It hadn’t been discussed at much length, but Shohei Ohtani was struggling. He went 14 games without hitting a home run, and was batting .111 with no RBI’s in the month of August. In the Los Angeles Angels blowout loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, something finally connected for Ohtani.
On a 1-2 count in the third inning, Ohtani took a slider low and in the strike zone 413 feet to center field. It tied the game — scoring Jo Adell in the process — and gave Ohtani his 38th home run of the season. He’s just one homer away from tying Reggie Jackson for most home runs in a season by an Angels left-handed batter.
“That’s important to him,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s what he needed to do. I was even saying that in the dugout to [bench coach Mike Gallego] earlier. He needs to just grab one again and then he’ll get that feel going, and he did. … But hopefully that’ll get him going in the right direction. We still need to get some more guys going as well, but I thought he did look better.”
One thing that allowed Ohtani to perhaps find that swing and get back on track after a long home run drought was the fact that he never lost confidence. It’s a trait that Maddon deeply appreciates from his star player.
“[Ohtani] doesn’t cower easily, he doesn’t get upset easily,” Maddon said. “He is pretty strong-willed. He knew what was going on. He knows since the break, having everybody hurt, it was going to be more difficult.”
The Angels did wind up losing 10-2 to the talented and young Blue Jays, putting them down 1-2 in their current four-game series. They’ll have a chance to not only get through the Blue Jays with a series split, but also put themselves back at .500.
To do that, having Ohtani back to his usual self is key, especially now that Jared Walsh is back in the lineup. With him, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon out, Ohtani really struggled to do anything with the pitches that were being thrown his way.
Maddon credits mental growth for pitching improvement
Finding success in baseball is as much a mental thing as it is physical. This is why Maddon believe that the recent string of pitching success will be sustainable, and not a circumstantial fluke. He sees that Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, and Jose Suarez all have completely different mindsets and attitudes from where they used to be.