Sho launches 42nd homer in win vs. Yanks

August 31st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- As stepped into the batter's box at Angel Stadium in the fifth inning on Monday, he saw a familiar face standing on the mound for the Yankees.

Ohtani faced his former teammate Andrew Heaney, who was sent to New York at the Trade Deadline for two pitching prospects, and he promptly greeted the lefty with a solo homer to give the Angels the lead in an eventual 8-7 win at Angel Stadium. It was Ohtani's Major League-leading 42nd homer of the year, which now ranks as the third-most homers in a season by an Angels player in club history. Only Troy Glaus with 47 in 2000 and Mike Trout with 45 in 2019 have hit more. Ohtani also tied Glaus' club record of 24 homers hit at home in a season.

It was a majestic blast to right field on a 1-1 curveball over the heart of the plate, as it had an exit velocity of 111.8 mph and went a projected 431 feet, per Statcast. It had a launch angle of 38 degrees, which is tied for his second-highest launch angle on a homer this year.

“The ball that Shohei hit, I’ve never seen a ball hit to that level up there,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I heard it was 431 feet and I’m not into that stuff but, my goodness, it looked farther than that.”

The solo shot was also a good sign for Ohtani, who is currently nursing a sore right hand/wrist after being hit by a 93 mph fastball on Saturday. He saw his scheduled start on Tuesday pushed back because of the injury but the Angels are hopeful he’ll be able to take the mound at some point in the next week. He’s 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 105 innings over 19 starts this season.

It was Ohtani's fourth homer against the Yankees in five games this season and he has 17 homers in 30 games against AL East opponents this year. Only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has more homers against AL East opponents this season with 21 in 54 games.

“It was a hanger to Ohtani,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He's been doing that all year. Just not an executed pitch there in that spot. And Ohtani got him. I didn't like watching that one. It was a really big blow for us and we just couldn't finish it off tonight."

Ohtani wasn’t the only Angels player with a big homer on Monday, as shortstop hit his first career grand slam in the fourth inning off right-hander Corey Kluber. Mayfield has been getting time at shortstop over José Iglesias recently, as the Angels want to get a look at Mayfield as a potential utilityman next year. Mayfield is tied for the team lead with Ohtani with nine homers since the All-Star break despite having hit just two homers through his first 65 career games up to that point.

“It was amazing,” Mayfield said. “After I hit it, I blacked out a little bit. I don’t remember running the bases. It was definitely an exciting moment in my career. The best thing is we won the game and we got to celebrate after. That’s what it’s all about.”

Right fielder also had a three-hit game, including the go-ahead RBI single off reliever Wandy Peralta with two outs in the eighth. Lagares has seen his playing time diminish with the emergence of Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh but the former Mets center fielder came through in a big way against the contending Yankees. He's now hitting .333 with a homer and five RBIs over his last 10 games dating back to Aug. 17.

"We've gone back to video of when I was doing really good and I've tried to keep doing the same thing,” Lagares said. “Right now, everything is going really good. I've just stuck with my approach. I looked for something to hit and he left the slider over the middle. I took advantage and put a good swing on it."