46 HRs, 100 RBIs: Shohei caps dream season

October 4th, 2021

SEATTLE -- It was a fitting end to ’s historic 2021 season, as he launched his 46th homer of the year and reached 100 RBIs for the first time in his career.

Serving as the leadoff hitter for the 23rd time this season, Ohtani connected on a 1-1 cutter from lefty Tyler Anderson to put the Angels ahead in a hurry. It set the tone in a 7-3 win over the Mariners, who fell short in their quest for their first postseason appearance in 20 years.

The two-way star passed Mike Trout (45 homers in his 2019 MVP season) to finish with the second-most homers in a season in Angels history, trailing only Troy Glaus’ 47 blasts in 2000. Fittingly, Ohtani, who finished third behind Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (48) and Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (48) for the MLB lead in homers, is also considered the frontrunner to win this year’s AL MVP Award.

"How beautiful was that?" Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "That's probably the only time he gets pitched to, when he's leading off. So it was great. He got another homer, his 100th RBI, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top. It was just fabulous, fabulous. There's just one person who could replicate it in the future, and it's him."

Ohtani’s blast was a no-doubter, as it left the bat at 112.9 mph and went a projected 418 feet to right field, per Statcast. The Mariners mostly stayed away from him in key situations the rest of the way, as he was intentionally walked twice -- though he also struck out twice. Ohtani finished the year with an American League-leading 20 intentional walks, which is the most by an AL player since Trout in 2018.

Ohtani, who batted .257/.372/.592 in 155 games, hit several milestones to close his season, reaching both 100 RBIs and 100 runs for the first time in his career. He also tied for the MLB lead with eight triples to go along with 26 stolen bases. No player in AL or NL history has had at least 45 homers, 25 stolen bases, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and eight triples in a season. And he’s only the second player in AL history to record 45 homers and 25 stolen bases in a season, joining Jose Canseco, who accomplished the feat in 1998 with the Blue Jays.

Of course, Ohtani was also one of the best pitchers in the AL this season. He made 23 starts on the mound and went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 156 strikeouts and 44 walks in 130 1/3 innings.

Under team control for two more seasons, Ohtani spoke before Sunday's game and indicated he’s “very open” to negotiating a contract extension this offseason. Ohtani added that he’s hopeful he'll be able to replicate this kind of season in the future.

“Obviously, this was my first time doing it,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "So I can’t tell you with confidence that I’ll be able to do it for many years to come, but all I can do as a player is prepare so I would be able to continue this for many years. In order to do that, I need to have a good offseason training-wise and a good recovery.”

He was scheduled to make his final pitching start of the season in the season finale, but with the Angels out of contention, they went with rookie Reid Detmers instead. The rookie left-hander lasted only 1 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits and two walks, with two strikeouts. He was bailed out by the offense, as Jared Walsh connected on his 29th homer of the year on a two-run blast in the fourth. Walsh, an All-Star like Ohtani in 2021, finished his campaign with 98 RBIs.

Maddon was pleased with the way the Angels played in front of electric crowds at T-Mobile Park all weekend. They won two out of three games and also had a late lead on Saturday night before the bullpen faltered.

"It's great our guys got a taste," Maddon said. "We played really well. We could’ve had all three. We played well in all three games on the road in this environment with a team that had to win their games. And I couldn't be more pleased. It's a good way to wrap it up for the year, other than not being able to participate a little longer. But I’ve told you all along, these guys came to play in the first inning and it happens every game with this group.”