Only one of them is a freak, in the kindest sense of the word.
Only one of them evokes comparisons to Babe Ruth, though the other one has put himself alongside some pretty cool names.
Yet no matter what happens in the careers of Shohei Ohtani and Gleyber Torres, they can never take Friday night away from Torres.
He can always boast of getting the better of his classmate in their very first showdown.
The Yankees second baseman continued his earth-shattering rookie season, cranking the go-ahead home run and driving home both runs, to lead his team to a 2-1 thriller over Ohtani’s Angels, halting the Yankees’ losing streak at two games.
By going deep for the fourth straight contest, the 21-year, 163-day-old became the youngest player in American League history, and fourth-youngest player overall since 1900, to pull off that feat, as per the Elias Sports Bureau.
“My approach is pretty good right now,” Torres said. “I feel comfortable. I just try to do my job and put the ball in play.”
Well, quite often, when Torres hits the ball, it doesn’t stay in play. He now has nine homers in 96 at-bats and a .333/.349/.646 slash line in 28 games, and what more does a guy have to do to became the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year?
OK, fair enough. Ohtani owns a .309/.380/.588 slash line, after he walked once in four plate appearances Friday, plus a 3.35 ERA in seven starts on the mound. So far, factoring in the game’s evolution, Ohtani is living up to the Ruthian hype and justifying the Yankees’ intense interest in him, which he summarily dismissed, last winter.
Such a dismissal explains why the Stadium crowd greeted each of Ohtani’s trips to the plate with boos. And why it had to be so sweet for the Yankees’ fans to see Aroldis Chapman prevail over Ohtani in the game’s key moment, with the tying run on second base and two outs in the eighth inning, as Ohtani grounded out to Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
And even more satisfying that Chapman preserved a lead built by Torres. In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and no one on base, Torres, whose RBI single in the second inning accounted for the Yankees’ first run, smoked a Jim Johnson 3-and-1, belt-high fastball over the right-center-field wall to break the 1-1 tie. That countered the fifth-inning solo homer by the Angels’ other mega-star, two-time AL Most Valuable Player Mike Trout.
“Just another really mature at-bat in that situation,” Aaron Boone said. “Tie game, gets himself into a really good count and doesn’t try to do too much.”
“I saw a couple of videos from him because it was the first time I saw him,” Torres said of Johnson. “I tried to make contact.”
Even then, Torres’ work wasn’t done. When Trout led off the eighth with a slow grounder to right field, Torres hustled to his left and threw out the speedy Angel on the run.
Said Boone: “That play he makes on Trout to his left … not an easy play.”
Torres makes it all look easy, though, doesn’t he? He even greeted his hardware competitor in the fourth inning, when Ohtani walked and advanced to second base on Andrelton Simmons’ single.
“He’s a good player. He’s a good guy,” Torres said of Ohtani. “I met him on second base. He said hi. I said hi. It’s good.”
It’s real good, one heck of a race right now. Torres trails at the moment, undoubtedly. Yet don’t doubt his chances of pulling off the upset, even against a once-in-a-lifetime entry like Ohtani.
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