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Another highlight reel home run by Shohei Ohtani — and another Angels loss

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Shohei Otani of the Los Angeles Angels commits a foul during the second half.
Shohei Otani scores during the second half against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. Otani hit a 462-foot home run in the Angels’ 5–3 loss. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Shohei Otanihome runs often feel dramatic.

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On Saturday night, Angels the star hit his 16th homer of the season, which left his bat at 118 mph and flew 462 feet into the right center stand in the third inning.

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It wasn’t his hardest hit or longest home run, but it was more than enough to electrify the crowd at Angel Stadium after Seattle Mariners scored a run in the first. And more than enough to make the Mariners want starter Logan Gilbert to deliberately take him out a third time, a fifth, after Mike Trout doubled.

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However, they pitched Otani in the ninth, with a tie on base after deliberately outflanking Trout, and this time Otani lined up right to end the game, the Angels’ second straight loss to Seattle. 5-3.

“We have to keep playing hard” – interim manager Phil Nevin said after the game. “We have to keep training here. Guys.

Otani got his solo shot off Gilbert’s four-seam 96.8 mph fastball, which he sent down the center for the slugger to crush him. Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki joined the fun in the fourth round, hitting his second home run of the season, doubling the Angels’ tally. But the bullpen couldn’t hold on to the lead after Patrick Sandoval forced him out of the field after five innings due to high innings.

Sandoval gave up eight hits and two walks for just one run and struck out six. The sailors counted Sandoval early – he had to work from busy bases twice. By the time he finished he had thrown 95 pitches.

Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval pitches during the first half against the Mariners.
Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval pitches during the first half against the Mariners. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

“Just a high score. This is a killer,” Sandoval said.

The Angels went one-on-five with runners in scoring position and were stuck at nine.

McKinnon moment

It took David McKinnon’s bat four games to make his mark on the scoreboard.

The 27-year-old rookie said he didn’t feel pressured to get his first major league hit, but the thought hasn’t left his head since he was drafted. Then it happened.

On Wednesday night, McKinnon – nicknamed “Thor Jr” for his resemblance to pitcher Noah Sindergaard – received his first hit, driving in the process during the Angels’ 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

He hit again on Saturday against the Mariners when he was drafted as a hitter, driving once at sixth base and taking a berth at third base. He went in the ninth to bring a tied run to the plate.

“This is a dream come true; like the whole last week was a dream come true,” said the Angels rookie after his first career success.

Congratulatory texts rained down over the following days. By Friday, McKinnon was still trying to reply to everyone who extended their hand.

“For anyone who gets their first hit, being a part of it is really special,” Sindergaard said. “He’s just a really nice guy. … I think it’s cool to have a little brother on the team.”

McKinnon’s long travel history contains several reasons why his first hit might be a little more special.

McKinnon was not a highly publicized prospect. The Easton, Massachusetts native was selected by the Angels in 2017 in the 32nd round of the University of Hartford with a $3,000 draft bonus. If he had entered the draft three years later, when he was temporarily reduced to five rounds, and now only 20, he would not have come close.

Then, two years after he was drafted, he injured his knee badly enough to miss all but 18 games with the Inland Empire 66ers, the Angels’ Grade A team, in San Bernardino.

“[My wife Jordan] was the one who talked me out of this cliff, they say, I will have a chance to come back and come back, ”he explained his derailed year. This return has been further delayed after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the minor leagues for all of 2020.

Eventually it got better. He got his next chance last year with the two-time A Rocket City Trash Pandas and was promoted to the Triple A Salt Lake Bees this April. It was there that the Angels took notice, needing a player who could make a good contribution after losing Anthony Rendon this season.

McKinnon was hitting .327 with a .423 on-base percentage in 56 games when he was called to the Show. In the six games he played, mostly from the bench, both Nevin and hitting coach Jeremy Reed said his hitters were lining up with the player they were expecting.

“To come here and do it at a major league level, maybe off the bench for someone who hasn’t done it too often, that’s even more impressive,” Nevin said ahead of Saturday’s game.

“Great guy in platter discipline, in command of the strike zone. He understands who he is,” Reed said. “He manages bats in a very short period of time and at major league level. When you first get called to work, probably one of the hardest things to do is control your anxiety, control your heartbeat, control the situation.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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