ANAHEIM -- One night after striking out 10 without issuing a walk in a win, two-way star Shohei Ohtani crushed a solo home run off his fellow countryman, Yusei Kikuchi, to help spark the Angels' offense -- along with Max Stassi and Taylor Ward -- in a 12-5 win over the Mariners Saturday night at Angel Stadium.
Ohtani’s 16th blast of the year gave the Angels an early 1-0 lead, though they later had to climb out of a 5-1 hole. It marked the eighth time this season the Angels have hit three or more homers -- they are 6-2 in those games. Ohtani also added an RBI double as part of a five-run eighth, as the Halos turned a close contest into a blowout.
"That first one put the pitcher on his heels a bit," Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Ohtani's homer. "He looked strong, he looked good. And he was very vocal in the dugout. It's very entertaining. The guy is a baseball player and he loves to play this game. As long as he's well and doesn't need any rest, it's really fun to write his name in that two-spot."
Ohtani got the Angels on the board early, as his solo shot came in the first on a first-pitch cutter over the middle of the plate from Kikuchi, who attended the same high school as him in Japan. It was the second time Ohtani's gone deep against Kikuchi in his career and it also moved him within two homers of the Major League lead behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 18.
"I thought [Kikuchi] was throwing really well, but Ohtani jumped him," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Ambushed him on the first pitch there for the home run in the first inning."
Stassi was the second to go deep, hammering a solo blast of his own off Kikuchi in the fourth. It was his second homer of the year and his first since Opening Day against the White Sox on April 1. His homer made it a 5-2 game and he said his teammates were never worried about being down early.
"There was never any sense of panic in our dugout," Stassi said. "We always feel that we're in every single game. We get competitive at-bats and grind them out. It was nice to hit the homer and get it rolling, but this lineup is pretty good."
Kikuchi, though, was pitching well until he was hit by a comebacker from David Fletcher in the fifth that forced him from the game with a right knee contusion. The ball hit off Kikuchi's right knee and back to catcher José Godoy, whose throw to first sailed high, allowing Ward to score from first and Fletcher to reach second. Fletcher later scored on a two-out RBI single from Anthony Rendon off reliever JT Chargois, who replaced Kikuchi.
"When Fletch hit the ball off the pitcher's leg, that really shattered their game plan,” Maddon said. “He was doing really well. And so we took advantage of it. I think one of the biggest hits tonight was Rendon's hit up the middle with two outs against Chargois. That was a big hit there and created more doubt on their side."
Ward gave the Angels the lead with his two-run blast in the sixth off reliever Drew Steckenrider. It was the fifth homer of the year for Ward -- one he admired briefly before beginning his trot -- after going without one in 34 games in 2020.
"The guy is strong and he works hard," Maddon said. "We've done some extra things hitting-wise the last couple days and he has a real desire to get better, so that's what you're seeing."
The Angels picked up an insurance run in the seventh, keyed by a double from Justin Upton, who continues to excel in his new role as the leadoff hitter. Ohtani advanced Upton with a line drive to right field that had an exit velocity of 114 mph, and he later scored on a grounder from Rendon. The Angels then blew it open with a five-run eighth with Juan Lagares plating two on a single and Upton ripping a two-run double.
The offense helped make up for a five-run fourth inning given up by right-hander Alex Cobb, who was otherwise solid. Cobb went seven innings, allowing five runs on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts. The big blow was a grand slam off the bat of Jake Fraley.
"When that grand slam went out, the only thing that went into my mind is, 'We're not losing this ballgame,'” Cobb said. “And fortunately, the offense just went off."