Ohtani's 1st Fenway HR? Oppo over Monster

May 15th, 2021

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani saw his next scheduled start pushed back due to fatigue, but he looked just fine against the Red Sox on Friday, essentially flicking a solo homer the opposite way into the second row above the Green Monster for his 11th homer of the season in the sixth inning.

Ohtani, whose scheduled start on Tuesday will now come later in the week, looked fresh after an off-day on Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a double and the homer in a 4-3 loss in the series opener at Fenway Park. He's tied with Cleveland's José Ramírez and Seattle's Mitch Haniger for the American League lead in home runs and one homer behind Atlanta's Ronald Acuña Jr. for the Major League lead.

"He's so good,” said Angels right-hander Griffin Canning, who gave up two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over six strong innings. "He's such a freak athlete. He's good at everything. I think we take it for granted, because we see it every day. Same thing with [Mike] Trout. But it's a lot of fun to watch."

Ohtani opened his night with a double off the Green Monster in left on a 2-2 curveball from right-hander Nick Pivetta. After striking out to end the third, Ohtani showed off his incredible strength with his solo homer in the sixth.

Ohtani went with a breaking ball down and away, getting just enough of it to lift it over the 37-foot, two-inch Monster and bring the Angels within one run. Despite the pitch's location, Ohtani hit it with an exit velocity of 101.7 mph.

“The first AB was a curveball, but it was middle-in and he hit a double off the wall,” Pivetta said. “I believe the second time, I punched him on a backdoor curveball, and the third time I went at him, I threw a good back-door breaking ball and he was somehow able to stay on it enough to hit it out.”

It was the second opposite-field hit of the game for Ohtani, who has been pulling the ball more this year than he has in the past, but he has historically had immense opposite-field power.

"It's in there,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I think it's just a function of how they're pitching him. He's pretty good at making adjustments. But it was nice to see that. He looked really good to me and really fresh tonight.

"I think the off-day helped him more than anything. He expends a lot of energy for us.”

It was Ohtani’s first homer at Fenway Park in his career, but he's fared well there historically, batting .381 (8-for-21) with three doubles and five RBIs in five games. He struck out in his final at-bat of the night in the eighth inning on a 2-2 slider from Adam Ottavino.

"This stadium has a lot of history and a lot of tradition,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “So to be able to have a home run here, I feel like it's pretty special."

Ohtani's performance was a good sign that he’s shaking out of a mini-slump, as he was hitting .143 (3-for-21) with no extra-base hits over his past five games. Maddon also noticed Ohtani looked fatigued at the plate on Wednesday, when he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, which is why his scheduled start on the mound will be pushed back a few days.

"I think everyone goes through it,” Ohtani said. “We're almost 40 games into the season. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel fatigued right now. But like I said, everybody goes through this."

Ohtani, though, is coming off one of the best starts of his career. He struck out 10 and allowed one run over seven innings against the Astros. He's made five starts this year, posting a 2.10 ERA with 40 strikeouts, 20 walks and two homers allowed in 25 2/3 innings.

Offensively, Ohtani is hitting .264/.309/.600 with 10 doubles, two triples, six stolen bases, 27 RBIs and 27 runs scored in 35 games. He's one of only three players in the Majors with at least 10 homers and 10 doubles, joining Boston's J.D. Martinez and the Cubs' Kris Bryant.

Of his 11 homers this season, three have been pulled to right field, one has been hit to left and seven to center. Ohtani said he doesn't have a preference for where his homers go, but he likes to try to drive the ball up the middle.

"An opposite-field home run doesn't necessarily mean I'm on point with my swing,” Ohtani said. “I like to go right up the middle to center field and be able to hit home runs, whether it's pulling them or hitting them the opposite way. I think I was able to get good launch angles today."