ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani’s line drive left his bat at a speed of 113 mph, but only at a 19-degree launch angle. Hugging the ground like an airplane trying to fly under the radar, it streaked over the center field fence.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a ball hit like that, except maybe a golf ball,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought he lined up towards the center. I did. Every day he does something to impress you.”
The Angels and their fans left the Big A on Sunday not knowing if that was the last bit of baseball magic they’ll see from Ohtani in the Halos home uniform at this field.
But another big win made it even more likely that they have at least two more months to enjoy their two-way superstar.
Ohtani hit his major league-leading 36th home run in Los Angeles’ final home game before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, and the Angels capped off a strong homestand with a 7-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ohtani’s low line drive in the first inning was his 24th home run in his last 45 games. Only five other major leaguers entered Sunday with 24-plus home runs all season, but Ohtani has reignited his June power after the All-Star break with four home runs during the Angels’ nine-game stay.
“Every time you see Shohei, he does something to help the team,” said Luis Rengifo, who hit two home runs.
While Ohtani’s future is uncertain as the team heads to Detroit, the recent success of the Halos team appears to lessen the chances of a trade as Los Angeles owner Arte Moreno decides whether to risk losing Ohtani to free agency this winter.
General manager Perry Minasian has said it’s highly unlikely the Angels will trade Ohtani if they continue in playoff contention. The Angels are still in the AL wild card race, though they currently field seven teams separated by roughly six games for the final two spots.
Andrew Velázquez and Rengifo hit back-to-back home runs during the Angels’ four-run fifth inning, and Mickey Moniak extended the majors’ longest active hitting streak to 14 games during Los Angeles’ sixth victory in eight games.
Tyler Anderson allowed eight hits while pitching into the seventh inning for the Angels. Carlos Estevez pitched the ninth for his 23rd save, staying perfect this season in save opportunities.
“It means a lot after how we finished the first half,” Estevez said of the Angels’ rise. “We figured out a way to get back on track, and it feels really good. Things are going our way.”
Ohtani will make his next start on the mound on Friday in Toronto, Nevin said.
The Angels pushed back Ohtani’s final pitching appearance before the trade deadline to give him an extra day of rest and avoid putting him in line to start a Wednesday afternoon game in hot and humid Atlanta the following week, a day after the trade deadline.
Nevin is concerned that the moisture could cause a recurrence of the blister on the finger that bothered Ohtani earlier this month.
Associated Press contributed to this report.