Angels 11 Tigers 3
The big news on Friday came long before the first pitch was thrown by Alex Cobb. Shohei Ohtani was going to be participating in the 2021 Home Run Derby.
Unbelievably hype and about freaking time if you ask me, but this news would overshadow a message that the Halos put out later this evening: the team would be hosting its own derby tonight.
The bottom of the 5th really kicked off with a raucous one-out bang from the performing Luis Rengifo.
Not to be outdone, Shohei Ohtani would follow up his verbal announcement with a physical one with Justin Upton on first. “Laser beam” does not even begin to describe his 20th long ball.
In addition to being the first Japanese-born player to make it to the Derby as well as the first pitcher to participate, tonight marked the first time a player ever had 70+ strikeouts as a pitcher and 20 home runs in the same season. This is not exactly surprising, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to keep track of.
A walk from Taylor Ward (who also went 3-4 with 3 RBIs on the night right after last night’s heroic Grand Slam) preceded yet another legendary Jared Walsh bat flip.
And while this didn’t happen in the 5th inning, I would be gravely remiss to not include what happened when Ohtani batted later in the evening.
Despite the laugher this would turn into, it was yet another duel of the starters for the first 4 innings. Alex Cobb proved that he could settle down and find his groove in spite of an incredibly shaky start, twirling 5.2 on 111 pitches with a single unearned run.
Counterpart Jose Ureña looked mostly solid until his 5th inning batting practice session. A Kean Wong slice and Taylor Ward drive sent into the left field corner accounted for 2 RBIs, but were all they team could put together until the fated fifth.
Not to be left out of the story would be a man who did not hit a home run and did not drive in a run until the game was already safely put away. J-Up continued to show us why he is batting where he is as he got on base 4 of the 5 times he came to the plate tonight. A leadoff excuse-me automatic double wouldn’t lead to much, but Upton scored 3 times, being one of the most key contributors to the Angels’ 11th June win.
Going into tonight, Justin Upton had the third highest wRC+ (167) of all leadoff men in baseball with at least 90 plate appearances with his .309/.406/.568/.974 slash, following only Jesse Winker and Ronald Acuña Jr. In fact, after his performance tonight, it seems very likely that he will pass Acuña. Imagine being told prior to the start of the season that the 33-and-a-half year-old would be in any way comparable to the Braves stud.
Tomorrow, Angels ace(?) southpaw Patrick Sandoval starts against Wily Peralta who will be making his first start in a good minute. It’s not the A’s though, so are we allowed to be optimistic in the wake of an 8th consecutive win against non-California teams?