Shohei Ohtani’s 30th homer sets up strong final as Angels beat Yankees

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani reacts as he runs the bases after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium on Wednesday. (Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge lost in the pitching duel between Angels first baseman Patrick Sandoval and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. Through their first two at-bats, Ohtani and Judge were unlucky. Judge struck out twice and Ohtani hit a flyout and a popout.

Then, in the sixth inning, Ohtani named himself the MVP.

With two on and one out and the Angels trailing by two runs, the baseball titan took Cole’s 2-and-0 four-seam fastball and hit it 107 miles per hour over the fences behind the center field wall. Ohtani cycled around the bases and David Fletcher, who reached on a single, and Mike Trout, who reached base on a fielding error, waited to greet him after he touched home plate.

His homer was undisputed when he left the bat and fueled the Angels’ 3-2 comeback victory. Cole didn’t have to turn around to know where Ohtani was sending his pitch. Cole slapped his glove lightly in response to his mistake. And Yankee center fielder Aaron Hicks could only stand and watch as the ball disappeared behind the wall.

Ohtani was itching for a big base hit all night.

He was robbed of a potential two-run home run by Cole in the first inning. His throw was secured with a fluid move by Hicks, who bounced to make the catch before clearing the center field wall.

Ohtani didn’t hold up enough against Cole in his second at-bat either, getting a popout to Josh Donaldson at third in the fourth inning.

Cole held the Angels scoreless until his error on Ohtani in the sixth. The Angels got six hits off Cole in addition to the three runs (only two were earned). .

Sandoval, meanwhile, was picking apart the American League East-leading Yankees until a tough fifth inning.

He struck out Judge on four pitches in the first inning, with the final sensation coming on Sandoval’s signature 1-and-2 changeup. He got Judge again in the fourth inning with his equally sharp 1-and-2 slider, which Judge fouled into the catcher’s glove for the triple.

In Judge’s final meeting with the Angels left-handed pitcher, he drew a seven-pitch walk but was forced out to second on a groundout by fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees steals second base before a throw to Angels shortstop David Fletcher.

New York Yankees Aaron Judge (99) steals second base before a throw to Angels shortstop David Fletcher (22) during the ninth inning at Angel Stadium on Wednesday. (Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Sandoval pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, including back-to-back strikeouts of Andrew Benintendi and then Judge, followed by a clean second inning. By the time Sandoval hit the top of the Yankees’ order for the second time — with the final two outs coming on hits by Judge and Stanton — Sandoval was fired up.

He walked off the mound after that last out of the fourth inning, yelling and pumping his fist in celebration.

It was Hicks who got the first hit off Sandoval in the third inning, a fly ball between third baseman Matt Duffy and shortstop David Fletcher. Hicks didn’t make it much farther than first base. Sandoval got Isiah Kiner-Falefa to hit a grounder to Fletcher, who quickly threw the ball to Luis Rengifo at second for a force out.

Donaldson hit a double off Sandoval in the fifth inning and later scored the game’s final first run.

Donaldson’s double, a pitch that bounced erratically along the third-base line, hit the dirt just feet in front of Duffy, who failed to catch the ball before it bounced off him and into the corner where the infield safety and the ball boy sat on the left.

Sandoval’s wild pitch to Gleyber Torres followed, which allowed Donaldson to advance to third. Torres doubled off Sandoval, scoring Donaldson. Hicks’ sacrifice bunt allowed Torres to score and give the Yankees a 2-0 lead over the Angels in the fifth inning.

Ohtani’s home run gave Sandoval a chance to walk off the mound with the Angels ahead.

Sandoval finished his night after seven innings, giving up three hits, two earned runs, walking two and striking out seven.

Judge and Stanton drew walks off Angels reliever Jimmy Herget in the ninth inning, but were shut out, securing the victory for the Angels.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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