Ohtani stays scorching while Lux shows promising signs

June 23rd, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- It’s been a tale of two completely different seasons for and .

Ohtani, the two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player, has established himself as one of the early favorites to take home his first NL MVP Award in his first season with the Dodgers. Lux, on the other hand, has spent the year trying to recapture the form he had prior to his serious knee injury that cost him the entire 2023 season.

On Saturday, however, both Ohtani and Lux played a pivotal role in the Dodgers’ 7-2 win over the Angels at Dodger Stadium, each hitting a homer in a four-run third inning.

“[Ohtani] is leading the league in hitting, leading the league in home runs, he’s right there in runs driven in -- it’s pretty special,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The last few weeks, there just hasn’t been a player better.”

After hitting a 455-foot homer in his first game against his former team on Friday, Ohtani’s Saturday encore was even more impressive. This blast traveled a projected 459 feet, per Statcast, with a 115.5 mph exit velocity.

“The exit velo is really good,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “I like the angle coming off the bat.”

That’s an understatement. Ohtani has now homered in three consecutive games and four out of his last five games. Three of the homers Ohtani has hit this week have traveled over 450 feet, including a mammoth 476-foot blast at Coors Field on Tuesday.

The Japanese superstar has six 450-foot-plus homers this season, two more than any Dodger in a single season since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Ohtani’s four 450-foot homers in June also helped him become just the third player since ‘15 to accomplish the feat, joining Trevor Story and Giancarlo Stanton, who both hit five in a month.

“All the time,” said Dodgers starter , who allowed just two runs (one earned) and struck out 10 over seven dominant innings, when asked if Ohtani’s exit velocity continues to impress him. “I feel like everybody’s reaction is always like, ‘Wow!’ … It’s very entertaining for all of us as well.”

Since moving to the leadoff spot on Monday, Ohtani has turned into the hottest hitter in baseball, and it has come when his team has needed him most as Mookie Betts will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a fractured left hand. In the six games this week, Ohtani went 11-for-24 with four homers, 11 RBIs and six walks, helping him score eight runs.

For the first time all week, Roberts even acknowledged that once Betts returns to the lineup, the team will have to figure out which lineup construction works best, though that won’t need to be decided anytime soon.

“Knowing that Shohei can hit there, feels comfortable, [even though] Mookie is obviously our leadoff hitter,” Roberts said. “But you navigate the left-right, right-left -- it’s a good conversation.”

Lux’s homer didn’t light up Statcast like Ohtani’s, but Saturday served as another really encouraging game for the 26-year-old. After a slow start at the plate, which was expected as Lux reacclimated to playing, he has worked on hitting the ball the other way more consistently -- as he did on his fifth-inning RBI single to left field.

“Gavin obviously had a really nice night,” Roberts said. “I think what impressed me the most was he spoiled some tough pitches. … The at-bat [when he homered], he was fighting pitches to earn a pitch that he could drive. The last thing on his mind, I’m sure at that point, was hitting the ball out of the ballpark.

“When you have a good at-bat, you spoil pitches, you put yourself in a good spot -- good things happen. … Tonight is what I know he’s capable of doing.”

The Lux and Ohtani homers were plenty for Glasnow, who dominated the Angels from start to finish. Glasnow had everything working, retiring the first nine batters he faced, striking out four of them. The right-hander is putting together an All-Star season and is looking every bit like the ace the organization hoped they would get when they made the trade with the Rays this offseason and signed him to a five-year extension.

“I think it’s the starting pitcher’s job to go out, keep the pitch count low and be as efficient as you can and go as long as you can,” Glasnow said.