Ohtani's 23rd ties it, but Halos fall in extras

June 21st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- There’s being hot at the plate, and then there’s what two-way star has been doing offensively the last week.

Ohtani, who announced Friday that he’s set to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in Colorado on July 12, has been otherworldly of late. He connected on his sixth homer over his last six games off Tigers right-hander Casey Mize in the fifth inning of an eventual 5-3 loss in 10 innings at Angel Stadium on Sunday. It gave him 23 on the year and moved him into a tie for the Major League lead with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The only game during his current tear in which he didn’t go deep came on Thursday, when he limited Detroit to one run over six innings in a win on the mound and went 0-for-1 with two walks at the plate.

"Pretty incredible, right?" Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "It's really fun to watch. He's playing with so much confidence. He's so talented and he's playing with a ton of confidence on top of that pitch-wise, hitting-wise, baserunning-wise."

Sunday’s blast set a new career high in homers for Ohtani, who hit 22 in 2018, when he was the American League Rookie of the Year. But it took him 104 games to hit 22 that season, and he reached 23 in 67 games this year. He’s also been able to do it while being dominant on the mound, as he has a 2.70 ERA in 10 starts this year and is slated to make his next outing on Wednesday against the Giants.

It was also Ohtani’s 70th career blast, and he joined some exclusive company, becoming just the fourth player in AL or NL history to have at least 70 career homers and 100 career strikeouts as a pitcher, joining Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, Rick Ankiel and Johnny Lindell.

Ohtani’s two-run homer came on a 1-2 slider at the bottom of the zone from Mize and tied the game at 3-3. It followed two strikeouts on fastballs in his first two at-bats. He went 1-for-4 with a walk and is hitting .272/.357/.649 this season.

"I was late on my timing, so I was trying to get my timing back,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “My first two at-bats weren't that good, so if I can get better at-bats, my overall condition will get better as well."

Mize pointed out that Ohtani simply hit a decent pitch. The young right-hander didn’t think he could strike Ohtani out a third time with a high fastball.

"If you look at it, it's not a bad pitch,” Mize said. “It caught the bottom of the zone. Definitely I was trying to bury it, and I think if we bury it, we've got a pretty good chance of him swinging over that. I didn't want to go back up to the fastball up that I beat him on three or four times prior to that point. But the pitch before the home run was a fastball elevated that he fouled off. He put a pretty good swing on it. So I didn't want to go to the well one too many times. I feel like he was looking for that."

The two-run shot scored David Fletcher, who has also been hot at the plate and led off the inning with a single. Fletcher also started an incredible double play in the second to help the Angels escape a bases-loaded jam.

"That was more than unlikely -- it was unbelievable,” Maddon said. “The thing you really have to focus on is the throws. I mean, Fletcher has to lead him. He's like [Patrick] Mahomes out there. He doesn't even have to look and he puts it on the money. It was really one of the better double plays I've seen."

Ohtani’s shot was the second homer of the game for the Angels, as Jared Walsh crushed a solo shot in the fourth, giving him a homer in three consecutive games. He ranks second on the club with 18 blasts this year.

But the Angels couldn’t score after Ohtani’s homer despite racking up 10 hits on the afternoon. They went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including failing to score in the 10th after closer Raisel Iglesias gave up two runs in the top half of the inning.

"We had opportunities,” Maddon said. “We had a lot of hits. We had good at-bats up and down. A lot of good stuff. But we had a double play with two runners on and and a runner at second with nobody out and a flyball to left. Those kinds of things hurt. But Shohei tried to save us once again."