Ohtani shakes off Derby rust, cranks 34th HR

July 19th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani shook off any concerns about lingering effects from participating in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game at Colorado’s Coors Field earlier this week, as he went 2-for-3 with two walks and a two-run homer in a 7-4 loss to the Mariners on Sunday at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani had gone a combined 1-for-10 with six strikeouts in his first two games after the All-Star break, but he looked much more comfortable at the plate in the series finale. His two-run blast to right-center with two outs in the ninth inning was his Major League-leading 34th homer of the season. He's also scheduled to make his 14th start on the mound on Monday against the A's and is expected to be in the lineup.

Angels manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani’s mechanics were off the last few days, but he worked on having better balance at the plate with hitting coach Jeremy Reed.

"He might've been off a bit mechanically -- more in pull-mode -- so that's why I liked that his home run was almost to center," Maddon said. "It wasn't from a fatigue perspective as much as a technical perspective."

Ohtani struck out in his first at-bat -- extending his streak to five consecutive strikeouts -- though he bounced back by walking in the third and fifth against right-hander Logan Gilbert.

He then showed off his speed with an infield single in the seventh off lefty reliever Anthony Misiewicz. Ohtani beat Misiewicz to the bag on a grounder to first thanks to a sprint speed of 30 feet per second, per Statcast, which is the threshold considered to be elite.

“He beat out that ground ball and that says a lot,” Maddon said. “There’s so much about that game that I liked about us. Our attitude couldn’t have been any better.”

His homer in the ninth showed off his plate coverage, as reliever Paul Sewald threw a 3-2 slider well below the zone, but Ohtani was able to lift it to right field for a two-run shot to bring the Angels within three runs. It had an exit velocity of 107.3 mph and went a projected 419 feet, per Statcast.