Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani ups home run total to 30 with two dingers vs. Orioles

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Saturday, July 3, 2021

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- New month, same story for Shohei Ohtani.

The Angels slugger, hours after being named American League Player of the Month for June, upped his major-league-leading home run total to 30 with two dingers against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani also stole his 12th base this season in the ninth inning after a walk, putting himself in position to score the game-winning run off aJared Walshsingle.

"He pretty much single handedly beat us. He's the hottest hitter on the planet right now," Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. "It's deep home runs. You walk him, and he's going to steal second on you. It's plus-plus speed and plus-plus power, and he's locked in."

Ohtani became the third player to have 30 or more home runs before the All-Star break in the past 10 seasons, joining Chris Davis in 2013 (37) and Christian Yelich in 2019 (31).

But the milestones didn't stop there.

He joined Hideki Matsui (31) as the only players born in Japan with a 30-homer season. Ohtani's six multihomer games (three this season) are tied with Matsui for the second most by a Japanese-born player (he trails only Ichiro Suzuki's seven). And with his two homers against the O's, Ohtani now has 13 in his past 15 games, the most in any 15-game span in Angels history.

Ohtani's transcendent play over the past month has even caused manager Joe Maddon searching the dictionary for new ways to describe his play.

"Maybe supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," said Maddon, which is appropriate, considering Disneyland is a stone's throw from Angel Stadium. "Everytime he swings the bat it looks like it could be a home run. He has the patience to draw a walk and then is a really aggressive and astute base runner. And then he pitches. He's always prepared and under control. It's an All-Star performance above and beyond."

Fans hoping to see Ohtani's other skill set on display in the All-Star Game might get their wish.

Maddon wants Ohtani to both pitch and hit in the July 13 Midsummer Classic in Denver and has discussed it withTampa Bay Raysskipper Kevin Cash, who will manage the AL squad.

Maddon said seeing Ohtani do both as well as participating in the Home Run Derby on July 12 at Coors Field would draw in even non-baseball fans. That is why he is advocating showcasing Ohtani as much as possible.

"The maximum participation of Shohei within limits to me is the right thing to do," Maddon said before Friday's 8-7 victory over Baltimore. "What else could you possibly want? We have to do it in a manner that is not going to be destructive in some way.

"In order to have him both pitch and hit, you have to relax a bit, the DH rule. I think they're prepared to do those kinds of things."

Ohtani was elected to his first All-Star Game by fans Thursday night as the AL's starting designated hitter. He remained coy through his interpreter on what the plans might be for him during the game.

"I think as players we're all like just pieces of the puzzle, and it's all up to the manager, how he's going to decide to use me. That's all I can say for now," Ohtani said. "It is a pretty big milestone. I want the team to win first. As long as I'm performing and helping the team win, I felt like it should come natural for me to be selected as an All-Star."

Ohtani was chosen as the AL's player of the month for June on Friday, marking the first time he received the monthly honor. He batted .309 with 13 home runs and 23 RBIs, along with going 2-0 with 33 strikeouts in five pitching starts. He finished the month by homering in 11 of the past 14 games.

His two long balls Friday not only gave him the Angels' record for most home runs before the All-Star break, but they also broke Babe Ruth's mark for most in a season with 10 or more games pitched. Ruth had 29 homers in 1919 for theBoston Red Sox.

"It's just such an easy swing, but it's violent,'' said teammateMike Trout, who was also voted an All-Star Game starter despite being injured. "You've seen him the last few weeks, he's unconscious at the plate. Anything he hits, it is over the fence.''

Trout said he talked to Ohtani last week and told him to enjoy the All-Star experience.

"Just the whole atmosphere and being there with all the guys, it's one of the coolest things you're going to do. And it goes by so fast, especially for him with the derby and all the directions he is going to be pulled in,'' Trout said. "He's going to try and put on a show, that's why he's Show-tani.''

Maddon talked to Cash last weekend when Los Angeles was at Tampa Bay for a three-game series. Maddon said discussions with Cash will continue, with Angels general manager Perry Minasian also having a role. Talks between the All-Star manager and teams are common, especially when it comes to the pitching staff and whether anyone is throwing the weekend before the game.

Ohtani also made his case to Cash with a 453-foot home run off the D-ring in right field at Tropicana Field in the first game of the series on June 25. That was only the 39th ball to reach that spot since the park opened in 1998.

Before the All-Star Game, Ohtani has more pressing matters -- such as trying to bounce back from a tough outing in his last pitching start. He was charged with a career-high seven runs in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday against the New York Yankees, his worst start of the year.

Ohtani said there hasn't been a decision on when he would make his next start. If he remains on schedule, it could be Tuesday or Wednesday against the Red Sox.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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