Ohtani for MVP? 'There's no question' after tying for MLB HR lead

June 16th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- could do no wrong on Thursday night, as the MVP frontrunner silenced the Rangers' lineup on the mound and fueled the Halos' offense at the plate with an opposite-field two-run home run in a 5-3 Angels victory at Globe Life Field.

With the Angels holding a 3-2 lead in the eighth, Ohtani hammered a first-pitch Brock Burke slider 443 feet into the second deck in left-center field. It was his 22nd home run of the season to tie Mets slugger Pete Alonso for the Major League lead and was his fourth home run against the AL West-leading Rangers this series.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ohtani is the first player to have a share of the MLB lead in home runs hit and opponents' batting average (min. 70 innings pitched) at the end of any given day since 1900.

On Wednesday, Ohtani smashed the hardest-hit opposite-field home run by a left-handed batter since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Thursday’s two-run blast landed in a near-identical spot.

“I’m seeing the ball really well,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I feel really good about my setup -- regardless of the results -- even though I am getting good results right now.”

Though the homer wasn’t hit quite as hard as Wednesday’s, its impact was certainly felt, as it provided the Halos with a pair of much-needed insurance runs and paved the way for their series victory.

“Obviously, this is a huge series win against a first-place team,” Ohtani said. “All the boys are fired up because we came out on top. So we hope the momentum will continue into the next series.”

Ohtani also delivered six strong innings on the mound -- allowing just two runs on six hits against a potent Rangers lineup. He accomplished this despite laboring through a 29-pitch first inning.

In that first inning, Ohtani walked the leadoff batter and yielded a single to Adolis García after a 10-pitch at-bat, but was able to escape the inning without surrendering a run. A two-out, two-run rally in the third inning was all the Rangers could get against him, though. Ohtani retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced from the fourth inning on.

With Ohtani dominating on both sides of the ball, Angels skipper Phil Nevin believes he should be in line to receive his second MVP award.

“I said this last year, and Aaron Judge is like a son to me, but until somebody does it on both sides of the ball, [Ohtani] should be MVP,” Nevin said. “I mean, what was the difference between two years ago [when Ohtani won MVP] and last year? Somebody has to explain that to me because he was even better last year and didn’t win it.

“So yeah, as long as he's doing what he's doing, and we're doing what we plan to do yeah, there's no question.”

Ohtani was not the only Angel to homer on Thursday, as Chad Wallach and Mickey Moniak each launched solo shots.

Wallach’s home run came in the top of the second inning, when he launched a Nathan Eovaldi splitter 424-feet to straightaway center field. It was the second home run of the series for Wallach and extended his hitting streak to five games.

In the seventh with the score tied at 2, Moniak, who also drove in a run in the fourth, blasted in a solo shot of his own to give the Angels a one-run lead.

Moniak swung at the first pitch he saw, sending Eovaldi’s 94 mph fastball out of the park.

“I was definitely looking for a fastball,” Moniak said. “He’s a good pitcher, and when you’re facing a guy like that, you want to be as aggressive as possible. So I was looking for a fastball there, got it and was able to put a good swing on it.”

In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Angels nearly saw the game unravel when closer Carlos Estévez walked the first three batters he faced to load the bases.

Fortunately for Estévez, though, Jacob Webb was able to neutralize the threat and hold the Rangers to just one run to secure the nail-biting victory.

“That’s a tough spot,” Nevin said. “I’ve asked a lot of [Estévez] lately, and it killed me to go get him, but he didn’t have it today. We had to win this game, and Jacob [Webb] was the guy to do it.”