Shohei Ohtani hardest-hit home run


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ANAHEIM — Shohei Ohtani has been working to regain his power in the second half and showed a positive sign against the Indians on Wednesday night, smacking the hardest-hit homer of his career in a 4-3 loss at Angel Stadium.
Ohtani hit at an elite level before the All-Star break,

ANAHEIM — Shohei Ohtani has been working to regain his power in the second half and showed a positive sign against the Indians on Wednesday night, smacking the hardest-hit homer of his career in a 4-3 loss at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani hit at an elite level before the All-Star break, batting .303/.353/.571 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs in 53 games, but he has struggled to replicate those numbers in the second half. Ohtani’s homer off right-hander Adam Plutko in the fifth inning was just his fourth in 53 games after the break. He’s slashing .269/.332/.435 with 11 doubles and 24 RBIs over that span.

Ohtani, though, crushed it, as it had an exit velocity of 114.4 mph, per Statcast. His previous best was 112.9 mph on a homer off the Rangers’ Adrian Sampson on Sept. 24, 2018. It was also tied Mike Trout’s blast off Mariners lefty Roenis Elias on July 20 as the hardest-hit homer by an Angels player this season. The last Angels player to hit a homer with a higher exit velocity than 114.4 mph was Trout (115 mph) on June 11, 2018.

“I thought that at-bat was good,” Ohtani said to Japanese reporters, including NHK’s Sam Onoda. “I was able to react to it and square the ball up. I was seeing the ball well, and I think I was able to hit it to a good area [of the ballpark].”

Box score

The homer was also to right field, which was another good sign from Ohtani, who has tried to pull the ball with more authority. Of Ohtani’s 18 homers this year, only three have gone out to right field. His last homer to right came on June 30 against the A’s.

Angels manager Brad Ausmus was pleased to see Ohtani pull the ball, especially after just missing one on Tuesday.

“He took a swing last night where he pulled a ball foul on a fastball in,” Ausmus said. “And tonight, he hit the home run.”

Ohtani’s homer was his only hit of the night. He came up in a big spot as the game-winning run in the ninth inning but grounded into a forceout against Indians lefty reliever Oliver Perez, finishing his night by going 1-for-5.

Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, isn’t having trouble hitting the ball hard this year, as it’s more about consistently getting the ball in the air. His average exit velocity this year is 92.7 mph, a tick higher than last year’s 92.6 mph. But his average launch angle has dipped from 12.3 degrees to 6.8 degrees, causing a drop in his power production.

He’s seen better results recently, including homering and setting a career high with five RBIs against the White Sox on Saturday. The Angels are hopeful Ohtani can finish the season strong and have a normal offseason heading into next year, when he’ll become a two-way player again after last October’s Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has seen his bullpen sessions intensify in recent weeks and is nearing pitching in a simulated game, but without any batters. There remains a chance Ohtani will face hitters by the end of the season in an effort to complete his rehab process, but the Angels haven’t announced a definitive timeline.

“He’s cleared for a [bullpen session] coming up using all his pitches,” said Ausmus, who caught Ohtani’s most recent bullpen session. “I’m not sure what day. I don’t know if [facing hitters] is on the docket for the season.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.



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