By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For most of the 2021 season, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes has essentially been unhittable. Until he ran into Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.READ MORE: Bill Belichick Pulls Artful Chess Move, Helping To Influence Missed Field Goal For Saints
Granted, Trout’s base hit on a shallow bloop to right field was a gift from the baseball gods (with an exit velocity of 75.9 mph and a launch angle of 47 gedrees, it had an expected batting average of .110). But what Ohtani did one pitch later was anything but luck.
The 26-year-old got a first-pitch fastball on the inner half of the plate, and he simply let it rip. Ohtani got around on the 97 mph heater, and he barreled it. Clinging to a one-run lead, Barnes did his best to try to influence the blast to sail foul, but Ohtani’s shot curled around Pesky’s Pole, giving the Angels a 6-5 lead that would hold for the final score.
It was a showdown that left Barnes feeling … incredibly impressed by what he saw. Extremely impressed. Overwhelmingly impressed, even.
“I mean I personally think he’s the most physically gifted baseball player that we’ve ever seen,” Barnes sated. “I don’t know that you’re ever gonna see somebody who can throw 101 and hit the ball 600 feet. So, I mean, he’s a special player. He’s incredibly talented. And hopefully he stays healthy and has a long career.”READ MORE: James White Suffers Hip Injury, Carted To Locker Room In Patriots' Game Vs. Saints
You know … he may be right.
Ohtani’s game-winning homer was his 12th homer of the season, which is tied for the most in Major League Baseball. His .901 OPS has him ranked 24th in MLB and 13th in the American League, where he’s also in the top 10 in doubles, triples, RBIs, and stolen bases.
That’s impressive in its own right. When taken in tandem with his 2.10 ERA and 1.208 WHIP in his five starts on the mound, it’s genuinely difficult to fathom. Though he has walked 20 batters in his 25.2 innings, he’s also allowed just 11 hits and six earned runs in that span.
The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year has clearly put a number of things together this year, and the Red Sox — after witnessing Sunday’s blast as well as Friday night’s ridiculous opposite-field homer — are the latest to learn that.
Prior to Sunday, Barnes was a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities, with opponents hitting just .097 against him in 19 innings. His 0.474 WHIP appeared to be heading even lower after he retired the first three men he faced, but Trout’s bloop and Ohtani’s blast made it climb up to 0.541.
Barnes wasn’t down on himself too much after blowing his first save of 2021, saying he really didn’t anticipate going 100 percent this year while also admitting that he thought the game was over when the ball left Trout’s bat with two outs in the ninth. But the league’s most dominant closer to this point of the year did come away with a great appreciation for Ohtani, “the most physically gifted baseball player that we’ve ever seen.”MORE NEWS: Trent Brown, Josh Uche, Rhamondre Stevenson Inactive For Patriots Vs. Saints
That’s some serious, serious praise.