Ohtani takes step forward vs. lefty pitching

July 14th, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels have tended to sit against tough left-handed starters this season, but he had an encouraging at-bat against a lefty in the ninth inning of Friday's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

With the Angels trailing by one, manager Mike Scioscia decided to send up Ohtani to pinch-hit against Dodgers left-hander , who had struck out the Japanese rookie during an at-bat at Angel Stadium last week. The left-handed-hitting Ohtani prevailed in their second encounter, however, driving a 2-2 sinker into the left-center-field gap for a double.

Ohtani's hit put the tying run in scoring position with one out, but Alexander escaped the jam by inducing a game-ending double play from . Still, Scioscia said he was impressed by Ohtani's at-bat, which yielded only his second extra-base hit against a lefty this season.

"That was a great at-bat last night from a guy that, a week before, had made tough pitches on him and struck him out," Scioscia said Saturday. "He got a pitch to hit, he didn't miss it. At the time it was big, so it's definitely encouraging."

Ohtani, 24, is now batting .167 (6-for-36) with a .491 OPS against lefties this season, compared to .327 (33-for-101) with a 1.032 OPS against righties.

Ohtani isn't expected to start any of the games at Dodger Stadium this weekend since the Angels are without the designated hitter, but he'll be available to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, a role in which he has excelled this season. After doubling off Alexander, Ohtani is 4-for-8 with a home run in eight games as a pinch-hitter.

"He's definitely getting more acclimated to it," Scioscia said. "I think he's feeling more comfortable with it. It's not easy, but he seems like he doesn't come out of his game when he's pinch-hitting. He can definitely help us in that role this weekend, but we look forward to him swinging the bat more as we get into the second half."

Worth noting

• Nick Tropeano (right shoulder inflammation) gave up two runs on seven hits over four innings in his second rehab start with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Saturday, but Scioscia said the Angels have not yet determined what his next step will be. Tropeano has not pitched for the Angels since June 10.