ANAHEIM -- There’s seemingly nothing Shohei Ohtani can’t do on a baseball field, and on Tuesday against the Yankees, he did something he’d never done before.
The two-way star stole home for the first time in his four-year career as part of a three-run rally in the fifth inning for the Angels in an eventual 6-4 win at Angel Stadium. With runners at first and third, Phil Gosselin stole second and Ohtani successfully stole home as part of a double steal. Ohtani made an incredible slide past catcher Gary Sánchez, just beating the throw home from shortstop Gio Urshela.
First baseman Jared Walsh, who was at the plate and had a front-row view of the play, couldn’t believe Ohtani pulled it off.
"I looked up and Sho was sliding into home,” Walsh said. “I was like, 'Wow. OK, that was pretty amazing.’ It was cool. Just another night of Shohei doing something amazing. Watching Sho every day is a treat."
It was the second stolen base of the game for Ohtani, who is the favorite for the American League MVP award heading into September. Ohtani leads the Majors with 42 homers and also has 22 stolen bases. He's only the fourth player in AL history with at least 42 homers and 22 stolen bases in a season, joining Jose Canseco (1988, '91, '98), Alex Rodriguez ('98, 2007) and Ken Griffey Jr. ('99). And he’s also 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 105 innings over 19 starts on the mound.
Ohtani became the first Angels player to steal home since Francisco Arcia on Aug. 7, 2018. And he became the first player to steal home and earn a win on the mound in the same season since Darren Dreifort in 2001, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Angels manager Joe Maddon was similarly impressed by Ohtani’s speed coming home and his slide to avoid the tag. He felt Ohtani got a good read on the play.
"I thought he made a good break,” Maddon said. “It's a tough play for the shortstop to come across and make that throw back to the plate. The reason why it did work was because Shohei's break from third base was on time."
Ohtani was intentionally walked with runners at second and third with two outs in the fifth. But the move backfired for the Yankees, as Gosselin came through with a two-run single off right-hander Jameson Taillon. Reliever Joely Rodríguez came in but allowed the double steal, which was the second of the game for the Angels.
Maddon said they planned to be aggressive on the bases coming into the game and that they were able to execute their game plan.
“It’s something we talked about beforehand, where if we get the right reads, we go,” Maddon said. “We had some really aware people out there. The double steal of Goose and Shohei couldn’t have been a better combination. Just awareness.”
David Fletcher and Ohtani also pulled off a double steal of second and third as part of a three-run fourth inning. Gosselin popped up a bunt for the first out but Walsh followed with a three-run blast to give the Angels the lead.
Walsh has been swinging the bat better recently, as he’s hitting .300 with three homers and seven RBIs over his last eight games and now has 25 homers on the year.
"I've just been trying to use the entire field a little bit more,” Walsh said. “I haven't been hitting a ton of balls to the left side, but my work pregame has consisted of that and it's kind of cleaned up my swing. I'm keeping more balls fair and getting them into the air a little bit more."
But the Angels wouldn’t have been able to win without the help of five double plays, including several nifty turns by Fletcher at second base. And reliever Jake Petricka came through in a big way by picking up two strikeouts with the bases loaded in the eighth, getting Urshela and Luke Voit swinging in front of a boisterous crowd mixed with Angels and Yankees fans.
"My emotions came out,” Petricka said. “It's something I don't normally show on the mound, but just with the way the stadium was going, the moment just happened. It's why we play the game -- for moments like that. It's awesome."