About 46,000 people came to Yankee Stadium on Friday night to take part in the Shohei Ohtani Experience — to see, in person, the two-way player who has set baseball on its ear and become a point of fascination from Anaheim all the way to the Bronx.
But while those 46,056 members of the Yankees’ fifth sellout crowd of the year kicked off their long weekend looking for Ohtani — who served as the DH but will not pitch in this series — they left with the knowledge that the Yankees have something pretty special brewing themselves.
Gleyber Torres — a fellow rookie whose offensive statistics bear a striking resemblance to Ohtani’s — hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning as the Yankees beat the Angels, 2-1.
It was Torres’ fourth straight game with at least one home run, making him the youngest player in American League history to accomplish that feat (21 years, 163 days). Torres is the fourth-youngest player in the modern era, dating to 1900, to homer in four straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He has nine home runs and 24 RBIs in his first 96 major-league at-bats, including six homers and 12 RBIs in 23 at-bats in the last six games.
“I’ve had that conversation with him where he says, ‘I’ve been preparing for this my whole life and certainly the last couple years in the minor leagues,’ and I think he just plays the game with a lot of confidence, but I think his intelligence is very evident,” Aaron Boone said. “When you combine intelligence and instincts and talent, you’re looking at what’s been a really special player for us.”
“It’s incredible,” Luis Severino said. “I feel like every time we call somebody up, they [produce] — Sanchez, Judge, Andujar and now Gleyber . . . He’s so young and so talented.”
Ohtani went 0-for-3 and drew a walk against Severino in the seventh. After slicing a long foul drive to leftfield against Aroldis Chapman in the eighth, he grounded out to end the inning, sending hordes of fans streaming for the exits.
Before that, the story — and the theatrics — belonged to Torres and Torres alone.
With the score tied at 1 and one out in the seventh, the Angels replaced Andrew Heaney with Jim Johnson. One out later, Johnson served up a 3-and-1 pitch to Torres, who smacked it 418 feet to right-center.
Torres, who had never faced Johnson and spent the moments before his at-bat watching video of him on the dugout iPad, said he was interested only in making contact. “I’m not a particularly power guy,” he said, adding that he’s never had a stretch like this in his career. “I’m a contact guy, but I’m feeling pretty good right now and I’m helping the team and I feel great for that.”
A replay challenge helped the Yankees in the second. With one on and none out, Didi Gregorius hit into a double play, but a review showed that he beat the throw to first. Heaney then sandwiched walks to Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar around Tyler Austin’s strikeout to load the bases.
Torres hit a hard grounder inside the third-base line that was grabbed by a sprawling Zack Cozart, who briefly thought about trying for the force at third before making a difficult throw to first that ended up wide. Gregorius scored on the infield hit, but when Andujar broke for third, Hicks tried to score and was thrown out at the plate by Albert Pujols.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the third, Justin Upton singled to right, but Judge threw a bullet that hit Gary Sanchez on the fly to cut down Kole Calhoun at the plate. The close play was upheld upon review, and Statcast measured his throw at just over 100 mph.
“It’s fun,” said Judge, who nailed Martin Maldonado at second with another perfect throw when he tried to stretch a single into a double. “As an outfielder, that’s what you live for . . . I’m glad I broke 100. That made my day . . . [I hit] 99 last year.”
The Angels scored in the fifth on Mike Trout’s 16th homer, an opposite-field drive into the second deck in rightfield. That’s all they’d get off Severino, who allowed four hits and four walks in six innings, striking out five, and lowered his ERA to 2.28.
Friday marked the first time Torres met one of the other great rookies in the game. Though Torres was with the Yankees when they played the Angels in late April, it was the first time Ohtani and Torres have spoken.
“I met him tonight at second base,” Torres said. “He said hi. I said hi. It was good.”