Shohei Ohtani stays hot, crushing another homer as Dodgers split series with Angels

Shohei Ohtani tosses his bat after hitting a home run.
Shohei Ohtani tosses his bat after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning of the Dodgers’ 7-2 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The Dodgers continued two important trends Saturday night.

Shohei Ohtani stayed hot, hitting another home run against his former team in the Dodgers’ 7-2 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium.

The bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup remained productive, too, getting six hits and five runs from the last four spots to split a two-game weekend Freeway Series.


Ohtani’s home run continued his scorching week at the plate. In seven games since last Sunday — for the last six of which he has been the team’s leadoff hitter in place of the injured Mookie Betts — the slugger is batting .481 (13 for 27) with seven home runs, 12 RBIs, seven walks and only two strikeouts.

Shohei Ohtani’s career was once marked by his heroics paired with losses. Now he plays for the Dodgers and they are playing for bigger goals.

June 22, 2024

His two-run homer Saturday was a line-drive rocket that landed halfway up the right-field pavilion. Traveling an estimated 459 feet, it marked his fourth blast of at least 450 feet this week. And it gave him big flies in both of this weekend’s games against the Angels — his first against the club since signing with the Dodgers in the offseason.

“It definitely doesn’t get old,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Where he’s at right now, if the ball is in his hitting zone, it’s gonna be hit hard somewhere.”

While Ohtani might be at the wheel of the Dodgers’ offense, though, it’s a once-struggling bottom half of the order that is helping fuel the team’s recent resurgence at the plate.

A month ago, the club’s Nos. 6-9 hitters were among the worst in the majors, compiling a .194 batting average over the season’s first 46 games that ranked better than only the Oakland Athletics.

“It’s still a really good lineup, and we know it’s gonna flip,” second baseman Gavin Lux, one of the culprits behind the group’s early-season struggles, said in late May. “But yeah, I think we all expect more out of ourselves.”


Fast-forward a month, and the Dodgers (48-31) have seen their fortunes indeed change.

Entering Saturday, the team’s bottom-half hitters were batting .243 since May 17, ranking a solid 14th in MLB during that stretch.

Gavin Lux gets a face full of sunflower seeds.
Gavin Lux gets a face full of sunflower seeds after hitting a solo home run against the Angels in the third inning Saturday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Then, in their win over the Angels (30-46), they had one of their best collective games yet, getting two hits each from Lux, Miguel Rojas and Cavan Biggio, plus two walks from Jason Heyward.

“This is it,” Roberts said. “It just takes the pressure off the top.”

Lux, the No. 8 hitter, opened the scoring with a towering leadoff home run off a nine-pitch at-bat in the third inning, recording just his second long ball of the season and first since May 7.

Rojas, batting seventh, extended one of the season’s more intriguing statistical trends: In games he has a hit, the Dodgers are 22-0.


Teoscar Hernández has helped elevate the mood in the Dodgers’ dugout with his unique celebrations and his reputation for delivering in clutch moments.

June 21, 2024

Biggio had his best game as a Dodger in the nine-hole, continuing to fill in for injured third baseman Max Muncy — whose return from an oblique strain remains unclear, lasting much longer than initially anticipated (Muncy said one issue is that his entire oblique was affected, not just one isolated area).

The No. 6 hitter Heyward, whose return from a back injury on May 17 has been a key factor in the recent bottom-half production, also aided the cause with his two walks, keeping his OPS this season above .800.

“A lot of this year, we’ve been very top-heavy,” Roberts said. “But when you get those guys at the bottom collectively [hitting], it just makes our offense tough to navigate.”

The lineup was so good, it allowed Roberts to begin a new trend that figures to become more common over the remainder of the season.

Staff ace Tyler Glasnow had a stellar start, giving up only two runs (one earned) on two hits in a seven-inning, 10-strikeout gem. However, with the Dodgers up 7-2 at the end of the seventh, Roberts decided to pull him after just 74 pitches.


Tyler Glasnow pitches for the Dodgers.
Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers during the seventh inning against the Angels on Saturday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The reason: Glasnow is now at 100 innings this season, just 20 short of the career-high he set a season ago.

The Dodgers aren’t planning to have the right-hander skip starts or take any break before October. But they are going to be “mindful” of his workload in smaller ways, Roberts said.

Thanks to Ohtani’s blast at the top of the lineup, and the continued ample production at the bottom, Saturday provided the perfect opportunity.

“It’s just about longevity, trying to stay healthy and do this thing until playoffs,” Glasnow said. “The long game is what we’re after.”


Clayton Kershaw feeling soreness

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks back to the dugout before a game against the Cincinnati Reds on May 18.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Clayton Kershaw threw a bullpen session Saturday, but reported feeling some soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder in the wake of his first minor-league rehab start last week, Roberts said.

The Dodgers will monitor how Kershaw, who is scheduled to pitch next Tuesday for triple-A Oklahoma City, feels in the coming days. Roberts said it’s possible his next rehab outing on Tuesday will get pushed back.

“It’s going to be talking to him, talking to the training staff, seeing if he feels good to make it,” Roberts said, noting that some soreness was to be expected after Kershaw’s first real game since his shoulder surgery last November. “[He’ll play] catch play tomorrow. If he feels good, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll just keep kicking it down the road until he’s ready … We have time.”