Baseball: Shohei Ohtani becomes 2nd Japanese to join 20-homer club in MLB

Shohei Ohtani became the second Japanese major leaguer to hit 20 home runs in a single season when he connected for a solo shot in the Los Angeles Angels’ 6-5 defeat to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Right after teammate Mike Trout connected on a two-run blast to put the Angels on the scoreboard, Ohtani stepped into the box and hit a homer off Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez in the first inning at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani and Former New York Yankees All-Star outfielder Hideki Matsui are the only Japanese players with 20-plus homers in a season. Matsui did it five times in his career, the last time in 2010 when he hit 21 with the Angels.

«I’m really happy (with home run No. 20) but it’s not over yet so I have to keep going,» Ohtani said.

When told that Ichiro Suzuki, special assistant to the chairman of the Mariners, called him a «home run hitter,» Ohtani humbly denied being the first Japanese power hitter in Major League Baseball.

«I don’t consider myself a home run hitter but there are many ways to contribute to the team score and hitting extra-base hits is one. I feel more comfortable with my at-bats than I did in the first half (of the season),» he said.

But the Angels blew an early 4-0 lead and dropped their third straight against the Mariners, who moved to an 82-66 record, enough to clinch a winning season.

With two out in the eighth, the Mariners’ Robinson Cano hit a bases-loaded double to drive in three runs, including the go-ahead run, to turn the game in favor of the visitors.

Angels left fielder Justin Upton hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth — his second of the night — but it proved too little, too late.

Ohtani went 2-for-4 with a homer, a single and two strikeouts. The Rookie of the Year candidate hit his Nippon Professional Baseball career-high 22 homers in 2016 while playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Junichi Tazawa got the last four outs for the Angels.

James Pazos (4-1) earned the win for pitching a scoreless seventh, and Edwin Diaz picked up his major league-leading 55th save. Jose Alvarez (5-4), who put two runners on in the eighth on a wild pitch and a walk, took the loss.

All — Kyodo News+

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