Shohei Ohtani is at his best when the moment is the biggest, and even in a month when the Los Angeles Angels would like to turn the page, he’s continuing his incredible run of two-way mastery.
The Angels went 10-18 during the month of June, they fired manager Joe Maddon, Anthony Rendon underwent season-ending wrist surgery, and a brawl with the Seattle Mariners resulted in multiple suspensions and a broken elbow for Archie Bradley.
But the 2021 MVP has been a steady presence in the middle of the headlines.
Ohtani is currently riding a 21.1 scoreless innings streak, the longest of his career, and over his five starts in June he posted a 1.52 ERA, averaged 11.53 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.59 FIP.
On June 22 he tallied a career-high 13 strikeouts against the Kansas City Royals and followed it up in Wednesday’s start against the Chicago White Sox with 11 punchouts over 5.2 shutout innings.
At the plate, he flipped a switch and seemed to carry the Angels’ offense when they needed a big swing, via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He just continues to go out and take games like this very seriously because he knows what’s on the line,” said acting manager Ray Montgomery. “And he did it again.”
On June 21, Ohtani slugged a career-high 8 RBI and had a shot for more later in that game. His average exit velocity shot up to 94.9 mph and he posted a 169 wRC+ while hitting six home runs.
Ohtani expressed he has maintained the same approach as he did earlier in the season, things are now just falling his way:
“There’s nothing in particular that’s really changed,” Ohtani said. “Just having better at-bats and putting the ball in play and getting good results.”
Since June 9 he is 3-0 on the mound with a 0.34 ERA, and at the plate is batting .355 with 17 RBI and a 1.189 on-base plus slugging.
Ohtani wants to win, and will factor that into next destination
When the Angels signed Ohtani prior to the 2018 season, they knew they had someone incredibly special to pair up with Mike Trout. But as he heads into his final two years of team control, the club has to worry about how they will retain him.
Ohtani took over the baseball world in 2021 after posting a 9-2 record with 156 strikeouts and a 3.18 ERA in 23 appearances, and as a hitter, he smashed 46 home runs and drove in 100 runs with a .965 on-base plus slugging en route to his first career American League Most Valuable Player Award.
With Trout and Ohtani in the heart of the lineup and at the front of the rotation, the Angels should surely contend for the playoffs every year, but they haven’t. Ohtani hasn’t played in one postseason game, and the team hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2014.
The unfortunate reality for the Angels and employing a superstar with as much competitive fire as Ohtani is that he, like many players, wants to win.
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