With the Angels down to their final out and on the verge of losing their fifth straight game, they leaned on their two stars to take a lead against the Red Sox in the series finale on Sunday at Fenway Park.
Superstar Mike Trout stepped to the plate on an 0-for-18 skid but came through with a bloop single to right off closer Matt Barnes to keep the game alive. It set the stage for a two-run blast from Shohei Ohtani on a first-pitch fastball to give the Angels the lead in a wild 6-5 win over Boston to snap a four-game losing streak. It was the first go-ahead homer for the Halos with two outs in the ninth since Hank Conger had one on Aug. 31, 2013, and it helped make up for blowing an early 4-0 lead.
"That was pretty large," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "It's been a tough road trip. We've had games we should've won and didn't. This could've been a series win for us and was not. These are the kinds of things we have to start taking care of. You can't be giving up leads, and we jeopardized it again today. But we did come back. It takes a bloop and a blast. You say it all the time in the dugout, and it's exactly what occurred."
It was the 12th homer of the season for Ohtani and his second of the series. The two-way star is now tied for the Major League lead in homers with the Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr., the Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Mariners' Mitch Haniger.
On this pivotal homer, Ohtani jumped on a first-pitch 97-mph fastball from Barnes and kept it just fair down the right-field line past Pesky’s Pole. Ohtani got just enough of it, as it had an exit velocity of 96.6 mph and went a projected 372 feet down the line, per Statcast.
"I was looking at the ball and praying it was fair,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “That's all I was thinking."
Barnes simply came away amazed by yet another heroic feat from Ohtani, who has proven to be one of the game’s best hitters as well as one of the best pitchers this season.
“I personally think he's the most physically gifted baseball player that we've ever seen,” Barnes said. “I don't know that you're ever going to see somebody who can throw 101 and hit the ball 600 feet. So, I mean, he's a special player. He's incredibly talented and, you know, hopefully he stays healthy and has a long career.”
Ohtani called it the biggest homer of his career, as it helped the Angels finish an otherwise frustrating road trip on a high note. And it could build some momentum going into a 10-game homestand against the Indians, Twins, A’s and Rangers.
"We're coming off a losing streak. The way we lost the first two games of the series wasn't a good way to lose, so this was huge for us,” Ohtani said. “We showed we can beat any team. Hopefully we get rolling.”
Ohtani is also set to make his next start on the mound Wednesday, a day later than originally scheduled to give him an extra day of rest after Maddon noticed some fatigue from Ohtani the day after his last start. But he looked fresh against the Red Sox and came through when it mattered the most in the series finale.
Maddon said the dugout was electric after the homer, and reliever Mike Mayers was able to throw a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season after closer Raisel Iglesias pitched in the eighth. But the skipper added that his club has to continue to learn to win close games going forward.
"It was as you would imagine,” Maddon said. “It was explosive, volcanic. Whatever you want to say. It was great. The guys needed something to cheer about. They've been getting after it. They had a tough road trip, but the record doesn't indicate how close the games were. When you grab a lead, you need to learn how to hold on, and it's as simple as that."