Two-way star Shohei Ohtani has continued to prove he can do just about anything on a baseball field now that he’s healthy, and he wowed yet again in Monday night’s 10-3 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, smacking a critical two-run double in the seventh inning that had an incredible exit velocity of 119 mph.
Ohtani’s two-run double to right on a 95 mph sinker from Royals right-hander Scott Barlow helped give the Angels a 6-3 lead after Kansas City made it a one-run game with three runs in the previous inning. It wasn’t a homer, but Ohtani got all of it, as it’s currently the hardest hit ball by exit velocity in the Majors this year, per Statcast.
Angels manager Joe Maddon saw Ohtani’s exit velocity on the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium and turned to bench coach Mike Gallego in disbelief.
“I looked up and there she was, and I looked at Gags and said ‘Did you see that right there?’” Maddon said. “It’s impressive. He’s an impressive athlete. And right now, he can’t feel any better about himself or have any more self-confidence.”
In fact, Ohtani became just the fifth player to ever reach 119 mph off the bat since Statcast was introduced in 2015, joining Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez and Nelson Cruz. Of that group, if it's limited to only line drives or fly balls that went for hits, he joins only Stanton (nine) and Judge (four) to accomplish the feat. Cruz hit a ground-ball single and Sanchez lined out.
The record for the highest exit velocity ever recorded by Statcast is 122.2 mph by Stanton on a single off Max Fried on Oct. 1, 2017.
Ohtani credited being healthy for his success, as he has fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2018 and his left knee operation late in the 2019 season.
“My lower body is there and I’m feeling strong,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I think that’s the biggest difference from last year. I think if it was last year, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ball that hard.”
It was the seventh extra-base hit of the season for Ohtani, who is off to a hot start offensively. He added an RBI double in the ninth and went 3-for-5 on the night. He’s batting .333/.366/.744 with three homers, three doubles, two triples and 11 RBIs in 10 games this season. It’s helped the Angels to a 7-3 start to the year that has them atop the American League West alone for the first time since May 7, 2018. And Ohtani is a major reason why the club is tied for the American League lead in runs scored with 58 in 10 games.
“He’s a threat to hit it out on any pitch and on any swing,” Maddon said. “He’s covering a lot of different pitches. He’s covering high fastballs and away now. He’s not just chasing either.”
Ohtani, though, has been limited to just one start on the mound due to a blister on his right middle finger. He reached as high as 101 mph on the mound that game against the White Sox on April 4 and also smacked a solo homer in the first inning with an exit velocity of 115.2 mph. That was his previous career-high for exit velocity until his double on Monday.
Ohtani threw a light bullpen session before Monday’s game against the Royals and the Angels are hopeful he’ll be able to return to the mound by early next week. But he’ll have to throw one more bullpen session before the Angels decide when he’ll take his next turn in the rotation.
"Today was a relatively lighter bullpen with the amount of throws and intensity, it didn't bother my finger too much," Ohtani said. "I'll have a higher intensity one coming up to see how my finger reacts. It's hard to tell with today's lighter intensity."