ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Shohei Ohtani hit his first MLB home run off a left-hander and his 16th of the season, but the Los Angeles Angels lost 4-2 against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
Ohtani, who hit .309 against lefties compared to .279 versus right-handers while playing for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters from 2013-2017, homered off Rangers starter Mike Minor (11-7).
Ohtani joined Hideki Matsui in a tie for second place for the most home runs by a Japanese player in his first major league season. Matsui was a MLB rookie for the New York Yankees in 2003.
Kenji Jojima tops the list with 18 in his first season with the Seattle Mariners in 2006.
“I’m glad I hit that pitch for a homer,” said Ohtani. “I have so much respect for him (Matsui) and a part of me is excited, but another part tells me to keep working hard from tomorrow onwards to aim higher,” he said.
Four other Japanese players reached double-digits in their first MLB seasons. Tadahito Iguchi hit 15 in 2005 for the Chicago White Sox; Norichika Aoki 10 in 2012 for the Milwaukee Brewers; Kosuke Fukudome 10 in 2008 for the Chicago Cubs; and Tsuyoshi Shinjo 10 in 2001 for the New York Mets.
On Tuesday, Ohtani connected for a solo shot off Minor in the sixth at Globe Life Park in Arlington, lifting a slider over the wall in left-center to cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-2. Ohtani struck out in his first two at-bats and grounded out in his final trip to the plate.
“Just that one home run I hit. I had a couple other opportunities with runners on base and couldn’t come through there, so I’m not fully satisfied with my results,” Ohtani said. “But I do think I’m getting better when I’m facing left-handers.”
Junichi Tazawa relieved Andrew Heaney (8-9) and worked a scoreless eighth for the Angels.
Ohtani is scheduled to start on the mound in Sunday’s game against the White Sox after throwing two bullpen sessions on Wednesday and Friday.
Minor, a full-time reliever for the Royals last season after missing 2½ years because of surgery for a torn labrum, won for the fifth time in his last six starts
“I think people at the beginning didn’t expect me to have a good season. I think they thought I should go to the bullpen, wasn’t cut out to be a starter anymore in my career,” the 30-year-old left-hander said. “It does feel good to end like this. A couple of more starts to go.”
Elvis Andrus homered on the first pitch of the fourth inning against Andrew Heaney (8-9) to tie the game at 1-1. Two batters later, Adrian Beltre went deep for the ninth time this season and 471st time in his career to put Texas ahead to stay. He has 3,147 career hits, the most among active players, after that homer and a single in the eighth.
“Huge for those two guys to step up in that situation,” manager Jeff Banister said.
Minor (11-7) pitched into the sixth, striking out seven with one walk and a hit batter while allowing two runs and three hits. He has thrown 140 innings in 25 starts for Texas, which has done its best to manage his time on the mound.
“Probably couldn’t ask for it to work, to this point, any better,” Banister said.
Minor wasn’t sure he would ever pitch again during the seasons he missed. The former first-round pick for Atlanta, who started 110 games for the Braves from 2010-14, got over that hurdle with 65 relief appearances for Kansas City last year, then turned down a $10 million option to stay with the Royals for a three-year deal with Texas and the chance to start again.
Red Sox 5, Braves 1
In Atlanta, Steve Pearce had three hits and three RBIs, Rick Porcello allowed two hits in five innings and the Boston Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves 5-1 on Tuesday night for their second straight win in a matchup of division leaders.
Porcello (16-7) gave up one run and struck out five, improving to 10-3 on the road this year. He had been 0-2 in his previous three starts overall since an Aug. 14 win at Philadelphia.
Brewers 11, Cubs 1
In Milwaukee, Lorenzo Cain reached base five times, Wade Miley pitched six stingy innings and the Brewers romped past Chicago to climb within three games of the NL Central leaders.
Miley (3-2) allowed one run and three hits, struck out five and walked none as Milwaukee won for the fifth time in its last six meetings with its division rival. The second-place Brewers maintained a 1½-game lead over St. Louis for the top NL wild card.
In Other Games
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 0
Cardinals 11, Nationals 8
Rockies 6, Giants 2
Phillies 9, Marlins 4
Pirates 7, Reds 3
Dodgers 11, Mets 4
Astros 5, Twins 2
Tigers 8, White Sox 3
Indians 9, Royals 3
Rays 4, Blue Jays 0
Orioles 5, Mariners 3
Yankees 5, A’s 1