Shohei Ohtani hits 462-foot homer, but Angels lose to Mariners

Shohei Ohtani’s home runs often seem to have a flair for drama.

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

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

However, in the ninth round they played Ohtani after hitting Trout on foot on purpose, and this time Ohtani pulled to the right to end the game, the Angels’ second straight loss to Seattle, 5-3.

The Angels went one for five with runners in goal position and nine stranded.

“We have to keep playing hard,” interim manager Phil Nevin said after the game. “We have to keep grinding here. It’s the boys.”

Ohtani got his solo shot from Gilbert’s 96.8-mph four-seam fastball, which he sent down the middle for the slugger to crush. Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki joined the fun in the fourth, hitting his second home run of the season to double the Angels’ tally. But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead after Patrick Sandoval’s high pitch count forced him after five innings.

Sandoval gave up eight hits and two walks but only one run and hit out six. The Mariners got Sandoval’s tally up early – he had to work out of base-loaded jams twice. When he finished, he had thrown 95 pitches.

Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval delivers in the first inning against the Mariners.

Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval delivers in the first inning against the Mariners.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“Only high pitch count. It’s a killer,” Sandoval said.

MacKinnon’s moment

It took four games for David MacKinnon’s bat to show up on the scoreboard.

The 27-year-old rookie said he didn’t feel any pressure to score his first major league hit but the thought had stuck in his mind since his call-up. Then it happened.

On Wednesday night, MacKinnon — who goes by the nickname “Thor Jr.” for his resemblance to pitcher Noah Syndergaard – scoring his first hit while driving in a run during the Angels’ 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.

He hit the Mariners again on Saturday when he was used as a pinch hitter, drove in a run on a single in sixth and took over on third base. He went into the ninth to put the tie run on the plate.

“It’s a dream come true; As if the whole of last week was a dream come true,” said the Angels newcomer after his first career hit.

In the days that followed, the congratulatory texts arrived. As of Friday, MacKinnon was still trying to respond to everyone who got in touch.

“Anyone who gets their first hit is very special to be a part of,” said Syndergaard. “He’s just a really good guy. … I think it’s cool to have a little brother on the team.”

The long history of MacKinnon’s journey contains several reasons why his first hit might be a little more special.

MacKinnon was not a hyped prospect. A native of Easton, Mass., he was drafted in the 32nd round at the University of Hartford by the Angels in 2017 with a $3,000 draft bonus. If he had entered the draft three years later, when he was temporarily shortened to five rounds – now down to 20 rounds – he would not have come close.

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

“[My wife Jordan] was the one who talked me off that cliff, I’ll get the chance to come back and make a comeback,” he said of his derailed year. That return was further delayed after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the minor leagues for all of 2020.

It eventually got better. He got his next chance with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas last year and was promoted to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in April this year. It was there that the Angels took notice, who needed a player who could contribute a good racquet after losing Anthony Rendon for the season.

MacKinnon was .327 with a .423 on-base percentage over 56 games when he was called to The Show. In the six games he’s played, mostly off the bench, both Nevin and manager Jeremy Reed have said his at-bats come up with the player they expected.

“Coming up here and doing it at the big league level, off the bench for someone who probably hasn’t done that very often, is even more impressive,” Nevin said ahead of Saturday’s game.

“Great guy with plate discipline, commands the strike zone. He understands who he is,” Reed said. “He manages at-bats in a very short time and at a big league level. When someone calls you for the first time, one of the most difficult things is probably controlling the fear, controlling the heartbeat, controlling the situation and the environment.

On the other side of the ball, MacKinnon has played first base primarily as a pro, but the Angels’ greatest need on defense isn’t getting started. He knows playing with the big league team requires flexibility from him.

He had a game on second base in the minors last year and said he feels good on second base because “it’s the same side of the infield so the ball dips more similarly.” He also played third base and in the outfield in college.

“Whenever my name is called, I will continue to take employees where they want me to go,” MacKinnon said.

The Angels gave him his first professional chance on Saturday in third place.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-06-25/shohei-ohtani-home-run-angels-lose-mariners-mlb Shohei Ohtani hits 462-foot homer, but Angels lose to Mariners

Emma Bowman

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