The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–One week into Shohei Ohtani’s return to the Los Angeles Angels, the lineup is looking sharp.
Minnesota ace Jose Berrios bore the brunt of their batting success last night.
Ohtani hit his first home run of the season, a towering two-run shot in the third inning against Berrios, and Tommy La Stella hit the go-ahead homer in the sixth to give the Angels a 5-4 victory over the Twins.
“I’ve been hitting the ball in the air recently,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I think it showed today that I’m improving.”
The Angels are 5-2 on this nine-game trip that started with Ohtani’s 2019 debut following Tommy John elbow surgery that has shelved the two-way Japanese sensation’s pitching prowess for now.
“We’ve been waiting to get him back. You see how different the lineup is when he’s in there, and hopefully he’s starting to get his timing,” La Stella said.
Ohtani reached base on four of his five plate appearances.
His 429-foot drive off the videoboard facade beneath the second deck in left-centre field was the highlight of the three-run, five-hit third.
The AL Rookie of the Year homered 22 times in 326 at-bats in 2018.
La Stella hit his team-leading 10th homer of the season, in 36 games, and went 3 for 5. The 30-year-old second baseman, who came to the Angels in a largely unnoticed trade with the Chicago Cubs, had 10 home runs in 396 major league games entering this season.
Just as impressive as the power was the way the Angels continually beat the shifts employed by the Twins.
Albert Pujols, who went 3 for 5, poked a single off an 0-2 curveball past the glove of Berrios (6-2) and through the empty right side of the infield in the fifth for a 4-2 lead.
Jorge Polanco and Marwin Gonzalez each hit two-run homers off Angels starter Tyler Skaggs (4-3), but the Twins weren’t able to overcome this uncharacteristic vulnerability by their All-Star right-hander.
The Twins went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, including a fly ball by Mitch Garver with two on and two out in the fourth that left fielder Brian Goodwin caught with his glove stretched to the top of the wall and his back pressed against it.
Though Ohtani’s homer immediately after the gaffe rendered it moot, Gonzalez committed a two-base error when he slightly overran Mike Trout’s line-drive single and allowed the awkwardly bouncing ball to skip past him into the corner as La Stella scored.
This was Gonzalez’s first career start in right field.
Pujols produced his own blooper for the Angels in the following inning, when he dropped a soft pop-up by Willians Astudillo to first base to put the leadoff man on in the fourth. Pujols even followed fundamentals by putting both hands in place for the catch, but the ball still bounced off the heel of his glove.
After a slow start, Gonzalez has a 1.042 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over his last 11 games. With third baseman Miguel Sano slated to return soon, Gonzalez will start moving around the diamond more.
Skaggs, David Fletcher and Griffin Canning of the Angels and Byron Buxton, Blake Parker and Mike Morin of the Twins are scheduled for a joint visit to a local children’s hospital on Tuesday.
When the Angels and Twins meet next week, players from both teams will again share cheer-up efforts at a children’s hospital in Southern California.
In other AL action yesterday, the Astros blasted the Tigers 8-1; the White Sox topped the Indians 5-2; and the Mariners edged the Athletics 6-5 in 10 innings.
The Orioles at Yankees game was postponed due to weather.
Over in the NL, the Phillies defeated the Brewers 7-4 and the Diamondbacks cruised past the Pirates 9-3.