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Shohei Ohtani nearly hits for cycle on historic night in Baltimore

And then the other version responds with an effort so dominant, sometimes even historic, that it simply erases the other guy’s miscues.

So it was Monday night at Camden Yards, when Ohtani, the greatest two-way player in baseball history, gave up more than a thousand feet worth of home runs to the Baltimore Orioles, the first two blasts putting his Los Angeles Angels in a bind that looked unescapable.

Ohtani merely shrugged that off, grabbed his bat, found a hanging curveball to his liking and destroyed the baseball, sending it 456 feet into the Baltimore night, turning around the game and setting the stage for a historic night.

In consecutive innings, Ohtani hit a go-ahead three-run home run and a triple, leaving him just a double shy of the cycle as he carried the Angels to a 9-5 victory, just their second in six games.

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Ohtani became the first starting pitcher to reach base five times as a pitcher – he singled twice, walked, tripled and homered – since the New York Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre against the Washington Senators on Sept. 26, 1964.

He had two shots to hit for the cycle for the first time in his career, grounding into a force play in the seventh inning. In the ninth, Mike Trout’s two-out walk gave a grateful Ohtani one more shot, but after falling behind in the count to Michael Baumann, settled for a single to right field. Boos – mocking, we take it? – gave way to cheers, while the notion of Ohtani pulling off the cycle seemed more a matter of when than if.

Just not on this night – not that anyone was too disappointed.

‘I’m sure it will happen some day,’ says Angels catcher Chad Wallach. ‘Just watching him every game is super impressive.’

First things first: The pitching version of Ohtani was hardly a slouch.

Despite Adam Frazier, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins rocketing balls off him and over the Camden Yards wall, there was Ohtani, trotting out to the mound in the seventh inning, a rare enough sight for any player, let alone one also tasked with carrying them offensively on this night.

Yet Ohtani proved hittable but not so hard to topple, giving up just one hit besides the homers, and so he stayed in the game long after his counterpart, prized Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez, departed in the fourth inning.

Naturally, Ohtani had a lot to do with that, too.

He walked in the first and singled in the third off Rodriguez, whose 98-mph fastball was little match for Ohtani. When Wallach tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth and Taylor Ward and Mike Trout singled with one out, Ohtani stepped in.

It had been an ignoble beginning in a park that was beginning to resemble one of his least favorite. During Ohtani’s 2021 MVP season, the 110-loss Orioles nicked him for four runs in five innings, breaking a 19-game losing streak as he received a no-decision. Monday, this upstart Orioles team that came in 26-14 thrilled a crowd of 20,148 when Frazier cracked an Ohtani sweeper over the right field fence for a two-run homer in the second inning.

The crowd roared. In left field, the freshly christened “Bird Bath” section was showered with water, a nod to Balitmore’s water-works celebrations. And as they replayed the homer on the videoboard, the announcer exclaimed, “Ohtani who?!”

Santander’s blast only further lit up the ballpark. Yet an inning later, that joy would give way to the low, collective murmur that occurs when an opposing player does something phenomenal.

Ohtani punished the Rodriguez curveball, sending it on a line toward Eutaw Street behind the right field fence, where homers that crash down are honored with plaques.

There will be no plaque for Ohtani – his ball, seemingly still rising, struck a fence that separates seats from Eutaw Street. The ball ricocheted toward the seats in right center field. Ohtani trotted around the basis, seemingly impervious to the indignities of the preceding innings.

‘I think,’ says Angels manager Phil Nevin, ‘there was a little anger behind that swing.’

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The Angels had a lead they would not relinquish. An inning later, Ohtani would scorch a ball into the gap and when right fielder Terrin Vavra dove and missed the catch, Ohtani cruised into third base for a triple.

Meanwhile, Ohtani showed why he’s always a Cy Young Award threat, even as his ERA increased from 2.74 to 3.23.

After Ohtani the hitter’s go-ahead homer, Ohtani the pitcher responded with an eight-pitch shutdown inning to maintain an 8-4 lead. He’d need just 98 pitches to complete seven innings, an unlikely feat given the way balls were flying, birds were bathing and the crowd was roaring earlier.

‘He’s one of the best players on the planet,’ says Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. ‘I don’t think we’re going to see anybody that talented that can do what he can on the mound and at the plate.’

But that’s just another night in the life of Ohtani – one version of him picking the other up until they both exit in glory.

‘It helps when he doesn’t have to sprint on the bases,’ says Nevin. ‘Because he does get tired out there.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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