Shohei Ohtani remains locked in on offense as Dodgers rally to victory


There figured to be at least one benefit to Shohei Ohtani being reduced to a one-way star while he recovers from Tommy John surgery this season, one that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hinted at in spring training.

With Ohtani, who spent four of his six seasons in Anaheim as a starting pitcher and designated hitter, focused almost exclusively on offense, could he be an even more lethal slugger than he was in 2021 and 2023, when he won American League most valuable player awards with the Angels?

The numbers say yes.

Ohtani led off Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a home run, he walked and scored on Freddie Freeman’s third-inning homer, and he drove in the eventual winning run with a two-out single in the fourth to help push the Dodgers to a 4-3 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Bobby Miller was roughed up for three runs and four hits in two innings, but six relievers — Michael Petersen, Yohan Ramirez, Anthony Banda, Blake Treinen, Daniel Hudson and Evan Phillips — combined for seven scoreless innings, as the Dodgers reached the halfway point of the season with a 50-31 record.

Ohtani, who signed a 10-year, $700-million deal in December, has been the clear pacesetter in a star-studded lineup, leading the major leagues in batting average (.320) and the National League in slugging percentage (.634), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.032) and home runs (24).

He also has 21 doubles, 60 RBIs, 63 runs and 99 hits and is on pace to surpass his 46-homer, 100-RBI season in 2021 and his 44-homer, 95-RBI season in 2023.

“I think it’s unquestionable that I’m able to recover properly because there’s less of a workload,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “Plus, as I pile up experience year after year, I’m growing as a hitter. I think that’s leading to good results.”

Roberts sees that growth not only in the power Ohtani has produced but also in the plate discipline he has shown.

“I think Shohei understands that when you show you can control the strike zone, take balls, even in hitters’ counts, that a lot of special things happen,” Roberts said. “In years past, he had a big tendency to chase because he likes to swing. But when you [lay off bad pitches], you earn pitches in the strike zone.”

Ohtani gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he drove a 2-and-2 curve on the outer half of the plate from Chris Flexen for a leadoff homer that right fielder Tommy Pham got a glove on but was not able to secure above the wall.

Ohtani was halfway to second when he realized he might have missed first base, so he returned to touch the bag before continuing his trot.

“I didn’t know whether I stepped on it or not,” Ohtani said, “so I went back just in case.”

It was the ninth straight game for Ohtani with an RBI, tying a franchise record held by five players and last achieved by Roy Campanella in 1955.

The lead didn’t last long. Miller, making his second start after sitting out two months because of a shoulder injury, walked Pham to open the bottom of the first and piped a first-pitch fastball to Andrew Benintendi, who crushed a two-run homer to right field for a 2-1 White Sox lead.

Luis Robert Jr. reached on an infield single, and Eloy Jimenez smoked an RBI double to left for a 3-1 lead. Gavin Sheets flied out to center for the first out on Miller’s 21st pitch.

Miller won an 11-pitch battle against Paul DeJong, striking out the White Sox shortstop with a 98-mph fastball, and he got Korey Lee to pop out, but he needed 38 pitches to complete the inning. Miller gave up a single and walked two in a scoreless second and, with his pitch count at 60, was pulled in favor of Petersen to start the third.

“He just didn’t have a feel,” Roberts said of Miller. “You could see he was searching all night, and his stuff just wasn’t really sharp [enough] to put guys away. The changeup was a ball out of hand. The slider was rolling up there. And the fastball, when he did make some good throws with it, they were spoiling them. …

“I’m satisfied he’s healthy, but I’m just not satisfied with the execution or the sharpness of his secondary pitches.”

It was the second shaky start in The Second City for Miller, who grew up in McHenry, Ill., about 60 miles northwest of Chicago, and had 30 to 35 family members and friends in attendance Tuesday night.

Miller gave up five runs and four hits in 1 ⅔ innings against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on April 5. In two starts in Chicago, Miller has given up eight runs and eight hits, including two home runs, in 3 ⅔ innings for a 19.63 ERA, with four strikeouts and five walks.

A homecoming king, he is not.

“The shoulder feels great, my body feels great, but maybe sometimes I’m trying a little too hard out there,” Miller said. “Even the good pitches today, it seemed like they had a lot of good takes. They fouled off a lot of pitches, which caused my pitch count to get really high and to be taken out earlier in the game.”

But the Dodgers’ offense took Miller off the hook and the bullpen bailed him out, with Petersen covering two innings and Treinen going 1 ⅓ innings.

“Seven [scoreless] innings from pretty much everyone except for [Alex] Vesia and [Ryan Yarbrough],” Freeman said. “A lot of guys had to be perfect, and that’s hard to do, but they stepped up. We only scored four tonight, and they made it count. You gotta give credit to the bullpen. That’s why we won.”

Ohtani and Freeman had their fingerprints all over the victory as well. The Dodgers tied the score 3-3 in the third when Ohtani walked and Freeman went with a sinker away and drove an opposite-field two-run homer to left.

Gavin Lux walked with one out in the fourth, took third on a Miguel Vargas single to left, giving the reserve outfielder hits in each of his last nine starts, and scored on Ohtani’s RBI single to right for a 4-3 lead.

“I don’t know what more we can really say about him,” Freeman said of Ohtani. “He’s an amazing player. You never know how a first year is gonna go on any team, but I mean, sometimes you just gotta step back and just appreciate a player like this.”

Teo is back

Teoscar Hernández returned to the team Tuesday afternoon after traveling to the Dominican Republic for the funeral of his 94-year-old grandfather, Pedro Perez, who died on Sunday morning. The outfielder was not in the lineup for Tuesday night’s game but was available to pinch-hit.

“I was close with him for my whole life, and he just loved, loved, loved baseball,” Hernández said of his grandfather, who was in failing health. “He was a really big fan. But he was getting sicker and sicker, so at some point, we were waiting for it. But I think now he’s in a better place. More peace.”



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