Shohei Ohtani has dazzled with his ability to throw and hit baseballs with remarkable force, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has continued to tear up the American League after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow while pitching on Sept. 2.
After learning he’ll need surgery that will prevent him from pitching in 2019, the Angels slugger has gone 13 for 29 (.448) with four homers, three doubles, a triple, 11 RBIs and 10 runs in eight games.
Ohtani smoked a 108-mph double off the right-field wall to spark a four-run rally in the third inning of Wednesday night’s 8-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in Angel Stadium. He lined a 109-mph single to right in the seventh.
“Yeah, I don’t know how that works,” hitting coach Eric Hinske said. “Apparently you don’t need that ligament to hit. It seems like the swings don’t bother him. He never complains. He’s amazing, man. When he steps in the box, the whole game changes. He’s intimidating, for sure.”
Ohtani is pondering how many of the remaining 16 games to play before having Tommy John surgery. He could return as a hitter in about six months, but the sooner he has surgery, the better the chances he’ll be ready for the start of next season.
“If he wants it done sooner rather than later, so be it,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “If he wants to continue to hit, I hope he’s available every day, because it’s fun to watch.”
Albert Pujols’ season-ending knee surgery on Aug. 29 opened the designated hitter spot for Ohtani, who is batting .295 with a .969 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 304 plate appearances.
The left-handed-hitting Ohtani has benefited from more at-bats against left-handers, going eight for 24 (.333) with two homers, eight RBIs and seven strikeouts against them since Aug. 1. Ohtani hit .170 (nine for 53) with no homers, two RBIs and 22 strikeouts against lefties in the first four months.
“He wasn’t getting regular playing time against lefties, and all of us left-handed hitters know that it’s harder when you don’t face them,” Hinske said. “When you have an everyday opportunity, your chances for success are greater.”
Ohtani struggled to hit sweeping sliders in the first half, but he lined one from Texas left-hander Alex Claudio for an RBI single Monday night. He homered against lefties Mike Minor and Carlos Rodon last week.
“Regardless of the results, whether it’s a hit or an out,” Ohtani said through an interpreter, “I do feel comfortable the more times I hit against lefties.”
Ohtani provided the double in a team cycle in the third inning Wednesday night. Justin Upton followed with an RBI triple, Andrelton Simmons hit an RBI single, and Jose Fernandez hit a two-run homer.
Catcher Francisco Arcia had a huge night, hitting a two-run double in the second and solo homers in the sixth and eighth.
Right-hander Felix Pena, acquired from the Chicago Cubs for cash last October, allowed six hits in six scoreless innings, striking out three and walking one, to improve to 3-4 with a 3.75 ERA in 17 games — 15 of them starts — this season.
The early returns on the July 30 deal that sent second baseman Ian Kinsler to Boston are promising. Ty Buttrey, one of two relievers acquired from the Red Sox, allowed one earned run and eight hits in 112/3 innings of his first 11 games with the Angels, striking out 11, walking three and notching two saves. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander, who got the final four outs of Tuesday night’s 1-0 win, mixes a fastball that is averaging 96.2 mph with a sharp slider and changeup.
Scioscia opted to give starting pitchers Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Jaime Barria an extra day of rest this weekend, pushing them to the final three days of a four-game series against Seattle. The Angels, who used eight relievers in Tuesday night’s win, will go with another “bullpen game” Thursday night. Odrisamer Despaigne will start.