Home News Shohei Ohtani hits 23rd home run to take MLB lead

Shohei Ohtani hits 23rd home run to take MLB lead

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KANSAS CITY — Shohei Ohtani’s sizzling month at the plate has made its way to Kansas City.

Ohtani crushed his Major League-leading 23rd home run of the season in the Angels’ 10-9 loss Saturday during the seventh inning off Taylor Clarke, a Statcast-projected 437-foot laser to center that left his bat with an exit velocity of 110 mph. The blast extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active streak in the Majors. Over that span, Ohtani has six multihit games. He finished with two RBIs and added a walk in addition to the homer Saturday.

“He’s unbelievable,” Mike Trout said. “Every [time] he’s up to the plate, it’s got a chance to leave the yard.”

The 28-year-old two-way player is on pace for 51 home runs, which would be a career high, if he plays in each of the Angels’ 89 remaining games. The homer was the 150th of his career, marking the fastest (637 games) any Angels player has reached that milestone. 

Ohtani recorded his first RBI of the game by beating what looked like a routine double play ball in the fifth inning by dashing up the first-base line at 29.1 ft./sec, going from home to first in 4.20 seconds.

“I’ve had a pretty good seat the last three years to watch him hit,” said Royals starter Mike Mayers, who spent 2020-22 with the Angels. “He’s pretty incredible. I thought I had a good game plan against him. … He’s a freak athlete and runs very well — especially for a pitcher.”

Entering Saturday, Ohtani was batting .421 in June and .536 over his past eight games. He has eight home runs, six doubles and 18 RBIs this month alone. The MVP frontrunner smacked four homers in a four-game set against Texas earlier in the week, helping the Angels — winners of 10 of their past 13 games — position themselves in the middle of a crowded group atop the American League West.

However, Ohtani’s heroics weren’t enough as the Halos lost grip on an 8-2 lead over the final three innings. The Angels’ bullpen, which entered with an MLB-best 1.43 ERA since June 4, gave up eight runs over 2 1/3 innings after Griffin Canning’s quality start. 

“The [bullpen] has been unreal,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “There’s a reason why we’ve put ourselves in the position we are in, as far as how the past two, three weeks have gone. We asked a lot out of them, and they’ve been used a lot, but you’ve got to throw strikes late in the game, and we didn’t do that today.”

With the overworked relief corps, Nevin decided to give closer Carlos Estévez (18 saves) his second consecutive day off and instead turned to righty Chris Devenski with a one-run lead in the ninth. Devenski, who hadn’t allowed a run in his past 11 outings and gave up only two hits in that span, was tagged with the blown save after he gave up four hits and two runs, including the walk-off.

“I just didn’t get the job done. I let my team down,” Devenski said. “It’s going to eat at me a little bit, but I’m going to go back out there and prove what I got.”

The Angels’ offense didn’t miss a beat, though. Los Angeles ranks top five in the AL in batting average (fifth, .256), home runs (tied for second, 105) and runs (third, 360) and kept it up Saturday. Brandon Drury smacked two homers of his own before Ohtani’s for his fourth career multihomer game. Drury has four hits and five RBIs in the first two games against Kansas City. 

But maybe most importantly was Trout’s day in the box. Trout entered hitting just .122 over 14 games in June, but he had two hits on Saturday, including a go-ahead RBI single off a 99.6 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning.

The single fell short of being the game-winning RBI, but it was an encouraging sign for Trout, who is a career .276 hitter against fastballs despite entering Saturday hitting .202 against the heater in 2023. The ninth-inning line drive also sealed Trout’s first two-hit game since May 29. 

“It felt good. It’s been a slow process, a little bit slower than I wanted it to be, but it’s coming along,” Trout said. “It’s been rough [for me] the past couple of weeks, but we’ve been winning. But it’s good to finally feel like myself up there.

“It’s tough [to lose this game]. We’ve got to turn the page and win a series tomorrow.”

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