ARLINGTON — One of the things that got lost in the shuffle of Shohei Ohtani‘s historic 2021 season was his ability to homer the day after he pitched.
In previous years, Ohtani was held out of the lineup the day before, the day of and the day after his start in an effort to keep him healthy and preserve his energy for his starts on the mound. But last year, the restrictions were lifted and Ohtani was in the lineup virtually every day, getting at least one at-bat in 155 of the club’s 162 games.
Incredibly, Ohtani went deep eight times on the day immediately after his start on the mound last year. And he did so for the first time this season in Friday’s 9-6 win against the Rangers, as he homered twice at Globe Life Field.
“He’s just different,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t know anybody else that can do what he’s done and pitch and hit on the same day, and then the next day, play a game as though nothing happened physically. Nothing bothers him. It’s amazing.”
His first blast came on the first pitch of the game from Rangers right-hander Matt Bush, as he jumped all over a fastball and deposited it a projected 406 feet to right-center field. It was his fifth career leadoff shot.
Ohtani was greeted in the dugout by his teammates after the homer and put on a white cowboy hat, which has become the club’s way to celebrate homers this season. It began Tuesday with Anthony Rendon wearing the cowboy hat after a two-run shot against the Marlins, and superstar Mike Trout also wore the hat after he blasted a homer a projected 472 feet off Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning on Thursday.
Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, had doubled twice this season heading into the game, but he had yet to homer through his first seven games. His leadoff shot came after he pitched Thursday, when he allowed six runs over 3 2/3 innings in an uncharacteristically rough start. His next start on the mound is expected to come Wednesday against the Astros, but it’ll be impossible for him to homer the next day, as the Angels are off Thursday.
“He’s starting to do Shohei things again,” Maddon said. “He’s fine. He almost hit one out to left field, too. It was only a matter of time. You just have to leave him alone and let him work with the hitting coaches.”
Ohtani’s second homer came on an 0-1 cutter from lefty Kolby Allard in the fifth inning. The two-run shot left the bat at 108.1 mph and went a projected 415 feet to right field. It brought the Angels within one run and was the fourth homer of the game for the Halos, who also saw Jo Adell smack a solo shot in the second and Kurt Suzuki hit a solo blast in the fifth. Jared Walsh added a fifth homer for the Halos with a two-run shot in the seventh, helping the club overcome a five-run fourth inning from the Rangers, which was keyed by the decision to intentionally walk Corey Seager with the bases loaded and one out.
“I’m glad to get those two out of the way,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “Especially because we were losing at the time and it helped us get back into the game and we ended up winning the game. That was the biggest thing to me.”