Sports

‘Ruthian’ Shohei Ohtani lives up to hype with tone-setting homer

Joe Maddon described his swing as “Ruthian.” Gerrit Cole called his two-way excellence “historic.” Aaron Boone simply marveled that his skill set is “something none of us have really ever seen.”

Shohei Ohtani arrived at Yankee Stadium — his home had the Yankees had their way — with plenty of hype, and immediately showed he was deserving of such praise.

In his first at-bat, he took Michael King deep into the right-field bleachers, launching his 26th homer of the year at 117.2 mph and 416 feet in the Angels’ 5-3 win. In his next trip to the plate, Ohtani flew out to the warning track in left-center field, drawing more oohs and aahs from the crowd of 25,054 on a sweltering night in The Bronx.

“I’m telling you [he likes the big moment],” Maddon said of Ohtani, who did go hitless in his next three at-bats, striking out twice. “It was just the right way to start his trip to New York with him hitting a home run.”

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani homers in his first at-bat against the Yankees on Monday night.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Angels’ dynamic right-hander/designated hitter is in the midst of a historic season, among baseball’s leaders in home runs (26), RBIs (60) and OPS (1.031). On the mound, the 6-foot-4 phenom from Japan is just as impressive, notching a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts across 59 ¹/₃ innings while striking out 82 batters. Wednesday, he will be on the mound, putting all of his immense talents on display. He’s drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth.

Following Tommy John surgery in October 2018, Ohtani didn’t pitch in 2019. In last year’s abbreviated season, he made just two starts. But this year, he’s back to doing both, just as he was in 2018, when in 104 games, he posted a .925 OPS, went deep 22 times and had a 3.31 ERA and struck out 63 over 10 starts and 51 ²/₃ innings pitched.

As an Astro, Cole got to see Ohtani up close that first year, as both a hitter and a pitcher. He felt then Ohtani should focus on offense and as a reliever to maximize his potential, particularly after needing surgery.

“He’s proven [me] wrong,” Cole told The Post before the Yankees opened a four-game series with the Angels in The Bronx. “All the power to him. … Just really an amazing talent. What he’s doing this year is obviously historic.”

The high-90’s fastball and the long home runs are what everyone sees on Ohtani’s almost-nightly highlights. They are instant social media hits. But Maddon thinks there is so much more to his star than his impressive power. He has stolen 11 bases in 14 attempts this year, and owns a .360 on-base percentage, a high number for a power hitter. He doesn’t move like a slugger. He glides. He can bunt. He’ll adjust on the mound.

“An incredible feel for this game, the ability to adapt on the fly,” Maddon said. “But I would hope you would appreciate how he moves.”

This week, Yankees fans will get their second live glimpse at this baseball marvel — and a painful reminder of what could have been. Monday night was just a preview. Wednesday night, Ohtani toes the rubber at the Stadium for the first time.

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