Ohtani, Cozart burn Indians
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani really didn’t think his long drive to center field at Angel Stadium would get out of the park, so he sprinted around first base while it soared over the fence for his second homer in two days.
Ohtani made the same sprint with the same thoughts one day earlier, when his first big league homer also surprised him by flying over the wall.
The Los Angeles Angels’ two-way sensation is doing things even he can’t believe during his dynamite first week in the majors.
Ohtani homered again at home in the fifth inning and Zack Cozart hit a game-ending shot in the 13th to give the Angels a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
One day after Ohtani hit an electrifying three-run homer in his first home plate appearance, the Japanese rookie connected for a tying two-run homer off AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his second game at the Big A.
“There was a runner on second base, so I was just trying to get a base hit and keep my swing compact, and it ended up clearing the fence,” Ohtani said through a translator. “I think everything is going really well right now. I’m off to a good start.”
Neither team scored again after Ohtani’s drive until Cozart, the Angels’ new infielder, connected for his first career walk-off homer against Zach McAllister (0-1).
Noe Ramirez (1-1), the Angels’ eighth reliever, came on with two outs in the 13th and struck out Erik Gonzalez with two on. Los Angeles’ bullpen pitched 8 1/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball.
Brandon Guyer and Jason Kipnis drove in early runs as the Indians finished a season-opening West Coast road trip at 2-4. Cleveland had no extra-base hits, and no hits at all in extra innings.
“As a club right now, we don’t have anybody hot,” manager Terry Francona said. “We certainly had chances. We had runners on base. We just couldn’t get a hit. … The last couple of hours was tough sledding for us.”
Tyler Skaggs retired 12 of 13 Indians after a rough first inning, but couldn’t get out of the fifth.
The Angels didn’t get a hit off Kluber until a one-out single in the fifth by Andrelton Simmons, who has a hit in each of Los Angeles’ first seven games for the second consecutive season.
One out later, Ohtani connected.
Indians: Cleveland intends to activate All-Star LF Michael Brantley before Friday’s home opener against Kansas City, Francona confirmed. Brantley participated in extended spring training games this week before heading to Ohio ahead of the team. He had right ankle surgery in October and didn’t play much in spring training.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney will pitch in the minors Friday and could rejoin the rotation next week. He went on the disabled list last month with elbow inflammation. … 2B Ian Kinsler is recovering well from his groin injury. He expects to be activated from the disabled list on schedule Tuesday.
Cozart’s walk-off homer was the Angels’ first in extra innings since Aug. 9, 2014, when Albert Pujols did it.
Kluber pitched seven innings of three-hit ball with six strikeouts, but remained winless despite two strong starts to open the season. He credited Ohtani for capitalizing on a misplaced fastball: “I was trying to force him away, and I ended up in the high third (of the strike zone),” Kluber said.
Before the game, Los Angeles acquired right-hander Miguel Almonte from Kansas City for cash or a player to be named. The Angels optioned Almonte to Triple-A Salt Lake and designated catcher Juan Graterol for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. The Royals designated Almonte for assignment Monday even though he posted a combined 1.72 ERA with a 95 mph fastball while pitching in Double-A and Triple-A last season.
Indians: Weather permitting, Carlos Carrasco (1-0, 7.94 ERA) will return from a rough season opener when the Indians host the Royals in their home opener Friday.
Angels: After a day off, the homestand continues with Parker Bridwell making his 2018 debut against Oakland. Bridwell went 10-3 during a promising rookie season in 2017. He was called up to take the rotation spot of Matt Shoemaker, who went on the disabled list Tuesday with soreness in his troublesome right forearm.