8-3: After adding one run in the fifth on a Ji-Man Choi RBI single, the Rays added to their lead in the sixth with a solo home run from Mike Zunino. Meanwhile, the Angels haven’t had a baserunner since their three-run third inning.
Bottom 7th — Rays pile on, lead 13-3: The Rays added five runs in the seventh to pull away. Ji-Man Choi hit an RBI double to score one run. Brett Phillips hit an RBI single to score another, before a third came across on a throwing error by right fielder Luis Rengifo. Wander Franco walked with the bases loaded to tack on another. Randy Arozarena drove in one more with a bases loaded infield single.
Final — Rays win 13-3: The Rays clinch a series win over the Angels and will go for a sweep on Sunday. The Angels drop to 36-40 and have lost five in a row.
With Justin Upton out, could Shohei Ohtani be the Angels’ leadoff hitter?
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For the second straight day Saturday, Shohei Ohtani was put in the leadoff spot of the Angels’ lineup with Justin Upton on the injured list.
Is it something manager Joe Maddon might do more often while Upton, who had been batting first before going on the IL with a back injury, remains out?
Maddon left that possibility open when asked on Saturday afternoon.
“I thought putting him there, it’s the best possible chance for him to get a pitch,” Maddon said. “He’s being protected by the whole lineup now. I thought if you moved him down a little bit, it can become more tenuous. They really may choose not to pitch to him. But if he’s hitting first, you don’t want to put the guy on.”
That plan worked on Friday, when Ohtani crushed his first career leadoff home run off the catwalk above the right-field seats at Tropicana Field, his 24th home run of the season.
Saturday is only Ohtani’s third time batting leadoff this season and just his fourth career MLB start in the spot.
“Shohei right now, if I’m on the other side, I’m going to be very careful about it,” Maddon said. “So I wanted to put him in a spot, without J-Up there, that permits thats.”
In other roster news Saturday: Joe Maddon said catcher Kurt Suzuki could be ready to play on Saturday. Suzuki exited Wednesday’s game early after taking a foul ball off his cage and didn’t play on Friday.
Angels observations: Poor defense overshadows Canning’s start, Ohtani’s leadoff homer in loss to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Whenever the topic of pitching has come up this year, Angels manager Joe Maddon has usually espoused the importance of defense, too.
One of Maddon’s most common refrains: “We need to catch the ball.”
On Friday night, failing to do so cost his team in a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
In a series-opener at Tropicana Field, the Rays (46-31) scored all four of their runs in two half-innings. And both times, the Angels (36-39) failed to catch a ball they should have, leading to a fourth-straight loss and inauspicious start to a difficult seven-game road trip.
“We had a tough day in the outfield today,” Maddon said.
Here are three observations from the game.
Starting pitcher Griffin Canning had already surrendered two baserunners in the bottom of the first when Wander Franco sent a routine line drive into left field.
Taylor Ward, playing left in place of the injured Justin Upton, made a bad initial read on the ball but was still in position to get his glove to it. However, he couldn’t reel it in, the ball instead bouncing off his mitt as one run scored.
“On that, I got myself in a bad position right off the start,” Ward said. “It carried a little more than I anticipated, just kind of kept going. I tried to stab at it and missed it.”
Austin Meadows drove in two runs in the next at-bat, dumping a single into center that erased the Angels’ early 2-0 lead — built on solo home runs by Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon in the top of the frame — and gave the Rays a 3-2 edge.
The Angels tied the game at 3-3 in the third, but went behind for good after another sloppy inning in the bottom of the seventh.
After walks by reliever José Suarez put runners on first and second, Meadows hit a one-out pop -up into shallow left. Ward, third baseman Rendon and shifted shortstop José Iglesias all converged on the ball. All three seemed to be within range of catching it as well.
But the ball dropped anyway, miscommunication leading all three players to pull up on the play.
Ward, who said postgame he should have caught the ball, eventually fielded it and appeared to have a chance at forcing the lead runner out at third. But after delaying for a split-second, his throw back into the infield was too late.
Maddon came out to argue that the umpires should have called for an infield fly rule, but also to no avail.
“It’s a play we should have made,” Maddon said. “To me it was in an area that could have, should have been called an infield fly … But obviously, it was a big play in the game.”
Indeed, the Rays took the lead in the next at-bat when newly inserted reliever Steve Cishek plunked pinch-hitter Brandon Lowe with the bases loaded to force in the winning run.
