On any given night, Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani will make history. Friday night was the latest display of Ohtani’s record-setting power as his two home runs vs. the Orioles at Angel Stadium wowed the crowd. But it was his speed on the basepaths that provided the walk-off 8-7 victory over the Orioles.
Ohtani has been the game’s most electric player this season, and has played at a scorching level over the past month. Manager Joe Maddon is out of ways to describe the two-way star since every game he seems to do something out of the ordinary.
“What he’s doing is kind of unheard of,” Maddon said. “The only blip recently was the game in New York as a pitcher. His whole game is spectacular to watch. It’s an All-Star performance, above and beyond. [In two weeks] everyone will get a chance to watch. It’s a pleasure to be his manager, to be a steward of his career.”
Following his abbreviated start in New York where he allowed seven earned runs in less than one inning, Ohtani said he wanted to contribute to the team’s next win. His two homers and stolen base against the Orioles made more history, and powered the Angels’ win.
“He pretty much single-handedly beat us. He’s such a good player. I don’t know what to say,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “The hottest hitter on the planet right now and it’s not just driving the ball and base hits. It’s deep home runs. You walk him and he’ll steal second on you.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
The Orioles and Angels engaged in a back-and-forth battle throughout the game that endured four lead changes. With the game tied at 7, it set things in motion for Ohtani to do one of the many things he does best.
His speed put the go-ahead run in scoring position when he stole second base on the first pitch of Jared Walsh’s at-bat in the ninth. Ohtani was issued a free pass to first base with one out as he laid off four sliders from Baltimore reliever Paul Fry. On the second pitch, Walsh smacked a 214-foot line drive to right field as Ohtani kicked it into another gear to narrowly score on the throw to home.
“In that situation, I knew [third-base coach Brian Butterfield] was going to wave his arm and try to get me home,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “And also [Walsh], that ball was hit hard, so I wasn’t 100% sure, but I had no doubt that I was going to try to score at full speed.”
While he scored the go-ahead run to end the game, Ohtani brought power to the plate to keep the Angels within striking distance of their second consecutive comeback win.
Ohtani led off the third inning with his 29th home run of the season, giving him the most home runs before the All-Star break in Angels history. Entering the night, he was tied with teammate Mike Trout’s 2018 record of 28.
Ohtani’s first homer of the night cut into Baltimore’s four-run lead as he connected on the first pitch of the at-bat and drove the four-seam fastball to right-center field at a Statcast-projected 416 feet with an exit velocity of 104.5 mph.
The 26-year-old phenom mashed his second long ball of the night in his third at-bat, this time with opposite field power. The 400-foot homer gave Los Angeles the lead, with David Fletcher on first, as Ohtani achieved another historic milestone.
Ohtani became the first American League player to record 30 home runs and 10 stolen bases in his team’s first 81 games of the season. Sammy Sosa (Chicago, 1998) and Albert Pujols (St. Louis, 2009) are the only other two players to accomplish the feat.
“When you watch Barry Bonds, it was a lot like this. When you watch Ken Griffey Jr., it was kind of a lot like this on offense,” Maddon said. “I’m here to tell you, if we would let him, Shohei would go play the outfield and you’d be ranking him with all these guys.
“He fits in extremely well with these Hall of Fame caliber players. That’s what I see when I see him.”
Throughout Ohtani’s illustrious career, he’s often been compared to baseball legend Babe Ruth, who was also a two-way player. Ruth set a record in 1919 with the most home runs (29) in a single season with at least 10 games pitched. Ohtani has already shattered the 100-plus-year-old record with 12 pitching appearances and 30 homers for the Halos this season.