Ohtani had the first big moment, and it proved to be the winning hit.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Mike Trout on base after hitting a single, Ohtani took Frankie Montas’ 1-and-2 splitter over the right-center-field wall for his 29th home run of the season. The shot propelled the Angels to a two-run lead over the American League East-leading Yankees en route to a 4-3 victory to open the series. It was the Angels’ fourth consecutive win.
Judge, who had been intentionally walked two times, showed off his talents in the eighth.
With one out and none on, Judge took Ryan Tepera’s 1-and-1 curveball into the waterfall in center for a home run. It was homer No.50 for the star slugger who is chasing Roger Maris’ Yankees single-season record of 61 home runs.
On Monday, Ohtani and Judge were greeted by “M-V-P” chants from an Angel Stadium crowd that featured many pinstriped jerseys. The announced attendance was 44,537.
Their first at-bats were uneventful. In the first inning, Judge grounded out and Ohtani grounded into a double play.
The Yankees caused enough commotion in the third inning (two men on and a 1-1 score) and fifth (one on, two outs, 2-2 score) to prompt Angels starter José Suarez to intentionally walk Judge both times. Boos rang out in response. But the moves proved to be smart for Suarez, who got the final out both times against Andrew Ben-
Ohtani, meanwhile, completed his second at-bat with a swinging strikeout on Montas’ 1-and-2 splitter. His third at-bat added to his lore as a pitcher and power hitter.
Luis Rengifo and Mike Ford each hit a solo home run for the Angels, with Rengifo’s homer putting the Angels up 1-0 in the second inning and Ford’s tying the score at 2 in the fourth. A run-scoring sacrifice bunt by DJ LeMahieu in the third inning and a home run by Anthony Rizzo in the fourth got New York its first two runs.
Ohtani and Judge won’t face each other as pitcher and batter over the remaining two games in Anaheim. The battle between the AL’s most-valuable-player front-runners continues Tuesday night.
The Angels already have said who their pick for MVP would be: Ohtani. On Monday, the Yankees chimed in with their thoughts.
Yankee second baseman Gleyber Torres didn’t mince words when he declared Judge the rightful winner. Nestor Cortes, an injured starting pitcher for New York, deliberated a little more.
“I think what Judge is doing now is pretty incredible and how he’s carrying this first-place team,” Cortes said. “Ohtani, he’s doing a lot of good things, but [the Angels are] not in first place. So I think what Aaron Judge is doing now holds a lot of value.”
Yankee manager Aaron Boone, answering a question about what he thinks of Judge’s season, compared it to the ones Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had in 1998, when the National League MVP conversations centered on those players. Boone also described Judge as a great all-around player for his contributions in the outfield, his power bat and his speed on the basepaths.
Those kinds of descriptions also are used by the Angels about Ohtani.
Said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin before Monday’s game: “I told you guys, as much as I love the guy across the way, I mean, what our guy does, until somebody comes in to do those things offensively and then pitch on the mound the way he does — as far as value to this game and this league, I think it’s Shohei.”
Nevin was asked whether last week’s news about Angels owner Arte Moreno exploring a sale of the team was affecting his players. He replied: “Certainly doesn’t affect the players. … [A possible sale is] not going to get done by the time we’re done here this year.”
He also reiterated his support for Moreno.
“Arte’s been a great owner. He’s been great to me,” Nevin continued.
“He’s brought superstar players in here. They’ve had so many to put a name to this organization, whether it be Shohei and Trout, [Albert] Pujols and the guys that have been here before.”