A young phenom made so much noise this week that Japanese rookies were forced to listen. On the flip side, a seven-year Major League Baseball veteran put the critics to rest. The Angels' Shohei Ohtani and the Nationals' Bryce Harper were recognized on Monday as the American League and National
A young phenom made so much noise this week that Japanese rookies were forced to listen. On the flip side, a seven-year Major League Baseball veteran put the critics to rest. The Angels' Shohei Ohtani and the Nationals' Bryce Harper were recognized on Monday as the American League and National League Players of the Week, respectively, presented by W.B. Mason.
Ohtani received his second career Player of the Week honor -- and first since the week of April 8 -- after both setting a rookie record and receiving devastating news. Diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Wednesday, doctors recommended that Ohtani undergo Tommy John surgery. Ohtani had returned to the mound on Sept. 2 for the first time since being diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of that UCL in early June. The two-way Japanese sensation is yet to make a decision on the procedure, but Ohtani did elect to hold onto his bat for the remainder of the 2018 season.
The 24-year-old slugged a three-run homer to cap a four-run fifth inning and lift the Angels to a 5-2 win over the White Sox on Friday -- days after learning the extent of his injury. It was his fourth home run in three games since sustaining new damage to his UCL, which led to the recommendation for surgery. The three-run jack was his 19th homer of the year, which surpassed Kenji Johjima of the 2006 Mariners for a new Japanese rookie home run record.
"It's well deserved," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think that if he continues to do what he's doing, you're looking at the Rookie of the Year. I think it's very clear."
Ohtani slashed .474/.565/1.263 with four homers, 10 RBIs, four walks, a double, a triple and eight runs scored across five games this past week. The two-way phenom throws right-handed and hits left-handed, and Ohtani repeated on Friday that hitting isn't affecting his injured elbow.
"It's pretty cool that a two-way player, when you get injured doing one thing, you can do another," Angels' teammate Michael Trout said of Ohtani. "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."
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Harper launched a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning of a rain-soaked Nationals Park that put the Cubs to bed on Saturday. The clutch dinger led Washington to a doubleheader sweep of the NL Central-leading Cubs. Harper's 32nd homer of the year earned the Nats their first twin bill sweep since October 2015.
Harper batted .438/.655/.938 with a 1.593 OPS, two homers, seven RBIs, 12 walks and two doubles across six games over the past week. The 2015 NL MVP Award winner reached safely in seven of his eight plate appearances in Saturday's doubleheader. He has now reached safely in 22 of his last 33 plate appearances dating back to Sept. 1 against the Brewers. During this stretch, he has 14 walks, eight hits and seven RBIs. Harper is hitting .251/.385/.508 this year, and he's leading the NL in walks with 110.
"They were big, real big," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said on Saturday of Harper's homer and Max Scherzer's NL-leading 17th win. "Proud of the boys, all of them. "They played through some awful weather and they battled for two games and into the wee hours of the morning."
Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.