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Ohtani and the Angels win the battle of MVP candidates in Halos’ 6-3 victory over Toronto

The highly anticipated matchup of Ohtani versus Vladimir Guerrero Jr. resulted in a comfortable Angels win.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

On a night where most eyes were focused on Dyersville, Iowa, a much-anticipated MVP candidate showdown took place in Anaheim Thursday night. While the game didn’t quite match the intensity nor emotion of the Field of Dreams game, Angels fans had plenty to enjoy as the Halos came away victorious 6-3 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Shohei Ohtani took the mound and led off for the Angels. He currently leads MLB in home runs and slugging percentage. Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. entered the game leading the American League in RBI, runs scored, OBP and OPS. Both guys had their moments against each other, but ultimately, Ohtani was the one who finished the game as the clear front-runner for the coveted AL MVP award.

Guerrero Jr. got the first small victory of the night with a base hit in the first, but that was the only damage he’d inflict the rest of the game. He would later strike out in the fourth inning, walked on the sixth and struck out in the eighth (against Raisel Iglesias). In the series, Guerrero Jr. was mostly held at bay and had issues defensively at first base. He recorded only one RBI with a .133 batting average and seven strikeouts over the four game stretch. That’s not to take away from the incredible season Guerrero Jr. is having, but he didn’t bring his A game to the Big A this week.

Ohtani entered his start after providing the only offense for the Angels the night before with a two run home run (38 on the season). After getting through the first inning on the pitching end without giving up any runs, he started the bottom half of the inning with a scorching 112 mph double to center field. He wound up at third in the inning but would not score due to poor situational hitting. He would later walk in the second inning, flyout in the third and strikeout in the sixth. It was on the mound, however, where Ohtani showed why he is the MVP favorite.

The Blue Jays came into this game with the best OPS in baseball (.786) but Ohtani, for the most part, took care of business. His final line was 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB and 6 strikeouts in another great outing. Ohtani didn’t allow a runner to advance to second base until the fourth inning, where he had the most trouble. After allowing two runs via an RBI single by Teoscar Hernandez and an RBI double by ex-Angel prospect Randal Grichuk, Ohtani settled in and only allowed one base runner the rest of the game. The win put him at 7-1 on the year with a 2.93 ERA.

“Physically I feel really good, but I feel like I’m getting better each outing and I haven’t hit my potential yet,” said Ohtani after the game, likely scaring hitters across baseball.

Three infield pop ups squandered a first inning threat with the bases loaded and it looked like the night was going to feature another RISP nightmare. However, on a night where all the focus was on Ohtani and Guerrero Jr., the rookies and bottom of the order had other ideas.

The offense pulled a 180 in the second inning that was started off with a Jo Adell walk. Adell had just made an impressive diving catch to end the top of the inning and followed it up with his much-improved plate discipline. Brandon Marsh doubled, moving Adell to third and Kurt Suzuki drove in the first run with a sac fly. Back-to-back walks by Ohtani and Fletcher loaded the bases for Jared Walsh, who drove in Marsh and Ohtani with a 2 RBI single up the middle. A Phil Gosselin single put the Angels up 4-0 and Kurt Suzuki added an RBI double in the third to expand the score to 5-0.

Toronto got a couple of runs back in the fourth inning, but some clutch hitting by Adell got the lead to 6-2 after an RBI base hit up the middle. The Blue Jays would get another run with a Lourdes Gurriel home run off Raisel Iglesias in the ninth in a non-save situation, but the pitching trio of Ohtani, Warren and Iglesias did their parts to keep the Toronto offense in check. The loss was costly for the Blue Jays as they were unable to gain any ground in a tight Wild Card race that sees them 2.5 games back of the second spot.

Although this game put a spotlight on Ohtani, the other young core of the Angels lineup really stood out, as well. Walsh finished 2-4 with 2 RBI, Adell went 1-3 with an RBI and great defensive work in the outfield, Marsh went 2-4 with a run scored and Ohtani obviously finished with a notable performance. If this young core in addition to Fletcher, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon find some consistency, efficient nights like this should be commonplace next season. Although the Angels are only 58-58 and 7.5 games back of the second Wild Card, it’s nights like Thursday that give room for optimism for the future.

The Angels start a three game series against Houston (68-46) tomorrow at Angel Stadium. First pitch is at 6:38 p.m. PST and will have a faceoff between LHP Patrick Sandoval (3-5, 3.39 ERA) and RHP Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.69).

Thursday Notables

  • A night after showing up Angels fans with two home runs, Ex-Astro George Springer went 0-4 with two strikeouts to the crowd’s delight. Clearly showing frustration, it’s apparent that Springer had an emotional reaction to the boos and “cheater” chants.
  • Teoscar Hernandez torched the Angels in this series, driving in seven runs and at least one in every game. Luckily, Angels pitching won’t face him again this season.
  • Anthony Rendon disclosed that his hip injury had been bothering him all season and may have led to his poor performance and following non-contact injuries. “We kind of just did some more digging on why this was happening to me and kind of came to the conclusion it was the right hip. And then we shut everything down,” said Rendon.
  • Angels third base coach Brian Butterfield exited the field in the second inning but returned in the third. Joe Maddon said he wasn’t feeling well.
  • The Angels hit four infield pop ups in the first inning, with three being recorded for outs.