If Shohei Ohtani winds up one homer short of breaking Aaron Judge’s single-season AL record, we’ll have Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II to thank.
Ohtani entered the Los Angeles Angels’ game in Atlanta on Monday night sitting on an MLB-leading 39 dingers — a bit off Judge’s pace, certainly, but nothing a hot week couldn’t fix. The presumptive AL MVP came up for his final at-bat with two on in the top of the ninth, looking to pad L.A’s 3-1 lead. And it seemed like he’d done just that, turning on a center-cut fastball and launching a high fly ball deep to dead center field.
Harris, however, had other plans:
The lack of extra insurance wouldn’t cost the Angels, who eventually closed out a big 4-1 win as they look to make up ground in the AL Wild Card race. It did cost Ohtani, though: both the chance to hit 40 homers before the end of July and cost him a much-needed step on his potential path to history.
Of course, that was also the only out Ohtani made all night; he finished 2-for-3 with a walk, improving on his already MLB-leading 1.083 OPS. He also leads the Majors in slugging percentage and triples and leads the AL in walks — and again, this is someone who is also one of the most unhittable pitchers in the sport. It really cannot be said enough: What Ohtani is doing this year has simply never been done before on a baseball field and is almost impossible to overstate.