In Shohei Ohtani’s first six games back from the All-Star break, he looked out of sorts at the plate. The Los Angeles Angels two-way star batted just 4-for-24 with one home run and one double, striking out 14 of the 24 times. Joe Maddon swore that this was not tied to participating in the Home Run Derby, and that he just needed to see the ball a bit better.
To fix this issue, Maddon sat Ohtani on Friday night against the Minnesota Twins with left-hander J.A. Happ on the mound. Ohtani had been hitting the ball well against lefties in recent weeks, but Maddon felt it was the right time to have him sit out.
Whatever happened on that off day seems to have worked, as in the two games following, Ohtani was magnificent. On Saturday and Sunday, he went a combined 4-for-7 with a home run, two doubles, and a stolen base. Ohtani’s home run was massive, as it gave the Angels the lead in a game they would ultimately win.
Maddon spoke about what impressed him most about Ohtani during Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Twins, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He just always responds,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He likes the spotlight, he likes the big moment and I’m looking forward to many more of those.”
Maddon also said that giving Ohtani the off day on Friday may allow him to play both sides when he takes the mound on Monday evening.
“He’s so engaged right now,” Maddon said. “I can’t just beat him into the ground. He’s pitching tomorrow, he’s played all weekend and it’s been hot. But I would believe that after we gave him the day off he’d be ready to roll and do both tomorrow. But I’ll check with him.”
Ohtani has done more to keep the Angels afloat amid other injuries than anyone could have expected from him. A few days of poor plate discipline is just fine considering all the good he has done at the plate and on the mound.
The Halos will need just a little bit more heroics from Ohtani, as there is still uncertainty surrounding the returns of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. The Angels lineup is close to full strength, but they remain missing two of their biggest pieces.
Ohtani called by Albert Pujols during Home Run Derby
While many assumed that it was Trout who called Ohtani during the Home Run Derby, it was revealed after the fact that former Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was the one who dialed. Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner made this announcement, bursting the bubble of those who thought it was Trout.