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Shohei Ohtani can do it all on a baseball field, yet the Japanese two-way sensation had never hit a grand slam as a professional.
He changed that Monday night.
Ohtani’s first slam came on a two-homer night, Mike Trout also homered and the surging Los Angeles Angels beat the Tampa Bay Rays 11-3.
“Honestly I didn’t know it was my first one. In my head I thought I hit one in Japan, but I guess not,” Ohtani said through his interpreter.
The AL MVP hit two homers in a game for the second time this season and eighth in the majors. Ohtani had a solo shot in the sixth inning off Jalen Beeks. In the seventh, he connected on a 3-1 cutter from Calvin Faucher, who was making his big-league debut, and sent it over the wall in left for the Angels’ third grand slam this season.
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“I wasn’t expecting to hit two home runs,” said Ohtani, who has gone deep six times this season. “I wasn’t sitting on any particular pitches. If the ball was in the zone, I wanted to put good swings on it. Trout set the tone the previous at-bat by hitting that home run.”
Ohtani — who will receive his AL MVP Award before Tuesday’s game — is one homer shy of becoming the third Japanese-born player to reach 100 in the majors. He has 147 in his professional career, including 48 with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in five seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said it was not the ideal debut for Faucher, but he had some perspective.
“He got the first three guys on and then had the wrong three guys coming up. Hopefully he can look back and have the appreciation he was pitching to Trout and Ohtani,” Cash said.
Ohtani also finished with three hits on the night to raise his batting average to .252, the highest it has been since April 29. Ohtani came into the game in a 5-for-27 May slump, but after getting a two-run double and scoring the winning run in the ninth inning in Sunday’s 5-4 win over Washington, Ohtani has shown manager Joe Maddon signs of rediscovering his swing.
“He has booked better. I mean, when the ball is going on left center, he just been a little bit underneath everything and now the angles have gotten better off the bat. If we could keep them right there for the next several months,” Maddon said.
Trout and Jared Walsh also went deep and drove in three runs each for the Angels, who have won five of six.
Randy Arozarena homered and Wander Franco had three hits for the Rays, who have dropped their last two after winning six straight.
Trout’s two-run shot to left field off Beeks in the sixth inning extended the Angels’ lead to 5-1. Ohtani then homered on the next pitch, the fourth time the two MVPs have connected in consecutive at-bats and the first since June 8, 2019.
Arozarena gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with a drive into the right-center field bleachers off Noah Syndergaard (3-1).
The Angels responded in the bottom half. Trout singled through the hole at shortstop, Ohtani hit a high fly ball that center fielder Kevin Kiermaier lost in the lights for a single, and Walsh hit a three-run shot to center off Jeffrey Springs (1-1).
Walsh extended his hitting streak to six games. He is 10 for 24 over that stretch with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Syndergaard failed to retire the Rays in order in his 5 1/3 innings of work. Tampa Bay had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, but Syndergaard escaped with two strikeouts and a groundout.
The right-hander allowed seven hits and a walk, striking out seven.
Springs retired the first 10 hitters — including four by strikeout — before running into trouble.
Trout’s homer in the sixth was his 161st at Angel Stadium, passing Tim Salmon for the most in ballpark history.
Tampa Bay outfielder Manuel Margot, who was named AL Player of the Week earlier Monday, left the game with right hamstring discomfort after making a headfirst slide while stealing second base during the sixth inning. Margot went 2 for 3 is 14 for 27 over the past eight games.
Rays: RHP JT Chargois (left oblique tightness) played catch and may soon start throwing off the mound.
Angels: OF Taylor Ward was not in the lineup after he tweaked his right hamstring on Sunday. … RHP Griffin Canning (low back stress reaction) threw a two-inning simulated game.
Rays: RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 2.36 ERA) has allowed one run in his last 14 innings.
Angels: LHP Reid Detmers (1-1, 5.32) has a 3.21 ERA in his three home starts this season.