Shohei Otani’s bat came alive again at Angel Stadium right after coming back from 10 road games.
The two-way phenom from Iwate Prefecture’s Hanamaki Higashi High School appears to have extremely good chemistry with the home field, where he has belted all of his six home runs so far in his rookie year in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels.
”I can go into home games in a more relaxed manner than elsewhere.” As he puts it, Ohtani produced good results from the first inning of the June 1 game against the Texas Rangers.
He faced 45-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon, currently the oldest player in the majors, in his first at-bat immediately after Angels slugger Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer to open the scoring.
Ohtani did not react on the first two pitches that missed the strike zone, and took a full swing on the following two-seam fastball, ripping it deep into the right-center gap.
”As he is a pitcher with good control, I was thinking of not making contact hastily or putting too much strain,” said Ohtani, who made good contact with an easy-to-hit pitch after the count went in his favor.
He had earlier produced no hits in the three-game series against the New York Yankees. But he drew four walks in the series at Yankee Stadium, where he was greeted by loud boos, and it seemed the hitless outings did not necessarily mean that he was in bad shape.
Upon returning home, Ohtani cracked three home runs in a row during pre-game batting practice, showing he had found his rhythm as he entered the day’s game.
Ohtani is now officially listed as a designated hitter on the 2018 MLB All-Star ballot for the game scheduled for July 17 in Washington.
”How I should tackle (games) from my first at-bat to the last in every game is something that’s preoccupying me. (The All-Star game comes) as a continuation of this. I’ll be happy if I can keep a good track record in a solid manner day by day,” he said as he puts focus on the games immediately ahead.
The Angels, third in the American League West Division, hope their current six-game homestand will help them gain ground with high expectations pinned on Ohtani’s performances at the plate and on the mound — performances that may pave the way for him to make a dream appearance in the upcoming All-Star game.