Ohtani smacks HR No. 45, one off MLB lead

September 22nd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- It had been a while since homered, but the two-way star connected on a solo shot, No. 45, in the Angels' 10-5 loss to the Astros on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani, who hadn’t gone deep since Sept. 10, is now tied for the second most homers in a single season in Angels history with Mike Trout, and he is one behind both Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the Major League lead. Troy Glaus holds the club record with 47 blasts in 2000. No Angels player has ever led the Majors in homers outright, though Reggie Jackson tied for the lead with 39 in 1982.

Ohtani got all of a 2-1 fastball from Astros right-hander Cristian Javier in the eighth inning, as the home run left the bat at 116.1 mph and went a projected 445 feet to right, per Statcast. It was the third home run of the game for the Angels, who also had jacks from Jack Mayfield and Phil Gosselin.

"I think if you chopped that one up, you might get two or three homers out of that one," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "It was crushed. I thought his previous at-bat -- a line-drive single to right field -- was good, also. I've seen him hit some fly balls to the opposite side. So it's a good sign. He's fine and in position to finish very strongly at the plate and on the mound."

The big fly is a welcome sight for Ohtani, who has been slumping a bit at the plate. On the mound, however, he’s still been pitching like an ace, as he struck out 10 over eight strong innings against the A’s on Sunday. He's 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings (22 starts) and is expected to make at least one more start this season.

Because of what he’s been able to do as a hitter, a baserunner and a pitcher, Maddon believes that Ohtani already has the American League Most Valuable Player Award locked up over Guerrero and Perez.

"I think everybody [else] is in second, third, fourth place,” Maddon said.

After going deep 33 times in 84 games before the All-Star break, it was just Ohtani's 12th homer in 60 games in the second half. He entered the game batting just .196 with two homers and four RBIs in 16 games in September, but Maddon believes he's seeing signs that Ohtani is coming out of his funk. A big issue for Ohtani has been not seeing many pitches to hit, especially with the Angels rolling out a depleted lineup sans fellow stars Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton.

“I’ve seen better ABs,” Maddon said. “What it’s going to come down to is him keeping a more finite strike zone. If he does that, you’re going to see him hit the ball very well.”

It was Ohtani's seventh career homer with an exit velocity of at least 115 mph -- the rest of the Angels have combined for just three such homers since 2015, when Statcast was introduced.

Ohtani also became the first player to hit at least 45 homers and steal 20 bases in a season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007, per ESPN Stats & Info. Rodriguez won the AL MVP that year with the Yankees. Ohtani currently has 23 stolen bases, which ranks ninth in the Majors.

Tuesday night's loss officially knocked the Angels from postseason contention for the seventh straight season. And it was yet another instance of Ohtani homering in a lopsided defeat, as it was the 13th time this year that he swatted one in a loss with at least a four-run margin. That ties Sammy Sosa (1999, Cubs) for the most such homers in AL or NL history, per Stats by Stats.