MLB

Ohtani 'the most physically gifted baseball player ever', says Red Sox pitcher Barnes

By Sports Desk May 17, 2021

Shohei Ohtani has been hailed as the "most physically gifted baseball player ever" by Boston Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes after inspiring the Los Angeles Angels to a dramatic victory at Fenway Park.

Two-way star Ohtani hit a two-out, two-run drive in the ninth inning of Sunday's MLB showdown as the Angels beat the Red Sox 6-5 in the series finale to snap a four-game losing run.

Ohtani entered the frame in the final inning along with Mike Trout and, after the latter hit a bloop single to keep the game alive, Ohtani smashed a home run off Barnes for his second homer of the series.

In doing so, Ohtani denied Barnes his 10th save of the season - only four others currently have more than nine - and the Red Sox closer was impressed by what he saw.

"I personally think he's the most physically gifted baseball player that we've ever seen," Barnes said in his post-game interview. "I don't know that you're ever going to see someone who can throw 100-101 (mph) and hit the ball 600 feet. 

"He's a special player and incredibly talented. Hopefully, he stays healthy and has a long career."

Ohtani now has 12 homers this season, which is the joint-most in MLB alongside Mitch Haniger, Aaron Judge and Ronald Acuna Jr.

After his inspired display against the Red Sox, the 26-year-old's RBI count stands at 29 - the joint-12th best in the division - and his batting average .262.

"Coming off a losing streak and the first two games of the series, the way we lost, it wasn't a good way to lose," Ohtani said through a translator.

"So, it was huge for us and the team to come up with this. We showed that we can beat any team."

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    Wembanyama became just the second NBA rookie, after Jamaal Tinsley in 2001, to post at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in a single game. He is just the second player to have five blocks and as many steals in successive games, after the great Jordan.

    However, his efforts proved fruitless for the San Antonio Spurs, who lost 113-108 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

    Wembanyama finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks. He is just the 15th player in the NBA to record a 5x5.

    But for the overall number one draft pick, wins are the priority.

    "To me, it's secondary," Wembanyama said. "Hopefully in the future, and think this is a good performance, but as of today, I can't be satisfied with a loss."

    LeBron James returned from injury to score 30 points for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

    "Of course it was challenging [going against] one of the best duos in the league," Wembanyama said of facing two of the NBA's star players.

    "But still, I think it's a lot of teams we beat if we play this way.

    "But I think it came down to maturity at the end because each and every one of us was making a mistake each of the times.

    "Little mistakes, missing a layup, turning the ball over. We went down, we went back to down four, down seven multiple times and that's when we did mistakes. So yeah, it's maturity."

    Even though the Spurs have lost 10 of their last 11 games, James believes the sky truly is the limit for Wembanyama.

    "He doesn't have a ceiling," James said.

    "He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I'm not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it's literally that simple.

    "There are guys in our league that you have to account for any time you get around the rim or around the perimeter in our league history, and he sits right at the top of it, [if not] around the top, with all the greats.

    "He's one of them to have like a stellar rookie season. Guys that have come in and [dominated]. But, it's, can you sustain it? We've had guys that have come in and [have] just been really damn [good]."

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    Toronto Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said teams must learn how to get to grips with Victor Wembanyama after the number one draft pick excelled in a win for the San Antonio Spurs.

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    Wembanyama starred with a triple-double, entering the NBA record books in the process.

    With a triple-double of 27 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks and five assists.

    The 20-year-old became just the fifth player to record a triple-double that includes 25 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks and five assists since 1973-74, when blocks became an official statistic.

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    "Definitely a player who's unique with his size and shot-blocking ability. We've got to do a much better job of figuring out how to play against that."

    "I felt great today," Wembanyama said after becoming the fourth San Antonio player to record 10 blocks in a game. 

    "Great rhythm, started the game strong. I guess it's just the NBA, you know. We've got ups and downs in terms of shape, and today was an up day."

    "He did a little bit of everything," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Wembanyama, who leads the league in blocked shots, and is now the first rookie with 150 blocks, 150 assists and 50 steals in a season since Tim Duncan in 1997-98.

    "Obviously he's an all-around, talented player. He's got a great feel for the game and it shows in a variety of ways, whether it's passing or making decisions, blocking shots."

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