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Power Sho: Ohtani homers in 2nd straight game

Slugger makes an adjustment, takes Kluber deep
MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols wasn't even shocked when it happened.

"He's got the power to hit the ball out of any ballpark from corner to corner so nothing [about the home run] really impressed me," Pujols said. "It's something that he's been doing his whole time back in Japan."

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ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols wasn't even shocked when it happened.

"He's got the power to hit the ball out of any ballpark from corner to corner so nothing [about the home run] really impressed me," Pujols said. "It's something that he's been doing his whole time back in Japan."

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Shohei Ohtani homered in his second straight game -- this time, off ace Corey Kluber -- aiding in a 3-2 Angels victory, one day after he clobbered a 397-foot bomb in his first career at-bat in Angel Stadium.

Ohtani notched another hit in the 10th on a single up the middle, and has hit safely in five out of nine at-bats at his new park.

• Ohtani's first week proves hype is for real

Against the two-time Cy Young winner, Ohtani struck out his first time up. Kluber challenged Ohtani repeatedly, high and away, with his deadly sinker, cutter and fastball combination.

The location of the pitch that Ohtani sent flying into left-center field? High and away.

He made the adjustment.

Adjusting. That's one of the main things Ohtani has been tasked with -- one of the things Angels management and the coaching staff have been attempting to facilitate -- since Day 1.

Indeed, he has the raw power, he has the raw stuff, but the ball is different than the one in Japan -- harder, less tightly wound.

Video: CLE@LAA: Ohtani slugs 400-ft. home run off Kluber

He's never pitched on fewer than six days rest -- the standard in MLB is five. Pitchers in the Majors, in Ohtani's own words, all throw "really differently" compared to the ones he's seen in Japan, where they tend to primarily favor fastballs, changeups and splitters. He's had to watch scores of game footage in order to account for that difference.

"Pitchers here -- everyone throws really differently compared to Japan so that's one of the things I can do without playing in a game -- watching videos and watching scouting reports," Ohtani said Tuesday through an interpreter. "That's one of the ways I can prepare myself to improve."

Culturally, the differences are innumerable.

Almost every facet of Ohtani's transition to MLB life has been rooted in adjustment -- like the adjustment he had to make on Kluber's high- and-away barrage.

That specific modification was particularly difficult, according to Zack Cozart. Cozart said that Kluber is a pitcher who likes to cut and sink pitches in to left-handers, so for Ohtani not to be worried about the inside part of the plate as much and go with the fastball high and away the second time around -- after being fooled the first -- was impressive.

To manager Mike Scioscia, Ohtani can certainly handle a learning curve.

"He's well beyond his years as far as experience, as far as being challenged," Scioscia said before Wednesday's game. "He's played a very high level of baseball from when he was very young, and he's met every challenge, so this is another challenge for him."

Video: CLE@LAA: Ohtani collects two hits, Cozart walks-off

The two-way phenom now has a wRC+ of 274 -- meaning he has created 174 percent more runs than a league average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances thus far this season. 

He has more home runs than two entire clubs: the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers.

Ohtani has also reached some franchise milestones:

• The first Angels player to homer in his first two career home games

• 12 total bases through his first three career games with a plate appearance ties Bobby Clark (1979) for the franchise record

• Five RBIs through his first three career games with a plate appearance ties a franchise record (Clark in '79)

• Per Elias, the last player with at least 12 total bases over his first three games with a plate appearance was Aaron Judge in '16 (also 12).

These statistics have been notched in a limited sample size, yes, but Scioscia thinks it's an indication of something special.

"You see the bat speed, you see the power, he's making some adjustments, he's understanding the league," Scioscia said.

Ohtani gave credit to a strategy he developed while playing in Japan for how to counter his sporadic at-bats. Going five days between plate appearances did not seem to be an issue Tuesday or Wednesday. And Ohtani actually credited pitching, like he will do Sunday against Oakland, as part of the routine that keeps him sharp on the field.

Video: CLE@LAA: Ohtani's homer with Japanese play-by-play

"So even when I play as a hitter, I still pitch, and that's part of my rhythm, that's something I've been doing the past five years in Japan," Ohtani said Tuesday. "I think each at-bat -- one at-bat at a time, one game at a time and try to create a good rhythm."

Scioscia has long talked about his 23-year-old pitcher/hitter as somebody with a maturity and focus beyond his years. His ability to move from a spring when he struggled, to success when the season started is a major sign of that, according to Scioscia.

There were a number of pundits and scouts who came away from that very spring with their negative takes armed and ready after Ohtani hit .125 overall with zero home runs and 10 strikeouts over 32 plate appearances.

Ohtani was deferential when asked about what he would say to those pundits after Wednesday's game.

"I had bad results [in Spring Training] so I guess they had the right to say bad stuff about me," Ohtani said. "But I mean, we just got started, and there's a chance that I might go into a slump all of a sudden, so I just think I'll take it day by day, at-bat by at-bat, and try to help the team win."

Justin Upton, however, was not nearly as respectful to the critics.

"I ain't got nothing to say to them," Upton said. "They can say what they want to say. We believe in him."

Worth noting
Scioscia said the Angels are hopeful that infielder Ian Kinsler will return to baseball activities by this weekend. The veteran is on the 10-day disabled list after first dealing with groin tightness at the end of the Spring Training schedule, and then having the issue flare up on him on Opening Day.

Avery Yang is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani