Thursday, June 20, 2024

Shohei Ohtani leads the Dodgers to win on his day in L.A.

Must read

LOS ANGELES — Friday morning, Shohei Ohtani, Dave Roberts and other members of the Dodgers’ organization were at city hall where the Los Angeles City Council declared May 17 “Shohei Ohtani Day” in L.A. for as long as Ohtani plays for the Dodgers.

Before the game Friday night, Ohtani was asked jokingly if there were any special traditions he would like to establish for Ohtani Day. He played along and laughed off suggestions of gift exchanges or special decorations.

Asked what an appropriate food might be for future Ohtani Day meals, he said, “Sushi” – then as he walked away, “Or pizza.”

A few hours later, Ohtani marked the day in his own way, hitting a two-run home run and later scoring the tie-breaking run as the Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3.

“He didn’t homer on his bobblehead day (on Thursday) so he was due to homer on some significant Ohtani day,” Roberts said. “We’ll take the home run on Shohei Ohtani Day.”

The opposite-field home run in the third inning was Ohtani’s 13th of the season, tying him with Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson and Houston’s Kyle Tucker for the major-league lead.

Ohtani’s homer built on an early lead supplied by Mookie Betts, who led off the game with a home run. It was the 51st leadoff home run of his career, fifth all-time.

But the Reds chipped away against James Paxton to tie the score in the sixth inning on Tyler Stephenson’s solo home run.

Their first run scored during a rough defensive inning for Betts in the fourth. Betts made a throwing error as the run scored and, on the next play, dropped a potential double play ball on the turn at second base, settling for a forceout.

“Making errors really bothers me. It really, really bothers,” Betts said. “Just have to be better than that, man. It doesn’t just affect me, it affects Paxton to throw more pitches. I just have to keep working.”

With the score tied 3-3, Kiké Hernandez led off the seventh inning with a single. Two batters later, Ohtani hit a hard ground ball at first baseman Jeimer Candelario. Candelario got the forceout at second base but shortstop Elly De La Cruz’s return throw – pointless because Ohtani was too fast to be doubled up on the play – went into the Reds’ dugout.

“Obviously he hit the ball hard to Candelario there,” Roberts said of Ohtani’s ground ball, which had an exit velocity of 100.5 mph. “Kiké did a great job that doesn’t get noticed. He ran inside the baseline. That forced the high throw to De La Cruz then forced the errant throw to the first baseman.

“Just a heads-up play by Kiké and running the ball out by Shohei.”

Ohtani went to second on the throwing error. After an intentional walk of Freddie Freeman, Will Smith shot a ground ball into left field for a single that drove in Ohtani with the go-ahead run. Freeman went to third on the play then scored on a wild pitch by Reds reliever Fernando Cruz.

“It’s an open base. You sort of pick your poison,” Roberts said of Reds manager David Bell’s decision to walk Freeman and have the right-handed Cruz pitch to Smith. “But to me, if you’re going to pitch to Will, I’ll take our chances any day.”

In the eighth inning, Jason Heyward broke the game open with a two-run home run off another Reds reliever, Alexis Diaz. Heyward was activated from the injured list before the game.

“It’s huge. It kind of put the game out of reach at that point and it’s a good welcome back,” Betts said of Heyward’s homer. “I’m glad he’s back.”

Heyward had been out since March 30 with a lower back strain and went 0 for 6 on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City this week, ending that after two games.

“He was getting very antsy not playing,” Roberts said. “Certainly a two-game rehab is not very extensive, given the time he was off. Jason even said it – ‘I just want to get back in this environment, I think it’ll make me better, kind of speed up the process of getting back into the flow of things.’”

No rehab assignment can prepare you for major-league competition, Heyward said.

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as ready or not, I think it’s a mental thing,” he said. “You can go have an amazing rehab stint, and then come back. You’re still going to have to adjust. It’s still a different game. There’s still different information. No disrespect to anyone that’s not here – but guys here are the best at what they do and they know how to execute.

“I just tried to keep making adjustments. I’m going to have to make adjustments the next day, the next day and the next day. Fifteen years of experience will help you do that.”

More articles

Latest article