Shohei goes up and gets it, retakes HR lead

Ohtani hits 13th on pitch 4.19 feet off ground: 'He covers the whole zone'

May 18th, 2021

went up and got it.

The Angels phenom, who seemingly finds new ways to impress every game, hit his Major League-leading 13th home run of the season to help lift the Angels to a 7-4 win over Cleveland in the series opener at Angel Stadium on Monday. This one was a three-run blast that came on a pitch that was 4.19 feet off the ground, which Ohtani deposited into the right-field seats with ease, traveling a projected 431 feet, per Statcast.

That's the second-highest pitch anyone has homered off this season, after Minnesota's Willians Astudillo, who went deep on a pitch that was 4.24 feet off the ground. And it’s the highest pitch hit by an Angels player in the pitch-tracking era, dating back to 2008. It also came off a lefty in Sam Hentges on a 94-mph fastball with a 1-2 count.

"Shohei's home run was absolutely the biggest jolt," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "Talk about an elevated fastball. Hentges has a really good arm and it was 94 or something like that. He's so smart. Who knows, maybe he was looking for an elevated fastball right there. Nothing he's doing right now is surprising any of us."

Ohtani has already opened eyes in the Cleveland dugout this series, with manager Terry Francona calling him an "incredible athlete." His latest feat also caught the eye of NFL star J.J. Watt on Twitter, as well as former ace CC Sabathia, who has been one of Ohtani's biggest supporters this season.

Ohtani also walked twice for the first time this season and is now batting .263/.313/.612 with 10 doubles, two triples, six stolen bases, 32 RBIs and 30 runs in 38 games. The two-way star has also posted a 2.10 ERA with 40 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings in five starts as a pitcher, with his next outing scheduled for Wednesday's series finale against Cleveland.

"The thing about Shohei, and I think you've noticed, is that he was more selective in the strike zone today,” Maddon said. “He's doing some really interesting things at the plate. I'm just watching from a processing method, his intelligence, his overall baseball instinct."

It was the third homer in four games for Ohtani, who also homered twice at Fenway Park over the weekend, including a go-ahead two-run shot with two outs in the ninth on Sunday. It’s been a nice bounceback for him considering he looked fatigued at the plate on Wednesday, according to Maddon, and had his scheduled start on the mound pushed back a day as a result.

But Maddon couldn’t help but note that Ohtani’s homer from Friday came on a pitch low and away that he flicked over the Green Monster, while Monday's was off an elevated fastball he was able to pull with authority. It shows he has immense power no matter where the pitch is thrown.

"He covers the whole zone,” Maddon said. “The breaking ball down and away in Boston that he hit over the wall was an absolute flick. And this one jumped. Just keep watching. He's pretty interesting to watch. The combination of speed and the fact that he pitches, too, makes it even more revolutionary in regards to everything else."

Ohtani, speaking to Bally Sports West after the game, credited his daily preparation and regimen for his incredible play this season.

"I try to keep the same routine and do the same thing every day," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "And it's leading to some consistency."

Ohtani came to the plate in the eighth with MVP chants coming from the faithful at Angel Stadium, though he struck out looking on a fastball from Cleveland reliever Nick Wittgren. Starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval, who gave up two runs over four-plus innings in a no-decision, was left impressed.

"It’s unreal,” Sandoval said. “I don’t know how else to say it. He hits the crap out of the ball and throws the crap out of the ball as well. I don’t think people are grasping how insane what he’s doing is. It’s unbelievable."