ANAHEIM, Calif. — Upon crushing a two-out, game-tying home run to deep center field in the bottom of the seventh inning, Shohei Ohtani’s celebration said it all.
First came an emphatic bat flip. Then a series of fist pumps as he rounded the bases. There was no hiding that this wasn’t just any other game for the Angels and their typically mild-mannered superstar.
“Most emotion I’ve seen on the field from him,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said after the game of Ohtani’s reaction to his homer.
And understandably so.
With trade rumors swirling and the aftertaste of Sunday’s crushing, ninth-inning collapse against the Astros still fresh, the Angels managed to rebound Monday, with a much-needed 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the reeling Yankees in extra innings.
What began as an unexpected pitchers’ duel between Griffin Canning — who struck out a career-high 12 hitters in 5 2/3 innings — and Luis Severino quickly became another of the back-and-forth nail-biters that the Angels have become accustomed to once both teams turned to their bullpens.
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning, thanks to an Oswaldo Cabrera ground-rule double. Matt Thais responded for Los Angeles by cutting the deficit to one with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning. After Gleyber Torres extended New York’s lead back to two in the seventh with a sacrifice fly that drove in Oswald Peraza, Ohtani tied the game with his two-run blast.
In the end, Michael Stefanic was the hero, giving the Angels their first lead of the night with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“After yesterday, if you come out on the wrong end of that one, it can knock you down pretty good,” Nevin said after the game. “That one meant a lot, certainly.”
For the Angels, who entered Monday with a record of 2-8 in July and now sit 5.5 games out of a wild card, the hope appears to be that this victory can springboard them toward salvaging their 2023 season and, in turn, their long-term future with Ohtani.
It is no secret that the sentiment of late regarding the 29-year-old has been that the losing in Los Angeles has taken a toll on him. Nevin even noted after the game Monday that it has been “frustrating for him the last two weeks.” But that hasn’t seemed to impact Ohtani’s performance in the days leading up to the MLB trade deadline.
Rather, Ohtani only continues to bolster his runaway MVP case, as his league-leading 35th blast Monday marked his third consecutive game with a timely home run. It was also one of three hits for him on the night, as he added a single and a double.
It seems that regardless of the direction the Angels choose to go with their two-way superstar at the trade deadline, for as long as Ohtani remains an Angel, his no-longer-so-quiet competitiveness will be on full display.
“He wants to win,” Nevin said after the game, “and he wants to win here.”