baseball

Shohei Ohtani borrowed from the novel against the Red Sox at Fenway

Roy Hobbs belted the ball to the stadium clock and when it smashed it was clever in “The Natural.” A great moment in a fairy tale.

Shohei Ohtani seems to make the fiction come true.

With the bases loaded in the eighth inning of his Angels game in Boston on Thursday, he hit the ball out of Fenway Park’s Manual scoreboard, throwing one of the numbers out there.

His own.

Scoreboard 17 has been posted to indicate the current Angels pitcher, Ohtani. When his drive hit the board with force, other numbers remained in place, but 17, as forethought, dropped. Ohtani made an impact at Fenway Park, which was almost cinematic.

Outfielder Alex Verdugo’s quick game limited the eye-opening smash to a single, with clogged basepaths.

(Ohtani had another bizarre long single in the game, when his deep fly ball was lost in the sun and hit the stroke.

Ohtani’s batting line ended with a run of 2 for 4 and an RBI 8-0 victory. And yes, as the scoreboard suggests, he was a starting pitcher and could be a little more useful in that role. At the start of his first career at Fenway, he gave up six hits and no runs in seven innings with 11 strikeouts and no walk.

“I was looking forward to pitching here,” he told reporters via an interpreter. The Red Sox might have predicted that sentiment.

Ohtani, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player last year thanks to his two-way talent, is off to a slow start in the first 26 games of the season. He is hitting .240 with four home runs (he had 46 last season). He is strong on the mound, reducing his 3.08 ERA with a 3-2 record and he has allowed just 1.03 walks and hits per innings.

Some humdrum early stats were hardly out of the wow factor. Since he has been doing this for over a year, fans may still have to recall something noteworthy: Shohei Ohtani was the starting pitcher and his team’s designated hitter in the days when he didn’t pitch.

It gave him a string of hyperbole that included the line “Babe Ruth’s First”. (And Ruth did a lot of pitching at Fenway when she was a member of the Red Sox.)

“I think we’re not going to take it lightly as it’s an old hat,” Angels manager Joe Madden said after the game. “It’s very unusual. It’s otherworldly at this level; this game, I think it’s a very difficult game.

And Angels fans are more focused on a few other numbers: The team has not made the playoffs since 2014, despite the presence of Mike Trout, the consensus best player in baseball. But with the second-best record in the American League, the team is ready to break that slide.

Skipping the open question: What will Ohtani possibly do in the playoffs?

Just for reference, Roy Hobbs – who impressed onlookers with his pitching ability in the film by hitting a fictional version of Ruth – finished his memorable season with the stadium lights with a home run. It seems almost possible.

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