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Ohtani's massive solo shot caps Angels' win

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Shohei Ohtani rotated, toe-tapped, then launched another sweeping home run to center field, capping a strong offensive night for the Angels in their 7-4 win in Thursday's series opener against the Twins at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani's homer, which left the bat at 108.7 mph and traveled an estimated 414 feet per Statcast™, was his fifth of the season and finished the scoring for the Halos in the seventh. He also had an RBI double in the third, as he has hit safely in 14 of his 16 starts at designated hitter and is slashing .354/.400/.677.

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ANAHEIM -- Shohei Ohtani rotated, toe-tapped, then launched another sweeping home run to center field, capping a strong offensive night for the Angels in their 7-4 win in Thursday's series opener against the Twins at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani's homer, which left the bat at 108.7 mph and traveled an estimated 414 feet per Statcast™, was his fifth of the season and finished the scoring for the Halos in the seventh. He also had an RBI double in the third, as he has hit safely in 14 of his 16 starts at designated hitter and is slashing .354/.400/.677.

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"We know he's dangerous," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You have to pitch him carefully and make him aware of the inside part of the plate. Obviously, he's skilled offensively, and if he gets pitches, he's going to hit them."

Video: MIN@LAA: Ohtani rips 111.4-mph double, 414-ft. homer

Both of Ohtani's hits were roped on outside pitches, atypical from the standard scouting report -- to pitch him high and inside -- that scouts and pundits have preached in the past.

"Earlier in the year, I feel like they were throwing me inside a lot more than now," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "I was still able to hit the ball pretty well, and hit for a good average, so maybe they're trying to test pitching me away.

"I still feel like they don't know how to pitch me, and I still feel the same way [back], so everything is still in progress."

Video: MIN@LAA: Ohtani belts his 5th home run of 2018

Also still in progress, to Ohtani, is the adjustment he made to his swing before the season -- turning his high leg kick to more of a toe-tap as the pitcher winds up.

"It's not perfect yet, I'm still making adjustments every day, each at-bat," Ohtani said. "Sometimes, it goes bad, so that's why I need to fix it. I don't feel like I've adjusted perfectly."

The Angels' win, also backed by home runs from Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton, put them in a tie for first with the Astros in the American League West.

Video: MIN@LAA: Kinsler cracks a two-run homer to left

Kinsler and Andrelton Simmons opened the scoring for the Angels, as the duo combined for a huge offensive night.

Kinsler smacked a two-run homer in the second, his second of the season, one batter after Simmons, who is hitting .351/.410/.511 after a 3-for-4 night, singled to center. In the sixth, Simmons and Kinsler each singled, advanced a base on a wild pitch and came around to score.

Kinsler had been mired in a 2-for-24 slump, before going 3-for-4. His home run was his first while not batting in the leadoff spot since 2015. He hit seventh, while Simmons batted sixth, with Zack Cozart in Kinsler's usual spot at the top of the order. Kinsler seemed to be all for it.

"We've got the dynamic guys near the bottom," Kinsler said. "[Simmons], me and Kole [Calhoun]. It's really nice right now, and hopefully, we click on all cylinders.

"Lineups are funny like that, you find a spot, you find a configuration and sometimes it just clicks. It feels good right now, and hopefully we can keep it going."

Video: MIN@LAA: Upton belts a solo homer to left

Upton followed Kinsler's second-inning homer with a solo blast in the third. He has homered in three straight games and four of the last five.

"Any time that you're chasing pitches like I was early on [in the season], it means you're not seeing the ball well," Upton said. "It's been a focus of my work, seeing the ball a little better, and it's been working out."

Angels starter Garrett Richards gave up three earned runs on five hits with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. His sinker/curveball/slider combination worked well through his first 5 innings, but he faltered with control in the sixth, allowing two runners to reach before hanging a slider to Brian Dozier, who hit a three-run homer.

After Richards was pulled, reliever Jose Alvarez gave up a homer to the next batter, Max Kepler, as the Twins tied the game at 4. However, the Angels took back the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Kole Calhoun and an RBI double by Martin Maldonado.

"I probably couldn't have thrown the ball any better, to be honest," Richards said. "I felt pretty good. Kind of sucks that I had the whole outing tarnished there at the end, but we got the win, and that's all that's important, so on to the next one."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Calhoun drives in go-ahead run:
 With the game tied in the sixth, Calhoun was at the plate with runners on second and third with one out, and he hit a liner to right field, only for it to be caught by right fielder Kepler. However, Kinsler easily tagged from third, giving Calhoun his first RBI since April 23, and his first in his last 36 at-bats.

"[I didn't] get the result, but I'll definitely take that," Calhoun said. "It's a step in the right direction. Just keep moving forward."

Video: MIN@LAA: Simmons scores on Calhoun's sac fly to right

SOUND SMART
After striking out on a high fastball in his first at-bat, Ohtani swung at an outside changeup in his second plate appearance, lining it into right-center field to score Albert Pujols from second. For many players, it would have been a single -- Kepler fielded the ball cleanly in right -- but Ohtani, peaking at 28.9 ft/sec, just below 20 mph, turned the corner at first and raced into second in 8.07 seconds, the fastest Angels double of the year, beating the throw by a fraction of a second.

Ohtani's 8.07 seconds from home-to-second was the second fastest this season by an Angels player, though. The fastest? 7.94 seconds on an Ohtani triple on April 12.

UP NEXT
The Angels will turn to Tyler Skaggs (3-2, 3.08 ERA) to take the rubber for the second game of their four-game series against the Twins at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. It will be his first career appearance against Minnesota. He has allowed two or fewer runs in six of his seven starts this season. In his last outing, against the Mariners, he took a no-decision, allowing two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Lance Lynn will start for the Twins.

Avery Yang is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani