January 30, 2023

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Ohtani becomes third Japanese player to join 100-homer club

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OAKLAND — Shohei Ohtani reached another milestone on Saturday night, as he smacked a two-run homer — No. 100 of his career — in a 9-1 Angels victory over the A’s at the Coliseum in the second game of a doubleheader. It helped the Halos avenge their 4-3 loss in the first game, when Raisel Iglesias faltered and allowed a walk-off three-run homer to Luis Barrera with two outs in the ninth.

Ohtani achieved the mark with a two-run blast off A’s right-hander Adam Oller in the fifth inning to give the Angels an 8-1 lead. It came off a first-pitch sinker that Ohtani crushed to center field; it left the bat at 110.1 mph and went a projected 418 feet, per Statcast.

“One hundred is a big number and I’m proud of it, but it’s early in the season, so that’s what I’m focused on right now,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I just want to keep it going. Early in my career, I went through a lot of injuries and surgeries, but I made it back strong and I’m planning on hitting more and trying to get better.”

Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, became the third Japanese player to reach 100 career homers in the Majors, joining Hideki Matsui (175) and Ichiro Suzuki (117). It took Ohtani 444 career games to reach the mark, which is the fastest to 100 homers by a Japanese player. He is just the second player in Major League history with 100 homers as a hitter and 250 strikeouts as a pitcher, joining Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“He does it every day,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not surprising anymore. I don’t want to say, ‘Expecting it,’ but we’re expecting it. That’s just who he is right now. He’s gonna keep adding on to that. You’re going to hear more names, you’re gonna hear more milestones.”

The A’s were able to retrieve the home run ball for Ohtani, and it was given to him in a case after the game. The Angels also had some fun with Ohtani in the clubhouse, as he was presented a ball that was allegedly signed by Oakland native MC Hammer.

“MC Hammer has a great legendary tradition around here, and, of course, Shohei had a bemused look and had no idea what was going on,” Maddon said. “But then once we wrapped it up, they put the music on and now he knows who MC Hammer is.”

Ohtani had a laugh over the gift, though he had his doubts the ball was really signed by MC Hammer.

“Afterwards, I heard it was fake,” Ohtani said. “Either way, I plan on keeping it.”

Even A’s players are in awe of Ohtani, including right-hander Paul Blackburn, who allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1.

“I would say it’s like facing a created player on a video game that has all their numbers all the way up,” Blackburn said of Ohtani, who went 2-for-4 with a walk and RBI in the loss. “The guy’s incredible. I was trying to get him to go after stuff out of the zone and he was going after stuff out of the zone, and he was still getting hits. The guy is just incredible. That’s the only way to put it. He’s big. His bat stays through the zone for a long time. He can hit for average and power. He can steal bases. He throws 100 mph. It’s fun to face.”

The two-way phenom’s seventh homer of the year in the nightcap scored fellow superstar Mike Trout, who doubled home Taylor Ward in the prior at-bat. Ward, who went 3-for-3 with two walks and five RBIs, also hit a grand slam in the second inning to give the Angels a 5-1 lead.

The offensive outburst helped back starter Michael Lorenzen, who allowed one run on five hits and one walk over seven innings to earn the win and lower his ERA to 3.57. It was yet another strong showing from an Angels starter, as Jhonathan Diaz threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the first game. Since May 1, Angels starters boast a 2.40 ERA over a Major League-leading 86 1/3 innings.

Lorenzen, who has seven homers as a batter, was excited to see Ohtani reach the milestone.

“It’s crazy,” Lorenzen said. “They were talking about how fast he was able to get there and it doesn’t surprise me. The guy’s a superstar, and I’m super happy for him.”

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