Playing Angels for 1st time, Ohtani greets old team with 455-ft HR

June 22nd, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- said playing his former Angels teammates at Dodger Stadium won’t make him emotional. That will happen when the Dodgers travel to Anaheim later this season.

Either way, the two-time American League Most Valuable Player didn’t waste any time reminding his old club just how dominant he is at the plate, smashing a 455-foot two-run homer in the fifth inning off left-hander Matt Moore in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Angels on Friday at Dodger Stadium. The homer had an exit velocity of 113.1 mph, per Statcast.

That’s somehow not the most impressive homer Ohtani has hit this week, as he launched a jaw-dropping blast to straightway center field at Coors Field that traveled a projected 476 feet, the second-longest home run of his career.

“It’s certainly the hottest I think we’ve seen him,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Taking the walks in his first two at-bats and then getting a pitch he can handle to use the big part of the field like we’ve talked about, and then again to line it up the middle. He’s playing really good baseball. Tonight, we just couldn’t support him.”

Once Mookie Betts suffered a fractured left hand on Sunday, the Dodgers bumped Ohtani up to the leadoff spot. Roberts said he likes the dynamic Ohtani brings at the top of the order. Freddie Freeman also joked that it doesn’t matter where Ohtani sits in the lineup, he’ll probably still hit at a high clip.

In all five games since becoming -- at least temporarily -- the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, Ohtani has recorded at least one hit and has had four multi-hit games. That includes three homers and nine RBIs and he has punched out just twice in 20 at-bats.

“Nothing really meaningful changed,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “I think the first at-bat of the game is a little different. I’m more concerned with who is hitting before and after.”

With his first homer against the Angels, Ohtani has now left the yard against 28 of the 30 teams in MLB. The only ones missing are the Phillies and Cardinals, two foes he’ll see plenty now that he’ll spend the next 10 seasons in the National League.

“It’s really fun to see that there was another gear there,” Roberts said. “Given how he’s been [throughout his career].”

While Ohtani said he hasn’t thought much about his past with the Angels, he admitted to still keeping tabs on how some of his former teammates, like Logan O’Happe and Zach Neto, perform throughout the season. Outside of that, he’s focused on his new team and their ultimate goal of winning the World Series.

“I really feel that the organization really values a long-term approach,” Ohtani said. “Yet at the same time -- although the players do understand that, we really value winning the game each day. So for me, the approach doesn’t really change. I really focus on playing each game.”

Unfortunately for Ohtani, his first regular-season reunion with his old teammates resulting in the Angels taking the opener in the Freeway Series. Outside of Ohtani’s two-run homer in the fifth, the Dodgers’ offense couldn’t get much going despite the Angels emptying out their bullpen after left-hander Patrick Sandoval left with a left forearm injury in the third inning.

In the 10th, Evan Phillips was one pitch away from getting the Dodgers out of a scoreless frame, but Taylor Ward was able to put the Angels ahead with a two-strike RBI single. In the bottom half of the inning, the Dodgers had a similar chance, but Kiké Hernández and Gavin Lux both struck out to strand Cavan Biggio at third, giving Ohtani’s former club some bragging rights, at least for 24 hours.

“I felt good about where we were at for the duration of the game,” Roberts said. “But we just couldn’t put anything together.”