ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Even without full use of his powerful right arm, Shohei Ohtani possesses one of baseball’s most diverse skillsets.
It all showed in a memorable performance Thursday night.
Ohtani became the first Japanese-born player to hit for the cycle, helping the Los Angeles Angels beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 after a delay caused by a power outage.
“You need some power to hit the home run, some speed to accomplish a triple,” Ohtani said through a translator. “To be able to do that at the major league level is going to lead to a lot of confidence. The important thing now is to try to continue this tomorrow.”
Ohtani hit a three-run homer in the first inning and completed the feat with a single on a 3-2 pitch in the seventh. It was the Angels’ sixth and final hit of the game.
“I wasn’t necessarily trying to hit a single,” he said. “I was just trying to get on base, whether it was a base on balls or any other way because it was still a close game.”
After a triple in his third at-bat, Ohtani’s cycle quest became the focus of the game.
“People were talking about it. It’s not like a no-hitter when no one mentions it,” said Angels manager Brad Ausmus, who was most impressed that the left-handed hitting Ohtani got his first three hits off a left-handed pitcher.
“We forget how young he is,” Ausmus added. “He’s in a new country, his second year here. He’s 24 years old. He carries a lot on his shoulders, but he still stands pretty tall.”
Ohtani is the eighth Angels player to hit for the cycle and the first since Mike Trout on May 21, 2013.
“There’s been so many other great Japanese players before me. Being the first to accomplish it makes me very happy,” he said.
Albert Pujols also homered for the Angels, becoming the sixth player ever with 200 home runs in each league. He hit 445 in 11 seasons with St. Louis and has 200 in eight years with the Angels, including 12 this season.
Ohtani’s homer came on Ryan Yarbrough’s 10th pitch of the game after a double by Tommy La Stella and a walk to Trout. It was Ohtani’s eighth homer of the season and sixth in 11 games.
He led off the third with a double and tripled in the fifth before Pujols’ home run. A two-out single in the seventh completed the cycle in just four plate appearances, and fans at Tropicana Field gave him a standing ovation.
The game was held up 36 minutes by a power delay in the fourth with the Angels leading 3-0. The power outage was caused by a fire at a nearby substation.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before,” Yarbrough said. “Of all things, it was kind of cool when everyone turned their (cellphone) lights on. It kind of looked like a little concert and then people got energized into the game after that. That was kind of cool.”
Tommy Pham had two hits and drove in two for the Rays, who have lost three straight.
Yarbrough (5-3) gave up five runs and five hits (all for extra bases) in six innings, striking out four.
Angels starter Tyler Skaggs (5-6) pitched five innings, giving up three runs and seven hits while striking out five in the Angels’ third straight win.
Cam Bedrosian pitched the ninth for his first save.
OHTANI BACK ON A MOUND SOON
Ohtani won’t pitch again until next season, but he might be on a mound again within a month. Relegated to a DH role while recovering from Oct. 1 Tommy John surgery, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year might be throwing off a mound before the All-Star break. “I won’t say it’s probable, but it’s possible,” Ausmus said.
Angels: INF David Fletcher was a late scratch due to left shoulder soreness but entered the game at 3B in the eighth inning. … SS Andrelton Simmons (sprained left ankle) will face live pitching next week and will probably be activated before the end of the month.
Rays: INF Joey Wendle (fractured right wrist) will be activated Friday. … INF Matt Duffy (strained left hamstring) might be ready to resume a rehab assignment next week. … INF Christian Arroyo (right forearm tendinitis) was put on the 10-day IL.
LHP Andrew Heaney (0-1) will make his fourth start of the season for the Angels on Friday night against LHP Blake Snell (4-5). Snell’s win at Boston on Sunday was his first since May 6.