Ohtani adds to MLB HR lead, then Trout also goes deep on next pitch

June 18th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- was fooled on a Zack Greinke curveball in the third inning. The AL MVP front-runner wouldn’t be fooled again.

After striking out on a 70.8 mph curveball in the third, Ohtani took the next bender he saw in the fifth for a Statcast-projected 422-foot ride, increasing his Major League-leading home run mark to 24. The 69.7 mph pitch left his bat with an exit velocity of 117.1 mph, his second home run in as many days.

The blast in the Angels’ series-clinching 5-2 victory against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium also extended Ohtani’s hit streak to 15 games, which is currently the longest streak in the Majors.

“[Ohtani’s] hit some far ones, but that may have been the loudest one,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “It looked like he was sitting on that curveball, got it on a good part of the bat and smoked it. It was a nice series, a nice road trip for Sho. When your superstars step up in big places, it gives everybody else around you a lot of confidence.”

And nobody needed a little motivation more than Mike Trout, who entered the series hitting just .111 in June. After celebrating with Ohtani in the on-deck circle, Trout clobbered a first-pitch fastball 408 feet for his first home run since June 7. Trout, who on Saturday collected his first two-hit game since May 29, had a home run, a double and a walk Sunday.

“I’ve been feeling a lot better with the results the last couple of days,” Trout said. “[I felt things change] yesterday, to tell you the truth. The biggest thing was that I wasn’t loading, I was just gliding forward. I had nothing behind [my swing], that’s why I was under everything. 

“It’s cool walking into the dugout and Shohei handing me that hat. That was pretty cool.”

It was the third time this season Ohtani and Trout smacked back-to-back homers, the first coming on April 2 against the Athletics and the most recent on April 23 against the same Royals.

“You can’t win games with just two guys, but if there were any two back-to-back that could do it, it’s these two,” Nevin said. “They can carry a team for quite a while.”

Ohtani now has nine home runs, six doubles and 20 RBIs this month after crushing three homers in a four-game set against Texas last week and two in the series against the Royals. He crushed his 150th career dinger Saturday to become the fastest Angel in franchise history to reach that mark (637 games) and is on pace for 52 home runs this season, which would be a career high.

“[The home run came] in a good situation, which I’m happy about,” Ohtani said. “It was one out and a runner on second, so I was hoping that I could get on base. I ended with a homer, and it was great to have good contact.”

Ohtani’s power-hungry month at the plate continued in Kansas City, but if the Angels can get the version of Trout back that they’ve come to expect over the years, the already-hot Halos could take another leap forward. The Angels have won 11 of their past 14 games and put themselves in the middle of the playoff race.

“Another reason why I wasn’t going crazy was because we were winning,” Trout said. “It might have been a different story if we were losing. It just shows you how deep this team is. It isn't just one guy. Obviously, what Shohei has been doing the past two weeks is unbelievable, but we have guys stepping up. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Brandon Drury was one of the Angels' biggest contributors against the Royals. He picked up two hits for the third straight game and finished with six RBIs in the series. Jaime Barria tossed three scoreless innings of relief after the Angels gave up eight runs out of the bullpen Saturday.

The victory also sealed a 5-2 road trip and ended a stretch of 23 games in 24 days. Now, after a series against the Dodgers and a trip to Colorado, the Halos won’t leave California from June 26 to July 23 -- a stretch they believe they can take advantage of.

“[The win] was big,” said Angels starter Tyler Anderson, who picked up his fourth win with five innings of two-run ball. “We came in here off a big series in Texas and wanted to keep playing well. I thought we played well last night, but it was a gut punch to build a big lead and lose it. To be able to come back and win after how that went last night was big.”