He was moved toward the top of the sluggish batting order with one obvious objective in mind.
“Hopefully,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia explained before the game, “Shohei in the second hole will create offense for the middle of our lineup.”
Shohei Ohtani did just that Wednesday.
He created a buzz at Angel Stadium while actually taking offense from the middle of the lineup.
The rookie’s electric, 446-foot homer in the fifth inning cleared the bases in front of Mike Trout and helped lift the Angels to a badly needed 11-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The Angels had opened their latest homestand by losing four of five games, the two most recent defeats coming against an opponent that hasn’t been within 10 games of .500 since April.
In those four losses, the Angels batted .161 and hit one home run, continuing an extended trend of inconsistent and often times nearly nonexistent offense. Twice since Friday they were no-hit into at least the sixth inning.
Throughout this season, Scioscia has tinkered with a lineup that has featured five separate hitters in each of three key positions: first, second and fourth. Nine Angels have batted fifth.
“We’ve been talking about this possibility for a week,” Scioscia said of moving Ohtani to the No. 2 spot and dropping Andrelton Simmons to sixth.
“I think the timing is right now to make that change.”
Ohtani’s mammoth drive off James Shields was the brightest of the highlights. It marked his ninth homer of the year and second-longest to a 449-footer he delivered in April.
As the moment was washing over Angel Stadium, cameras caught eventual winning pitcher Tyler Skaggs making exaggerated faces of delight and even dancing in the dugout.
“I like to show my emotion,” Skaggs, who struck out the first five batters he faced said later. “Maybe not like that. But I was pretty excited.”
Though the Ohtani blast shone brightest, it was hardly the lone highlight. Not with Trout homering twice and driving in four runs.
In the first two games of this series, the White Sox walked Trout six times in nine plate appearances, being either extremely cautious or abundantly wise.
They walked him in the eighth inning Tuesday with the bases loaded, not intentionally but not exactly reluctantly, either.
On Wednesday, the White Sox pitched to Trout in the first and he homered, again in the third and he doubled and again in the sixth and he homered.
In the fifth, immediately after the Ohtani home run, Shields sort of pitched to Trout, hitting him with an 86-mph full-count cutter.
This was Trout’s 13th career multi-homer game and came one week after a controversy swirled around him regarding his obligation to promote himself and baseball. Trout did both with his performance.
And so did the Angels.
One day after not producing their first hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning, they finished with 14 hits — half of them for extra bases — and scored nine times in the fifth and sixth innings combined.
Albert Pujols had three hits, including his 631st career home run, moving him past Ken Griffey Jr. and into sixth on baseball’s all-time list.
Simmons, Kole Calhoun and David Fletcher also had two hits apiece as the Angels assembled the exact sort of offensive exhibition that has eluded them for so much of this season.
“It definitely makes baseball more fun,” Skaggs said. “I feel like I’m pitching well. We’re scoring runs.
“It’s a good time to be an Angel when that happens.”