Contest for MVP: Tatis and Ohtani collide in Anaheim

SAN DIEGO – This weekend’s showdown between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Angels will feature the two clear favorites in the race for Baseball’s Most Valuable Player: Shohei ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr.

Two-way superstar Ohtani continues to present a historic campaign, leading the majors with 41 home runs and a 3.00 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 105 innings on the mound. Tatis leads the NL with 35 home runs, despite missing about a month with a severed left shoulder and a trip to the COVID inactive list.

In his bid for the National League MVP, Tatis leads the major leagues with a 1.003 OPS and a .640 slugging percentage. Second? Ohtani, who is slugging .634 with a 1.002 OPS.

Tatis is likely to see Ohtani only from a distance on the field in this weekend’s two-game series in Anaheim. Ohtani is not scheduled to pitch and will be the Angels’ designated hitter. Tatis has been playing right field since returning from injury, trying to keep his shoulder healthy. The teams will play next week in San Diego, and Ohtani will likely just be a pinch hitter. During the Angels’ interleague series against the Dodgers in early August, Ohtani did not pitch or play in any of the three games.

Nonetheless, Tatis is impressed by what Ohtani is accomplishing in a game so deeply steeped in routine throughout a 162-game season. And while Ohtani was a leadoff hitter in the Japanese Professional Baseball League, Tatis knows what he’s accomplishing this year is virtually unheard of in the majors.

“His dedication, watching him try to make a difference in this game, is showing that you can really hit and pitch in this era,” Tatis said. “I really admire his work and what he is trying to do.”

Tatis won’t dive too deep into the MVP debate, but he thinks Ohtani’s versatility sets him apart.

“A player of caliber MVP type helps his team in all areas, on and off the field. You show what you are capable of when you go out for your team every day,” Tatis said in an interview with ESPN. “Boys like my friend Vladdy [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.] , he’s having an amazing season, and Ohtani, what he’s doing this year for the game, it’s just awesome. “

Tatis has faced Ohtani twice, the first time going 2-0 in a spring training game in which he saw the phenomenon from Japan pass a fastball at 101 mph. Tatis also hit Ohtani during their long-awaited showdown at the Mid-Summer Classic. Ohtani, the starting pitcher and American League All-Star winner, retired all three batters, including victory in a five-pitch battle with Tatis that ended with a fly ball to left field.

“It’s really hard to come one day trying to do one thing and come another day and try to do something else, especially for 162 games,” Tatis said. “That is very, very special.”