Ohtani hits milestone 32nd homer, Angels edge Red Sox 5-4

Sports

Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, right, heads to first after hitting a solo home run as Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, center, and home plate umpire Adam Beck watch during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani fouled a 2-2 pitch off his ankle in the fifth inning. He fouled the next pitch off his leg, just above his knee.

The Los Angeles Angels slugger shook off the pain, stepped back in and immediately hit a 433-foot homer that gave him a new place in Japanese baseball history.

“That’s how tough he is,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He stayed in there, got himself right and hit a homer.”

Ohtani hit his major league-leading 32nd homer and broke the single-season major league record for homers by a Japanese player during the Angels’ 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

Fellow All-Star Jared Walsh homered twice for the Angels, who won for the sixth time in seven games and took two of three from the AL-leading Red Sox on another landmark day for Los Angeles’ two-way superstar.

A day after Ohtani pitched seven innings to beat Boston, he broke Hideki Matsui’s record with his solo shot to right off Eduardo Rodríguez (6-5), putting the Angels ahead to stay in the fifth inning.

Matsui hit 31 homers for the Yankees in 2004, but Ohtani surpassed the mark in just 81 games before the All-Star break with his 15th homer in his past 20 games.

“I’ve said it before, but he’s someone I’ve been watching as a child growing up, so it’s a huge honor to do something he’s done,” Ohtani said through his translator.

Matsui, who played for the Angels in 2010, returned the love.

In a statement issued by the team, Matsui said Ohtani “exceeds what is considered conventional for a major league player, and there is no one else like him. I hope he continues his success this season, as he carries the hopes and dreams of many fans and young children. As a baseball fan myself, I can’t wait to see what he is able to do next.”

Walsh homered right after Ohtani’s blast and added another solo shot in the seventh, giving him 22 homers in his breakthrough season as Albert Pujols’ full-time replacement at first base. Walsh drove in three runs for the Angels (44-42) as they moved two games above .500 for the first time since April 21.

Xander Bogaerts had three hits and drove in a run for the Red Sox, who lost for just the third time in 13 games while finishing 3-3 on their six-game California road swing. Boston hadn’t lost back-to-back games since June 24.

“We had our chances the last two days,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “We had traffic all over the place. We weren’t able to get the big hit. That happens. We were so good offensively coming into this trip. We just haven’t had that big hit the last few days.”

After Mike Mayers escaped an eighth-inning jam with a lead, Raisel Iglesias struck out the side in the ninth for his 18th save.

Andrew Heaney (5-6) pitched six-hit ball into the sixth inning for the Angels, bouncing back from three straight rough starts with a solid effort against the AL’s best team. He walked two and struck out five while giving up three runs.

Rodríguez yielded nine hits and four runs over five inconsistent innings for Boston, striking out five. The Angels made little solid contact against him until their back-to-back homers.

“It’s kind of hard when you know your pitches are working pretty good and they start hitting balls like that, but those things happen,” Rodríguez said. “I have to get out of those. Blooper, homer, whatever, that’s something you have to take out of the game.”

COULDA BEEN

The Red Sox were unhappy when video review failed to conclude José Iglesias hadn’t touched second base while turning an inning-ending double play in the sixth.

Boston also got the benefit of two misplays by Angels outfielders during rallies.

Phil Gosselin misplayed Bobby Dalbec’s catchable fly to left in the fifth, allowing a run. J.D. Martinez then led off the eighth with a triple when Luis Rengifo apparently lost his fly ball in the sun, and Bogaerts doubled him home before Mayers got three straight outs.

FLETCH PART 21

David Fletcher singled in his first two at-bats, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 21 games and giving him a hit in seven consecutive plate appearances since Monday.

Fletcher’s hitting streak is the longest in the AL this season, and it matches the 21-game streak by Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos for the longest in the majors in 2021. The streak is also the longest for the Angels since Garret Anderson went 23 straight in 2008.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: RHP Tanner Houck could return to Boston’s rotation after the All-Star break to keep the starters on proper rest. Houck hasn’t pitched in the majors since early May because of a right arm flexor injury, but he is making rehab starts for Triple-A Worcester.

Angels: LF Justin Upton will be out through the All-Star break. The veteran hasn’t played since June 22 because of lower-back tightness.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Longtime Angels starter Garrett Richards (4-5, 4.88 ERA) takes the mound Friday at Fenway Park against Philadelphia.

Angels: Alex Cobb (6-3, 4.60 ERA) takes the mound in Seattle on Friday, looking to continue his impressive 5-1 run in seven starts since returning from the injured list.

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