Ohtani's 19th HR sets mark for Japanese rookies

Designated hitter's 3-run homer fuels Angels' win in Chicago

September 8th, 2018

CHICAGO -- Shohei Ohtani continues to show he has no problems hitting with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The left-handed-hitting Ohtani crushed a three-run home run to cap a four-run third inning and lift the Angels to a 5-2 win over the White Sox in Friday night's series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field. It was his fourth home run in three games since sustaining new damage to his UCL, which led to a recommendation for Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani's 19th of the season also set a new record for Japanese rookies, surpassing Kenji Johjima for the 2006 Mariners.

Prior to Friday's game, Ohtani said he was still weighing whether or not to undergo the elbow reconstructive surgery. If he does elect to go under the knife to return to the mound, his rehab will likely not affect his ability to hit in 2019.

"Shohei got some very disappointing news the other day," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got some big decisions coming up when we get back to southern California. But he wants to play baseball. He goes out there, and he's excited to be in there and be able to swing the bat. He's playing very well."

Andrelton Simmons also homered for the second consecutive game, while Mike Trout drew a pair of intentional walks and reached base four times. 

Right-hander Felix Pena yielded two runs on seven hits over a career-high-matching seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.81 over his last five starts. Pena, who struck out six and walked none in the 94-pitch effort, has now logged a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts since transitioning into the Angels' rotation, creating enthusiasm about his long-term viability as a starting option for the club.

"I'm not going to say easy, but every time I go out there I feel better," Pena said. "I feel physically and mentally strong. It takes work, and I'm going to continue to work hard to be able to sustain this."

Pena surrendered a solo home run to Avisail Garcia to open the second, but the Angels erased the deficit by striking for four runs in the third. Kole Calhoun and David Fletcher led off the inning by drawing back-to-back walks off White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon, and Trout then reached on a hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs. Justin Upton, who returned to the Angels' lineup Friday after missing four games with a concussion, followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game.

That brought up Ohtani, who hammered a 2-0 inside fastball out to center field to make it 4-1. Ohtani now has two homers off lefties this week after hitting none over his first 80 games as a designated hitter.

"There have been a lot of changes since the beginning of the year," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "The more at-bats I get, the more comfortable I feel, the better I see the ball. It's just seeing a lot of pitches over and over."

The White Sox pulled within two runs in the fourth after Garcia reached on a hit by pitch, advanced to second on a single by Daniel Palka and scored on a two-out RBI single by Omar Narvaez, but Simmons padded the Angels' lead with a solo shot off Aaron Bummer in the seventh.

Jose Alvarez relieved Pena in the eighth and worked a scoreless inning before giving way to Ty Buttrey, who struck out Matt Davidson and coaxed groundouts from Kevan Smith and Tim Anderson to earn his first career save.

"I think it was a good time for Ty to get out there," Scioscia said. "All those guys down there, it's really any pitcher any inning. I think [we're] trying to get him acclimated to the back end. He's slowly moved back, and it was a good day for him to go out there and try to close it out today."


Pena was tested in the sixth after Garcia and Davidson singled to put runners on first and second with one out, but he dodged trouble by fielding a comebacker from Narvaez and throwing to Simmons to set up a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.

"Felix was terrific," Scioscia said. "I think everything you're looking for in a starter. We got a lead, and he pitched to it, pitched well. We played solid defense behind him, and he went seven strong innings."


The Angels are now 19-26 against left-handed starters this season.


"It's pretty cool that a two-way player, when you get injured doing one thing, you can do another. And it's pretty amazing how he could easily shut the season down but he wants to finish out strong, and he works hard in the cage, and he works hard in general coming to the field. You know it's fun to watch, pretty incredible what he's doing right now." -- Trout, on Ohtani


The Angels continue their three-game series with the White Sox on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. PT and send Matt Shoemaker (1-0, 2.53 ERA) to make his third start of the year. Shoemaker underwent forearm surgery in May but returned to the rotation Monday, throwing five scoreless innings against the Rangers. James Shields (6-15, 4.39) goes for Chicago.