Ohtani wallops 43rd homer to pad MLB lead

September 5th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- After throwing a career-high 117 pitches over seven strong innings and reaching as high as 100 mph on the radar gun in a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Friday, Angels manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t have blamed two-way star for asking for a day off on Saturday.

But Ohtani asked to be in the lineup and again proved he’s not dealing with any late-season fatigue, as he crushed a three-run homer in the sixth inning of the Angels' 4-1 victory over the Rangers at Angel Stadium. Ohtani leads the Majors with 43 blasts, three ahead of Kansas City’s Salvador Perez. No Angels player has ever outright led the Majors in home runs in a season (Reggie Jackson tied for first in HRs in 1982 with 39), and the club record is 47 by Troy Glaus in 2000.

"It's impressive,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Every other manager and every other player you talk to about him, they're in awe of it. You really have to understand what's going on here. Just the physical component, it's mentally staggering to do what he's done. He had some really good swings tonight. He's gotta be sore after those 117 pitches. But he just doesn't indicate that, at all."

Ohtani's homer came after Luis Rengifo walked and David Fletcher reached on an error by third baseman Charlie Culberson. Ohtani made Rangers lefty Kolby Allard pay, as he connected on a first-pitch cutter and deposited it nearly half way up the bleachers in right field. It went a projected 426 feet with an exit velocity of 107.2 mph, per Statcast, and it helped give lefty José Suarez some breathing room, as he threw his first career complete game.

“Kolby just made a mistake down the middle,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “That ball doesn't always get hit out. But obviously with Ohtani right now, it seems like everything in the heart of the plate, he’s hitting hard.”

It was Ohtani's 16th homer off a lefty, compared to 27 against right-handers. Ohtani, however, surprisingly has a higher slugging percentage against lefties this year. He’s now hitting .260/.359/.618 with 73 extra-base hits in 130 games, while also going 9-1 with a 2.97 ERA and 135 strikeouts over 112 innings (20 starts) on the mound.

"It's honestly incredible to witness what we're watching," Suarez said through an interpreter. "He's out of this world with everything he does on the field. Being his teammate is super cool."

He also singled in the eighth and tried to steal his 23rd base of the year, only to get caught after he came off the bag upon initially being ruled safe. Maddon was impressed with his aggressiveness nonetheless.

"He was safe, but I guess he overslid it,” Maddon said. “He had another bag and lost it. Just understand exactly what you're watching. Don't miss it. Hopefully he can repeat this in the years to come. But don't miss it because it's an extraordinary performance by this young man."