Iglesias turned a double-play on a line drive up the middle to end the inning without any more damage, but the Angels offense failed to generate another baserunner against the Rays bullpen the rest of the game.
Maddon said Tropicana Field’s domed roof can be “problematic” for outfielders. Ward, who was playing his first career game in the stadium, agreed.
But, Ward added, “I don’t want to make any excuses. I should have caught both those baseballs.”
Canning recovers for five innings
Highlights from the Angels’ 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
It took Canning 32 pitches to get through the three-run first. Of the nine batters he got to two strikes, only five recorded an out. And he retired the side in order only once in five innings.
Yet, the right-hander managed to complete five innings, limiting the damage to just the three first-inning runs (only two of which were earned) to lower his season ERA to 4.95.
“That’s the kind of game that’s normally gotten away from him, we’ve seen that in the past,” Maddon said. “But he was able to reign it in and ended up giving up five innings. He kept getting stronger.”
Instead of leaning on his usually strong mix of sliders and curveballs, Canning opted for more changeups against the Rays lefty-heavy lineup. It didn’t lead to many strikeouts, but did help him keep his pitch count under control after the long opening inning.
After working around a leadoff single in the second, he got a key eight-pitch third inning before stranding two more batters in the fourth and another in the fifth -- his third-straight outing completing at least five innings.
“That third inning was when it clicked,” Canning said. “That inning was big for me to keep momentum on our side and work a little bit deeper into the game.”
Ohtani’s leadoff homer
It only took three pitches for Shohei Ohtani to record another career first on Friday.
Batting leadoff after Upton (right low back strain) was placed on the injured list earlier in the day, Ohtani crushed his first career leadoff home run — and 24th of the season, one behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the MLB lead — deep to right to begin the game. Ohtani’s blast left the bat at 116.1 mph and banged off the catwalk hanging high above the outfield stands.
According to MLB’s Statcast system, it traveled a projected 453 feet.
“That’s wrong,” he said. “There’s no way that’s 453. I’ve been here many times. I have never seen that, in a game or in batting practice.”
With Upton now out for at least the next week, Maddon will have to find a new leadoff hitter.
Friday was only Ohtani’s second time hitting in the top spot this year — a move Maddon made in part because the Rays were using an opener and he wanted the left-handed Ohtani and Jared Walsh to hit sooner — but could be something the manager considers moving forward.
“I did like it,” Maddon said.
Ohtani reached base in the third inning by bunting for a single and finished the night batting .269 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .996.
Maddon also confirmed that Ohtani’s next pitching start would come on Wednesday in New York against the Yankees.
Justin Upton put on injured list; Shohei Ohtani to lead off Friday
TAMPA — The Angels placed Justin Upton on the 10-day injured list with a right low back strain prior to their Friday series-opener in Tampa against the Rays.
Infielder Kean Wong was recalled in Upton’s place.
With Upton out, Shohei Ohtani will bat leadoff for just the second time this season on Friday.
Ohtani previously hit leadoff on May 12 in Houston. Overall this season, the two-way star enters Friday with a .265 batting average, an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .984 and 23 home runs, one behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for most in the majors.
Upton has been out since exiting Tuesday’s game with back tightness.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said earlier on Friday afternoon that Upton was feeling better and could potentially return before the end of the weekend.
But Upton’s status apparently worsened during pregame testing, forcing him onto the injured list for the first time this season. He had been batting .247 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .816 and 14 home runs in 63 games.
Here is the rest of the Angels’ lineup for Friday:
Betting lines and odds for Angels vs. Tampa Bay Rays on Friday
The Angels look to avenge being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this season when the two teams open a three-game series on Friday.
Griffin Canning will get the start for the Angels. He has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his last five road starts but has a 4.97 road ERA, with the team going 1-4 in his last five road starts.
The Rays will bring in Josh Fleming to pitch in a bulk role with Andrew Kittredge making his fourth start of the season as an opener. In his three starts, Kittredge has allowed one run and a home run in 4 1/3 innings. He has a 5-1 record with a 1.27 ERA.
Fleming has a 4-1 record with a 3.54 ERA in six appearances. He has a 2-3 record in six starts with a 3.63 ERA and a 2.3 strikeout-to-walk rate.
The Angels have scored three runs or fewer in three straight games after scoring at least four runs in 14 consecutive games. The Rays have given up at least five runs in six of their last eight games.
The Rays are 1-7 in their last eight games on the run line but also 14-3 straight up in their last 17 home games. The Angels have allowed at least five runs in nine of their last 12 games.