Ohtani shows off MVP bona fides in Halos' big comeback win

Two-way star homers in 3rd inning, draws crucial intentional walk in 5-run 8th

July 31st, 2022

ANAHEIM -- It was the kind of win the Angels hadn’t experienced in some time.

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani continued his MVP-caliber season with a three-run blast in the third inning to reach 22 homers on the year, only to see the lead slip away. But the Angels rallied for five runs in the eighth with David Fletcher and Luis Rengifo both delivering two-run doubles in a 9-7 victory at Angel Stadium.

"We haven't had a big one late like that where we come back," said interim manager Phil Nevin. “The at-bats were unreal. I can go on and on about Luis and the at-bats he takes and how much he puts in for his work. And Fletch, he’s a lot more healthy than he was. He’s still kind of getting there, but he’s just a shot in the arm for the whole room.”

Ohtani set the tone early with his three-run homer off right-hander Glenn Otto in the third. It came on a 1-0 changeup down and in, but he was still able to blast it a projected 424 feet to right-center field. He also drove the ball to center field for outs in the fourth and sixth innings before being intentionally walked by lefty Brett Martin as part of the Angels’ five-run rally.

Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, leads the Angels with 62 RBIs in 98 games and is also 9-6 with a 2.81 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings, including striking out at least 10 batters in each of his last six starts. Yankees star Aaron Judge, who has 42 homers and 91 RBIs, remains the early AL MVP favorite, but Ohtani again showed how much he can impact a game.

"I thought he had really good at-bats all night,” Nevin said. “He just missed a couple, but his at-bats were really good. The biggest compliment is getting the intentional walk from a lefty to pitch to [Taylor] Ward, who has been one of our better guys. There's a lot in there. He's frightening to come to the plate, I'm sure, from the other side. I totally understand that move because he's swinging the bat very well against lefties and righties."

Rangers manager Chris Woodward explained his decision to avoid pitching to Ohtani, as he simply didn’t want to give him a chance to come through in that situation. The decision worked out for the Angels, as Ward drew a walk to load the bases, Fletcher scored on a wild pitch and Rengifo provided the go-ahead hit with his double to right-center.

"The Ohtani [intentional walk] was tough,” Woodward said. “But I wasn't going to let that guy beat us."

It was a big hit for Rengifo, who has been one of the club’s better hitters, as he has an .899 OPS over his last 24 games. It also helped make up for a costly error he made in the ninth inning on Friday.

"I've been feeling comfortable up there and staying focused throughout my at-bats," said Rengifo. "I was very excited because driving in those two runs contributed to the win. And that's what is most important."

It looked like the Angels were headed toward another tough loss after right-hander Chase Silseth struggled in the fourth and gave up a three-run homer to Marcus Semien. Silseth, who was called up from Double-A Rocket City before the game, allowed five runs on five hits and four walks over four innings.

Silseth, who has posted a 6.59 ERA in seven starts this year, couldn’t provide the shutdown inning after Ohtani gave the Angels some momentum with his go-ahead homer. His velocity was noticeably down and he said it was because he hadn’t pitched since July 15.

"I'm one of those guys who needs game action to build up," Silseth said. "Bullpens are more touch and feel and I’m not a real touch-and-feel guy. I need to go out and compete."

Right-hander Touki Toussaint, who was called up as a long reliever on Saturday, replaced Silseth and went four innings. He served up a two-run homer to Meibrys Viloria in the sixth that gave Texas a three-run cushion. But the Angels had a rare late comeback with their five-run eighth inning, closer Raisel Iglesias picked up his first save since June 29 with a scoreless ninth and Toussaint got the win in his Angels debut.

"We needed this game,” said Brandon Marsh, who drew a key walk in the eighth. “It was a big win for us. We pulled together and pulled through. We were just feeding off each other and passing the baton."