HOUSTON -- It was quite the month of June for two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani excelled as both a pitcher and a hitter, as he batted .298/.398/.575 with six homers, six doubles and 17 RBIs in 26 games, while going 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings in five starts on the mound. He capped it with a strong performance against the White Sox on Thursday, striking out 11 over 5 2/3 scoreless innings to extend his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings.
"Major talent, man," said White Sox manager Tony La Russa. "He's got weapons, and he's for real."
The reigning American League MVP has now put himself firmly back in that race again this year and also appears to be a lock for the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on July 19, although he hasn’t said yet whether he’ll participate in the Home Run Derby for a second straight year.
Ohtani had an 11-game hit streak from June 4 to June 16 and smacked the hardest-hit homer of his career on June 25 against the Mariners, a 118 mph blast. He also had incredible showing on back-to-back days last week, as he set a career high with 13 strikeouts against the Royals on June 22 -- a day after he set a career high with eight RBIs at the plate.
Ohtani, though, said he hasn’t changed much in the batter's box, only that the results are starting to come.
"There's nothing in particular that's really changed,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “Just having better at-bats and putting the ball in play and getting good results."
Ohtani got off to a relatively slow start by his standards, but he's now putting up numbers that more closely resemble what he did last season. He's batting .266/.350/.514 with 18 homers, 15 doubles, eight stolen bases and 50 RBIs through 76 games, while he's 7-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 74 innings in 13 starts on the mound.
His next appearance as a pitcher is likely to come in Thursday's series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore. Ohtani has been dealing with a minor back injury but was in the lineup Friday against the Astros -- during which he mashed his 18th homer to start the scoring. He said it’s something he’s been able to manage.