Here’s five things we learned from the Angels’ 4-3 series-clinching victory over the Dodgers Sunday afternoon.
Add pinch hitter to Ohtani’s repertoire
Shohei Ohtani walked out of Saturday’s game limping after he fouled a pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen off his knee, then swung and missed at Jansen’s next pitch. No limp was evident when Mike Scioscia tapped him to lead off the bottom of Sunday’s seventh inning by pinch hitting for first baseman Jefry Marte.
With the game tied and Scioscia cognizant of a lack of available arms in his bullpen, he sent Ohtani up to try to break the 3-3 tie. Ohtani did so when he launched a 2-2 pitch into the center field waterfall at Angels Stadium.
It was well known that Ohtani could pitch and hit, but now he can apparently also hit when coming in cold off the bench.
There’s hope for the Angels’ offense against lefties
Despite sporting a righty-dominant lineup, the Angels have had trouble hitting lefties this season.
The team entered Sunday hitting .248 off righties and .224 off lefties even though Ohtani, third baseman Luis Valbuena and right fielder Kole Calhoun are the only left-handed bats who consistently start. The problem continued through two innings Sunday against Dodgers lefty Alex Wood until Justin Upton came to the plate.
The bases were loaded following an intentional walk to Mike Trout, and Upton delivered a two-RBI single to right field to give the Angels their first runs of the contest.
It’s not a habit yet, but when the team has struggled against lefties all year, it’s encouraging to see Upton deliver. Albert Pujols also homered off Wood.
Cody Bellinger runs fast
Bellinger made three fairly routine plays at first base much closer than they looked off the bat.
One, when Marte tossed a chopper to starting pitcher Andrew Heaney covering first base, was challenged, and Bellinger lost by the slimmest of margins.
He’d already wanted a challenge on another close play at first base earlier in the game, and he also made his game-ending double play tight.
Bellinger became known for his power last year, and while it should be apparent he also has speed when he can rotate between playing first base and center field, he showed it off Sunday.
Yasiel Puig is in the midst of a breakout, but…
Puig is 8-for-23 in July, including a three-run home run to straightaway center on Sunday against Heaney. His average is up to .265 for the season.
He hurt himself on a foul ball against Heaney in the fifth inning, and he was officially diagnosed with a strained right intercostal oblique muscle.
Puig’s loss could be a big one for the Dodgers, although when he’ll return is unclear. He’s homered in two straight games, but for now, that streak will have to be paused.
Andrew Heaney is on a strikeout streak
The 27-year-old lefty struck out 10 Sunday to match his career high. He also matched his career high in the start before that and one more time earlier this season, on May 14.
With the Angels’ rotation reduced by injuries, Scioscia said Heaney’s strikeout ability as well as his ability to limit damage has been essential, including in Sunday’s game.
“Andrew was great,” Scioscia said.