ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi sensed the excitement around Angel Stadium each time they dug in against each other. The Japanese stars also realized millions of eyes were on them from across the Pacific as they faced each other in the major leagues for the first time.
When Ohtani’s homer sailed into the night sky, the Angels slugger left no doubt who won the first stateside matchup in what’s likely to be a long, friendly rivalry between two incredible talents from Hanamaki Higashi High School.
Ohtani homered and singled in his first three major league at-bats against Kikuchi, leading Los Angeles to a 12-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.
Ohtani’s fourth-inning homer was the Angels’ third consecutive dinger in four pitches off Kikuchi (3-4), who was chased from his rough start shortly afterward. Tommy La Stella and Mike Trout also homered before Ohtani hit the first big league homer by a Japanese-born hitter off a Japanese-born pitcher since 2009.
“I was trying to treat it like a normal game and a normal at-bat, but there was something special…