The 11 best moments of Ohtani's '21 season

April 14th, 2022

The 2021 MLB season really was the Year of

The Angels' two-way superstar took over the baseball world with his hitting and pitching. He hit 46 home runs, stole 26 bases and drove in 100 runs as a hitter. He went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts as a pitcher.

It was a truly unprecedented, historic season, one that resulted in him being the unanimous AL MVP Award winner. And the numbers only begin to tell the story.

Here are the top 11 moments of Ohtani's 2021 season, ahead of his latest two-way performance -- set for Thursday night in Texas, in MLB.TV's Free Game of the Day.

1) The historic two-way game

This is the defining moment of the Year of Ohtani: his first start of the season on April 4 against the White Sox, when he pitched and hit in the same game for the first time. Here's what happened:

• Ohtani became the first starting pitcher to bat second in a game since Jack Dunleavy in 1903.

• He was just the third pitcher to hit for himself with the designated hitter available going back to the 1976 season -- and one of those two, Andy Sonnanstine, only did it because of a mistake on the lineup card (Madison Bumgarner was the other in an Interleague game).

• Ohtani didn't just pitch and hit. In the very first inning, he threw 100 mph on the mound and followed it up by crushing a 115 mph, 451-foot home run in his first at-bat. Ohtani is the only player in the Statcast era to throw a 100 mph fastball and hit a ball even 110 mph in the same game, let alone the same inning.

2) Passing Godzilla

On July 7, Ohtani crushed his 32nd home run of the season, a special number because of who he surpassed: fellow Japanese icon Hideki Matsui. Ohtani's home run broke Matsui's record for the most in a single season by a player from Japan -- he hit 31 for the Yankees in 2004. Ohtani passed Godzilla before the 2021 season had even reached the All-Star break.

"Thirty-two home runs in a season is just a passing point for a hitter like Shohei," Matsui said after Ohtani broke his record. "I was once considered a long ball hitter in the Majors, but I believe that he truly is a long ball hitter. Furthermore, he is an amazing pitcher. He exceeds what is considered conventional for a Major League player and there is no one else like him. I hope he continues his success this season as he carries the hopes and dreams of many fans and young children. As a baseball fan myself, I can’t wait to see what he is able to do next."

3) Two-way All-Star

Ohtani made another piece of two-way history when he was the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game … and the leadoff hitter. Actually, he'd already made history just by being the first player selected to the game as both a hitter and pitcher. In the game itself, he made even more. Ohtani earned the win on the mound after pitching a scoreless first inning, making him the first player to ever start a game on the mound, bat leadoff and earn the win in the same game in AL/NL history -- including the regular season, postseason and All-Star Game, according to STATS.

4) The game-winning home run

Of the 46 home runs Ohtani hit in 2021, this one might have been the biggest. On May 16, the Angels were down to their final out, trailing the Red Sox, 5-4, in the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mike Trout was on first base. Ohtani was at the plate. And he turned on a 97 mph fastball from Red Sox closer Matt Barnes and hit a towering go-ahead home run down the right-field line, just fair inside Pesky's Pole. The Angels won the game, 6-5.

5) One-man Sho

Ohtani did it all on July 2 against the Orioles at Angel Stadium. He slugged two home runs to reach 30 for the season -- still in the first half -- to become the first AL player and third player ever (along with Sammy Sosa in 1998 and Albert Pujols in 2009) with 30 homers and 10 steals in his team's first 81 games. And then he won the game ... with his speed.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the game tied 7-7, Ohtani drew a one-out walk. With two outs, he stole second. And when Jared Walsh flared a single to a drawn-in outfield, Ohtani flew home to score the walk-off run, sliding in just ahead of the throw from right field and lying on the dirt behind home plate, arms raised in celebration.

"What he’s doing is kind of unheard of," manager Joe Maddon said after that one.

6) 45-25-150

Ohtani's 23rd and final start of the season as a pitcher came on Sept. 26 against the Wild Card-hopeful Mariners. And what a final start it was. Ohtani pitched seven innings of one-run baseball and struck out 10, including punching out J.P. Crawford to end the third inning for his 150th K of the season. Think about this: In 2021, Ohtani hit 45 home runs, stole 25 bases and struck out 150 batters. Only five other players have ever even had 45 homers and 25 steals in a season: Alfonso Soriano (2006), Chipper Jones (1999), Jose Canseco (1998), Larry Walker (1997) and Barry Bonds (1993). None of them pitched.

7) Reaching the 40-home run milestone

Ohtani wasn't just the first player in the Majors in 2021 to reach the 40-homer mark, he did it in one of his best games as a big leaguer. Ohtani's home run No. 40 provided an insurance run in the eighth inning … for Ohtani the pitcher, who was busy throwing eight innings of one-run, eight-strikeout baseball to beat the Tigers on Aug. 18, his longest outing on the mound in the Majors to that point. Ohtani passed Reggie Jackson (39 in 1982) for most homers in a season by an Angels left-handed hitter, and he became just the fourth AL pitcher since the advent of the DH to pitch eight innings and also hit a home run in the game.

8) Derby showdown with Soto

Ohtani was by far the most hyped contestant in the 2021 Home Run Derby at Coors Field, and in the first round he faced off with fellow phenom Juan Soto. They put on a show. Ohtani, down big to Soto for most of his round, pulled off a big comeback to force a swing-off. In the swing-off, he came back to tie Soto again. So they went to a second swing-off, where Soto finally prevailed. Even though Ohtani lost, it was a must-watch display. Ohtani also crushed a 513-foot home run during his Derby showcase.

9) Shohei in the outfield

Forget about a two-way star, Ohtani was even more than that on May 11 against the Astros. He pitched, hit … and played the outfield. As a hitter, he knocked a single. As a pitcher, he racked up 10 strikeouts. And then, after seven brilliant innings of one-run baseball, he stayed in the game to play right field. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, that made Ohtani just the third player in the Modern Era (since 1900) to strike out 10 batters and then play another position in the field.

10) Ohtani steals home

Why not add a steal of home to the list of feats Ohtani accomplished in 2021? Facing the Yankees in Anaheim on the last day of August, Ohtani pulled off the feat as part of a double steal. When catcher Gary Sánchez threw down to second to try to catch Phil Gosselin, Ohtani took off from third and beat the throw back home from Gio Urshela with a perfect hook slide, going feet-first to the outside of the plate and sticking his hand in to get around Sánchez's tag.

11) Capping the dream season

Ohtani finished off his historic season with one last big game in Game 162. Leading off the game, he slugged his 46th home run of the year. That homer gave him 100 RBIs for the season, one last milestone to check off. Ohtani reached (and exceeded) so many round numbers in 2021: 40 homers, 20 steals, 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored, 100 innings pitched, 150 strikeouts as a pitcher. We've never seen a season like it.