Shohei Ohtani is quite a hit on Broadway, even if his limited-run show in New York City is scheduled to close later this week. Well, just wait ‘til the crowd gets to see him pitch, which is still to come.
Ohtani’s first homer, a solo shot on a 3-1 changeup against right-hander Jameson Taillon in the third inning, closed New York’s lead to 5-3. It also broke a tie with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero for the league lead in homers. Ohtani’s second homer was a two-run shot against Taillon’s 1-2 fastball and closed the gap to 10-5. Ohtani had his second multi-homer game of the season and his 11th in 13 games.
While he’s no Kyle Schwarber (yet), look at what Ohtani has done since June 15:
Credit the Yankees first with beating the Angels, something they didn’t do in the opener, but also for keeping Ohtani under his home-run speed limit. The long ball he blasted Monday went an estimated 416 feet at 117.2 mph off the bat, per Statcast, the fastest in Angels history since the league officially began tracking home runs. The longest homer Ohtani hit Tuesday went just 395 feet, and the fastest HR clocked in at 112.4 mph. Progress for Yankees pitchers.
Ohtani appeared to just miss a third home run in the seventh inning, hitting a fly ball an estimated 388 feet to center, where Brett Gardner caught it without trouble. Ohtani is merely keeping expectations in check, not only for the regular season but also for the Home Run Derby, in which he is scheduled to compete at Coors Field next month.
With his recent surge, Ohtani also is putting himself in position to hit more home runs than any Japanese professional ever has in a single season. Legendary countryman Sadaharu Oh hit 55 home runs while playing Nippon Professional Baseball in 1964 at age 24. The most homers Ohtani ever hit in NPL was 22, in 2016, when he was 21 years old.
Beyond the home runs this season, Ohtani sports a slash line of .278/.361/.688 with 63 RBIs, 32 walks, 17 doubles, four triples and 11 stolen bases. He also came in with a 174 wRC+, third in the league behind Guerrero and Fernando Tatis of the Padres. It’s surely higher now.
What can Ohtani do for an encore? He is scheduled to make his 12th start of the season on the mound Wednesday night. He comes in with a 2.58 ERA, which would rank 16th in the majors if he pitched enough innings to qualify. He also has a 33.1 percent strikeout rate, which would rank ninth if he qualified. He hasn’t pitched as well as he’s hit — yet. The season isn’t quite at the midpoint.
As if we needed more reasons to feel the hype, Angels manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani would hit for himself as the Angels forego the DH. Those plans could change if game-time temperatures rise to more uncomfortable levels. It was 94 degrees for the first pitch Tuesday night.
Let’s check in with another sub-theme from the Ohtani storyline: What Was Babe Ruth doing 90 years ago that’s like what Ohtani is doing now? It’s especially pertinent with Ohtani playing in the House That Came After The House That Ruth Built.
If you’re wondering how Ruth did in that start, he pitched an 11-hitter and went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI in a 9-3 win for the Yankees against the Red Sox.