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Shohei Ohtani Homers in Last Home Game before Trade Deadline as the Angels Beat the Pirates 7-5

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
A young fan holds up signs for Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani as Ohtani steps up to bat during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, July 23, 2023, in Anaheim, Calif.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani’s line drive left his bat at a sizzling 113 mph, but only a 19-degree launch angle. Hugging the ground like an airplane trying to fly below the radar, it streaked all the way over the center-field fence.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a ball hit like that, except a golf ball, maybe,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought he lined out to center. I did. Every day he does something to impress you.”

The Angels and their fans left the Big A on Sunday not knowing whether that was the last bit of baseball magic they’ll ever see from Ohtani in the Halos’ home uniform on this field.

But another big victory made it even more likely they’ll have at least two more months to enjoy their two-way superstar.

Ohtani hit his major league-leading 36th homer in Los Angeles’ final home game before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, and the Angels wrapped up a strong homestand with a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ohtani’s low line drive in the first inning was his 24th homer in his last 45 games. Only five other major leaguers entered Sunday with more than 24 homers for the entire season, but Ohtani has rekindled his June power surge after the All-Star break with four homers during the Angels’ nine-game homestand.

“Every single time you see Shohei, he does something to help the team,” said Luis Rengifo, who hit two homers.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani hits a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, July 23, 2023, in Anaheim, Calif.

While Ohtani’s future is uncertain as the team heads to Detroit, the Halos’ recent team success seemingly decreases the odds of a trade while Los Angeles owner Arte Moreno decides whether to risk losing Ohtani in free agency this winter.

General manager Perry Minasian has said the Angels are highly unlikely to deal Ohtani if they remain in playoff contention. The Angels are still in the AL wild-card race, although it currently features seven teams separated by roughly six games for the final two spots.

Andrew Velazquez and Rengifo hit back-to-back homers during the Angels’ four-run fifth inning, and Mickey Moniak extended the majors’ longest active hitting streak to 14 games during Los Angeles’ sixth victory in eight games.

Tyler Anderson (5-2) yielded eight hits while pitching into the seventh inning for the Angels. Carlos Estévez worked the ninth for his 23rd save, remaining perfect this season in save chances.

“It means a lot after how we finished the first half,” Estévez said of the Angels’ surge. “We figured out a way to get going again, and it feels really good. Things are going our way.”

Bryan Reynolds homered for the Pirates, who have lost seven of nine out of the break. Liover Peguero got his first career RBI on his second major league hit during Pittsburgh’s four-run seventh.

Mitch Keller (9-6) allowed three homers for the first time in his career while giving up nine hits and six runs over five innings with seven strikeouts in his third straight winless start. Pittsburgh’s ace earned his first major league victory during the Pirates’ previous visit to Angel Stadium in August 2019.

“It looked like he got away from his fastball a little bit,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “When you stay in the middle of the plate in the big leagues, you’re going to get hit.”

Peguero doubled home Nick Gonzales in the seventh and then alertly scored from third when reliever Jacob Webb dropped catcher Matt Thaiss’ throw back to the mound and was slow to retrieve the ball. Carlos Santana added an RBI double before Webb escaped the jam.

DELAYED START

Ohtani will make his next mound start Friday in Toronto. The Angels pushed back his final pitching appearance before the trade deadline to give him an extra day of rest and to avoid putting him in line to start a Wednesday afternoon game in hot, humid Atlanta the following week — one day after the deadline. Nevin is worried the humidity could cause a reoccurrence of the finger blister that bothered Ohtani earlier this month.