ANAHEIM, Calif. — In a matchup of the top two contenders for the AL Most Valuable Player, Shohei Ohtani came up with the biggest hit of the night.
The reigning AL MVP became the first player in major league history to hit 30 home runs and record 10 pitching wins in the same season as the Los Angeles Angels rallied for a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
“In a game like this ,with these fans and the way the stadium was, one of the stars was going to rise right there and Shohei got a good one,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said.
Ohtani’s three-run shot to center off a 97.9 mph fastball by Gerrit Cole (10-7) in the sixth put the Angels on top after they had been held to two hits the first five innings. It was the third time in the past four games he went deep.
The Japanese two-way phenom went 5 for 12 with two homers and five RBIs in the three-game series against the Yankees and AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge.
“It definitely leads to motivation for me to do better. I mean trying to go for that hardware,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara of the matchup against Judge. “It’s something that I think about for the most part but I try to take it game by game and then count it all up.”
Judge was hitless in two at-bats but drew two walks after going 4 for 7 with two homers and four RBIs the first two games.
Ohtani nearly connected for a two-run shot in the first inning before center fielder Aaron Hicks jumped up at the wall to snag it. After David Fletcher‘s infield single in the sixth and Mike Trout getting aboard when Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa booted a grounder, Ohtani got all Cole’s pitch on a 2-0 count to clear the bases.
“Probably the worst fastball of the night. Terrible spot,” said Cole, who went seven innings and allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits with four strikeouts. “I was trying to go away. I wasn’t trying to give in there either. Just a bad miss.”
Ohtani, who is also the first Japanese-born player to hit at least 30 home runs in consecutive seasons, pumped his fist while rounding first base.
“I just missed it on my first at-bat. I wanted that next opportunity,” said Ohtani, “Luckily Trout got on with that error and I was happy to be able to come through.”
The Yankees were held to three hits, and had none after the fifth inning but still had a chance in the ninth. Jimmy Herget walked Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to lead off the ninth, but struck out Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres before Oswaldo Cabrera grounded out to shortstop Andrew Velazquez to end the game. Herget got his fifth save for the Angels, who have won five of their last six.
Patrick Sandoval (5-9) struck out seven and allowed two runs in seven innings to win for the second time in his last three starts.
Cole, who grew up in nearby Newport Beach, had a seven-game winning streak against his boyhood team snapped and lost for the first time in six career starts at Angel Stadium.
“Tough one. It was a pitchers duel and a mistake costs us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees had only one hit the first four innings before breaking through in the fifth. Donaldson led off with a double down the left-field line, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Gleyber Torres lined a double into the right-field gap.
Hicks’ sky high sacrifice fly deep to left field brought in Torres to make it 2-0.
MONTH TO FORGET
The Yankees entered August with the AL’s best record and an 11 1/2 game lead in the AL East, but went 10-18 during the month with minus-12 run differential. New York has a six-game lead over Tampa Bay going into a three-game series with the Rays starting Friday.
It is the Yankees’ worst month since they went 9-19 in September 1991.
“We have got to play better than we have. Simple as that. We’ve got to start racking up some wins,” Boone said. “The unfortunate part of the last several weeks for us has been we’ve been losing these close games and that’s what we got to find a way to punch through.”
Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon suffered a left forearm contusion after X-rays were negative for a fracture. Taillon was hit on a line drive by Magneuris Sierra during the second inning of Tuesday’s game. … LHP Nestor Cortes (groin) threw a bullpen session before Wednesday’s game and will throw another one Saturday.
Angels: RHP Michael Lorenzen (right shoulder strain) will make a rehab start for Class A Inland Empire on Friday.
Yankees: RHP Domingo German (2-2, 3.19 ERA), who goes in Friday’s opener against the Rays, has allowed three runs or fewer in seven straight starts.
Angels: Continue their homestand with three games against Houston starting Friday. LHP Reid Detmers (5-4, 3.47 ERA) is 3-1 since the All-Star break.