(CBS Los Angeles) — The MLB season is about to enter September, and the various MVP and division races remain interesting. With a month of games left, Shohei Ohtani looks like the American League MVP favorite, barring injury or complete collapse. He added another line to his resume and the record books this past weekend. The New York Yankees finally lost, ending their 13-game winning streak just four games games behind Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East race. Across town, the New York Mets are moving just as quickly in the opposite direction. A few players somehow thought it wise to express their displeasure with fans.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at Ohtani’s 40-20 milestone, the Yankees’ winning streak, and the Mets giving the “thumbs down” gesture to their fans.
Ohtani’s 40-20 Season
It isn’t even September, and Shohei Ohtani is well in control of the American League MVP race. That’s what happens when a two-way player excels at the plate and on the mound. His latest accomplishment also shows his prowess on the base paths. Ohtani is now the only player in Los Angeles Angels team history to hit 40 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season. He’s also the third in American League history to accomplish the feat before September. Ken Griffey Jr. (1999) and Alex Rodriguez (2007) are the other two, and Rodriguez won the MVP that season.
By the time Ohtani stole his 20th base, he had already blasted 41 home runs, which puts him atop the majors. Last Saturday night against the San Diego Padres, Ohtani was in the midst of what would be his second 0-4 night in a row. In the bottom of the fifth inning, he drew a one-out walk off of Austin Adams. He then got a good jump on an 0-1 fastball to steal second. A double two batters later would bring him home.
His 20 stolen bases put him the top 10 in the category that Miami Marlins’ Starling Marte leads with 42. Ohtani is also slashing .264/.363/.623. Of course, what separates him from all the other quality hitters in the majors is his pitching success. Ohtani is also 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 127 strikeouts in his 105 innings pitched.
His stolen base and the resulting run helped push the Angels to just their second win in eight game. But they trail the Boston Red Sox by 10.5 games for the last wild-card spot.
While the Angels have little chance in the playoff race, it seems only an injury could hurt Ohtani’s chances in the MVP race. So there was some concern around the organization Friday night when a 93 mph fastball hit him on his throwing hand. An x-ray didn’t reveal any damage, and he played the rest of the game. Ohtani should be ready to pitch again Tuesday night against the New York Yankees.
Yankees Winning Streak Ends
The Yankees will be looking to start another winning streak when they visit the Angels this week. That’s after the Oakland Athletics ended their last one over the weekend. The A’s beat the Yankees 3-2 Saturday to stop their 13-game winning streak, the team’s longest in 60 years. Slugger Aaron Judge’s two-run home run in the ninth inning drove in Anthony Rizzo after his bloop single. But it was all the team could manage in a losing effort.
When the Yankees last won that many games in a row, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were lighting up pitchers. It was only the team’s sixth longest in their history. The Yankees won 19 straight in 1947 and came close with 18 in 1953.
When this latest streak started, the Yankees were 63-52 and trailed the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays by seven games and the Red Sox by five. It included three-game sweeps of the Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. When the streak ended, the Yankees were 76-52 and trailed only the Rays by four games. They have the inside track on a Wild Card spot, though they may end up playing the Red Sox.
Thumbs Down To Mets And Their Fans
The Mets led the National League East for about half the season. But they have not been very good of late, losing 19 of their 27 games in August so far as well as their four-game lead in the division. They now trail the Atlanta Braves by 7.5 games and the Philadelphia Phillies by 4.5 games. What once were promising playoff hopes are quickly slipping away.
The fans at Citi Field, the Mets’ home, have let their displeasure be known. That’s what fans do. They cheer when their team does well and boo when they don’t. Mets players do not like getting booed, and three of them decided to essentially boo their fans back when the team does well.
After hitting a 444-foot homer in Sunday’s 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals, recent acquisition Javier Baez was seen giving a “thumbs down” gesture, which he explained afterwards was a message to the fans.
“It feels bad when I strike out and I get booed. It doesn’t really get to me, but I want to let them know that when we have success, we’re going to do the same thing, to let [fans] know how it feels,” Baez told reporters. “…They got to be better. I play for the fans and love the fans. If they’re going to do that, they’re going to put more pressure on the team.”
Kevin Pillar and Francisco Lindor also gave the thumbs down gesture.
The Mets organization was not pleased. A statement from team president Sandy Alderson read as follows:
“In a post-game press conference today, Javy Baez stated that his “thumbs down” gesture during the game was a message to fans who recently have booed him and other players for poor performance. These comments, and any gestures by him or other players with a similar intent, are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Mets fans are understandably frustrated over the team’s recent performance. The players and the organization are equally frustrated, but fans at Citi Field have every right to express their own disappointment. Booing is every fan’s right.
The Mets will not tolerate any player gesture that is unprofessional in its meaning or is directed in a negative way toward our fans. I will be meeting with our players and staff to convey this message directly.
Mets fans are loyal, passionate, knowledgeable and more than willing to express themselves. We love them for every one of these qualities.”
Mets fans were also understandably upset and turned to social media to air their feelings. Whether this little spat leads to a better showing on the field remains to be seen. The Mets have 30 games — 15 at home — to make up lost ground.
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