'Generational talent' Sho seizes MLB HR lead

Angels phenom belts 27th, 28th homers for 3 blasts in 2 games at Yankee Stadium

June 30th, 2021

NEW YORK -- It’s only fitting that with two-way star doing things no one has seen since Babe Ruth, he’s been making Yankee Stadium his own personal playground, as he homered twice on Tuesday in an 11-5 loss to the Yankees to give him three blasts at the ballpark over his last two games.

Ohtani, who drilled the hardest-hit homer by an Angels player recorded by Statcast on Monday at 117.2 mph, followed that up by notching his second multihomer game of the season in the second game of the series. It gave him 28 homers this year, which is the most in the Majors, as his first blast broke a tie with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

"He is a joy," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "He's what baseball needs both as a player and as an example. He's all about the moment. He's prepared. He's ingratiating. There's so many different things about him to really like. I enjoy watching him enjoy playing baseball.”

Ohtani's first homer came in the third inning, as he connected on a 3-1 changeup from right-hander Jameson Taillon to right field. It went a projected 395 feet and had an exit velocity of 109.6 mph, per Statcast.

His second came in the fifth, when Ohtani hammered a two-run shot to right field off Taillon on a 1-2 fastball at the top of the zone. It went a projected 356 feet and left the bat at 112.4 mph.

"He's a generational talent," Yankees star Aaron Judge said. "To see what he's doing this year is pretty impressive. It feels like any pitch that's over the plate is going to get hit. And it's going to get hit hard."

Ohtani came up with a chance for his first three-homer game in the seventh, but he flied out to the warning track in center on a 2-2 curveball from Nestor Cortes. The lefty reliever tried to vary his delivery to keep Ohtani off-balance, including trying to utilize a quick pitch and an extremely slow windup, and both players came away with laughs after Ohtani nearly homered again.

He ended the game by grounding out to first against reliever Albert Abreu, going 2-for-5 on the night, and his hustle to first base despite the score impressed Maddon.

"How about the run down to first base at the end?" Maddon said. "How often do you see that? I didn't like the way he jumped at the end, and we talked about that. But he busted his butt that last inning, and you got to love that stuff."

Ohtani has gone deep in three straight games and has hit 11 homers in his past 13 contests. He was named a finalist at designated hitter in the balloting for the All-Star Game on Sunday and is also slated to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Ohtani’s offensive performance this season would be incredible on its own, but he’s also gone 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings as a pitcher. He's scheduled to make his first career start in the Bronx on Wednesday.

Maddon confirmed after the game that Ohtani will hit for himself again on Wednesday, which means the club will have to forgo the designated hitter. It’ll be the ninth time in 12 starts he’ll bat for himself as the pitcher.

“We're excited to see him on the mound tomorrow,” Judge said. “We know he's got that electric fastball and works his offspeed pitches in there good. We'll have a game plan and we'll be ready.”

Wednesday’s start will also close an amazing month for Ohtani, who has tied a club record with 13 homers in June, while also going 2-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 23 innings in four starts on the mound.

He's hitting .313 with six doubles, a triple, 16 walks, 23 RBIs and four stolen bases in 24 games this month. It gives him a slash line of .278/.361/.688 with a Major League-leading 49 extra-base hits in 74 games this year.

His start on Wednesday will also be an interesting matchup against the Yankees and their right-handed-heavy lineup.

“The big thing with him is just getting that command rolling and staying with the command of his pitches,” Maddon said. “I don't think it really matters to him who he faces. But he can be more difficult against righties, because he has the slider and the split and a really good fastball he can spot up. So we'll see how it plays out. I never want to take anything for granted, but it's nice on paper."