CHICAGO – Shohei Ohtani hit his 19th home run Friday, the most by any Japanese major league player in their rookie season, and lifted the Los Angels Angels to a 5-2 win against the Chicago White Sox.
Ohtani, batting fifth as the Angels’ designated hitter, came to the plate for his second at-bat after Chicago lefty Carlos Rodon (6-5) loaded the bases and allowed the visitors to tie it 1-1 on a sacrifice fly.
The 24-year-old rookie took two balls from Rodon before smashing a three-run, go-ahead shot over the center-field wall at Guaranteed Rate Field. It was his second homer off a lefty this season.
“I’m glad I connected at such a good spot,” Ohtani said. “My home runs lately are just barely getting out. Luckily a lot of my hits are riding the wind.”
He rewrote the record of former Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Jojima, who hit 18 home runs in his rookie season in 2006.
Before the game, Ohtani revealed his intention to finish the season as a hitter and postpone a decision on whether to undergo Tommy John surgery following his diagnosis with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow on Wednesday.
“I would like to keep batting while I have the chance since there are only a few games remaining this season, and take the recovery day by day,” Ohtani said.
“I have a few options so once I choose one of them I think I’ll feel like I’m making progress.”
Last Sunday, Ohtani made his first major league start since June 6, when he was sidelined from pitching duties with a right elbow injury. Following an MRI, the Angels recommended Tommy John surgery, a procedure that would likely keep him off the mound until the 2020 season.