Ohtani proves he's 'the man' with clutch HR

April 26th, 2021

You really can’t sleep on two-way star .

With attention turning to his start on the mound on Monday in Arlington, Ohtani provided the offensive spark the Halos needed to avoid a sweep in Houston on Sunday afternoon.

After starter Dylan Bundy gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the seventh inning, it didn’t take long for Ohtani to flip the script in a 4-2 win over the Astros in the series finale at Minute Maid Park.

Ohtani led off the eighth inning with a 107.1 mph rocket to center field that traveled 440 feet and gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.

“I think it was a fastball that was a bit off, and I thought he was going to throw a curveball so I was a bit surprised, but I'm glad it caught some air,” Ohtani said through an interpreter.

Ohtani’s seventh homer of the season, and his third in his last five games, gave him a long ball in back-to-back contests this weekend. In just 77 at-bats, he has already tied his home run total from his down season in 2020. The blast was also the second big fly that Ohtani has hit at least 440 feet this season, which is good for second most in MLB behind only teammate Mike Trout (3).

Whether it’s at the plate, on the mound or even a brief cameo in left field, Angels manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani is embracing the challenges presented to him.

“I'll tell you one thing, I know [Ohtani’s] not shying away from anything,” Maddon said. “He is attacking everything on his plate. Tomorrow, he wants to pitch and hit. I'm gonna try to figure that out. He wants the action, he wants to be there when it matters, he wanted to play left field yesterday. The guy's playing baseball. … [That’s] the best way I could describe it.”

When you look at Ohtani's numbers, they don’t lie -- at the plate, he’s posted a .983 OPS and leads the Angels with 16 RBIs.

The blast not only lifted the Angels to a victory, but it also helped rookie Chris Rodriguez earn his first big league win. Rodriguez came in to relieve Bundy in the seventh and put up a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

The rookie said Ohtani’s homer was an uplifting moment for the entire dugout.

“Oh, it was huge,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as he hit it, I was screaming out of my lungs and I was saying, 'Let's go!' That's a huge turnaround for the team to put us on top. Shohei is the man, and he proved it today again.”

After the late-game heroics, the focus on Ohtani has turned to Monday's game against the Rangers. Ohtani is slated to make his third start, which once again raises the question of whether he'll pull double duty.

Maddon said the decision will be determined on what options the Angels have on their roster, which has been hit with a rash of injuries that has sidelined Trout (left elbow contusion), Anthony Rendon (strained left groin), Max Stassi (left thumb sprain) and Juan Lagares (left calf strain).

“Well, I'm working on it right now,” Maddon said. “We talked before the game. I'm going to reapproach it with him. I'd like to do that. We're just trying to figure out our bench so that we can cover it. I just got to think about it a bit, but it's hard to not have him hit tomorrow.”

Ohtani did not hit in his last start against the Rangers, during which he allowed just one hit and struck out seven over four scoreless innings, though he did walk six.

He has posted a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings over his two outings.