ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Shohei Ohtani was named a finalist Sunday in voting for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game after receiving the most votes among American League designated hitters in the initial phase of balloting.
The Los Angeles Angels two-way star — who belted his 25th home run the same day — won 1,961,511 votes in the first phase of voting. He will start at DH for the AL in his All-Star Game debut in Denver on July 13 if he tops the final phase.
The top nine in the outfield and the top three for every other position have advanced to the final stage of voting, which is open through Thursday.
“I’m really happy that so many people have voted for me. If I’m selected, I’ll do my best to live up to their expectations with good play,” said Ohtani, who underlined his All-Star credentials with a masterful performance at the plate on Sunday.
The 26-year-old sparked the Angels to a 6-4 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Rays with a double, a triple, a homer and three RBIs.
Finishing just a single shy of the cycle at Tropicana Field, Ohtani moved into a tie with San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. for second in the MLB home run race. The pair trails the outright leader, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., by one home run.
Having struck out in his first at-bat, Ohtani patiently drew a walk in the fourth before taking second base for his 11th steal of the season. He crossed home plate for the Angels’ first run off a Phil Gosselin single.
Ohtani came into the matchup against the Rays leading the majors in extra-base hits. The three he added — including an RBI double in the sixth and an RBI triple in the seventh — took him to 46 for the season.
His ninth-inning solo homer against Tampa Bay reliever Pete Fairbanks flew high over the opposite field after leaving his bat at 107.5 miles (173 kilometers) per hour.
Ohtani’s “unbelievable” exploits this season have been an inspiration for his Angels teammates, starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval said.
“I don’t know if (the TV cameras) show the dugout after whatever he does. Everyone is fired up, and it keeps everyone locked in. It’s awesome. What he does for this team is indescribable,” Sandoval told MLB.com.
Ohtani, who will contest the Home Run Derby on the eve of the All-Star Game at Coors Field, may also pitch in the midseason showcase game.
At San Diego’s Petco Park, Yu Darvish worked six innings of one-run ball to help steer the Padres to a 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Although the Japanese right-hander was unable to earn his eighth win, he gave the Padres bullpen vital breathing room after striking out seven, while allowing six hits and a walk.
“I was really happy with the first inning. It dropped off after that, but I was focused on not allowing them to come back and tie it, so the team could get the win,” Darvish said.
The Padres, who completed a 9-1 home stand with the win, are 13-3 in Darvish’s 16 starts.
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