How is it that the Red Sox took two out of three from the Angels this weekend, yet I somehow feel like the Angels swept us? Shohei Ohtani is a baaaaad man, and there’s nary a Red Sox fan alive that doesn’t know it now.
Dammit! One out away! As usual, Matt Barnes quickly dispatched the first two hitters in the ninth on Sunday afternoon. I had three beautiful broom emojis poised and ready to text to John along with some smartass line like Is ten games over .500 good? Such is life when your team has the best record in baseball and one of the best closers in the league. No matter how hard you try to stay grounded, you eventually begin to always assume you’ll be able to hold onto the lead in the ninth.
Obviously Mike Trout is a scary person to see step up to the plate anytime your team is only up by one. But even against the greatest player in the game, the odds are very much in favor of an elite closer like Barnes retiring him to seal the deal. The odds then tilt overwhelmingly in the closer’s favor when the hitter pops one a mile high into the air in short right field. With the second baseman playing Trout to pull, I don’t think there’s another spot on the field that a ball could be hit that high and land in play without being caught. Yet Trout somehow found green between Chavis, Renfroe, and Gonzalez to keep the inning alive.
Then the freak stepped to the plate. You’ve gotta be a complete ass kicker to be in the same lineup as Mike Trout and still be thought of as the freak of that team. Jesus Holy Christ Almighty. It’s not just that Shohei Ohtani throws 101 mph fastballs and leads the major leagues in dingers. It’s the sheer mutant strength and ability that he exhibits while doing so.
Ohtani didn’t pitch this weekend. However, he did manage to muscle two home runs out of the park in different directions despite not being able to barrel either of them. Hitting a home run over Fenway’s left field wall is no crazy feat, even for a lefty. And Pesky’s Pole is famous for gifting cue shot home runs that would be outs anywhere else in the major leagues. But considering Ohtani’s balance on Friday’s homer and the clutch situation surrounding the second, Shohei Ohtani made a believer out of me this weekend. This guy ain’t no flash in the pan sideshow. He’s a legitimate superstar that is on his way to Cooperstown if he can avoid throwing his arm out.
Friday night, Ohtani flicked a Nick Pivetta curveball into left field using one hand. He was completely fooled on the pitch, doing his stupid toe-tap thing a full two seconds before the ball even reached home plate. He started his stride and then waited for that pitch longer than I waited for J.D. Drew to get a meaningful hit in a Red Sox uniform. It looked like the type of hack you take when you’re down 0-2 with two outs in the ninth and just want to foul one off to stay alive. Oh, did I mention that he was bent over like a friggin’ hunchback when he swung the bat? He looked like Shaquille O’Neal using his ass to shove Shawn Bradley out of the paint. Yet this guy managed to poke the ball off the end of his bat all the way into the second row of monster seats. That’s a crazy display of pure strength and balance that not many players in the league are capable of.
Then came Sunday. This still hurts to even write about. Matt Barnes has been downright filthy all year. You had to feel good with him in the game even with Trout and Ohtani scheduled to hit third and fourth in the ninth inning. Even after Trout’s rainmaker fell in for a single, there was no reason to think that Barnes would not be able to put away Sho Time to complete the sweep. Barnes’ first pitch was supposed to be away. It ran in, a mistake that was admittedly a good pitch to hit. Despite the fact that the pitch was a 97 mph fastball, Ohtani was ahead of it. He did not square it up, yet he still drove it down the right field line. I’m still not completely convinced that the ball was fair since we were not given one single replay, but it theoretically wrapped around the right field foul pole for a two-run home run that gave the Angels the lead and, ultimately, the win. For the first time, Shohei Ohtani ripped the hearts out of Red Sox fans and proved to us that he is the real deal.
After losing two out of three at home to Oakland, a sweep of LA would have been the perfect way to rebound. Ohtani not only prevented our sweep, but he left Red Sox fans feeling like we lost a hell of a lot more than a single game in that three-game series. This human cheat code for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim robbed us of a four-game win streak and a lot of momentum heading into a huge three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays of Dunedin, Florida. The off-day today would have surely felt fantastic to a team coming off a sweep that had won four straight. Instead, the Red Sox are coming off a heartbreaking loss and have won three of their last seven.
Before Friday night, I was on the fence about Ohtani. He was clearly a talented player with an incredible skillset. But I had never truly looked at him as a next-level player with the potential to change the game forever. But after this weekend, I can honestly pay Shohei Ohtani the greatest compliment that I could ever pay to a major league baseball player that is not a member of the Boston Red Sox.
I hate him.