ARLINGTON -- For all the success Shohei Ohtani has enjoyed during his historic rookie season with the Angels, there remains one area that he's so far struggled to conquer: left-handed pitching.But Ohtani took an encouraging step toward rectifying that weakness on Tuesday night, launching his first Major League home run
ARLINGTON -- For all the success Shohei Ohtani has enjoyed during his historic rookie season with the Angels, there remains one area that he's so far struggled to conquer: left-handed pitching.
But Ohtani took an encouraging step toward rectifying that weakness on Tuesday night, launching his first Major League home run off a left-hander in the Angels' 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
After striking out twice in his first two at-bats against Mike Minor, Ohtani blasted a solo shot to bring the Angels within two runs in the sixth inning. Ohtani hammered a 2-1 slider from Minor out to right-center field for his 16th home run of the season.
"I had a couple other opportunities with runners on base and couldn't come through there, so I'm not fully satisfied with today's results," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "But I do feel like I'm getting better and better at each at-bat when I face a lefty."
Added Minor: "Obviously, he made an adjustment. He's a good player, good hitter."
Ohtani entered Tuesday batting just .177 with a .524 OPS and no home runs against left-handers this season, compared with .311 with a 1.028 OPS and 15 home runs against righties. Since coming off the disabled list on July 3, Ohtani had been starting almost exclusively against right-handers, partly because of his underwhelming numbers against lefties, but also because the Angels needed to give Jose Pujols occasional starts at designated hitter to give him a break from playing first base.
Now that Pujols is out with season-ending knee surgery, Ohtani is expected to get more opportunities to prove himself against lefties.
"We have confidence with Shohei," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "The only way you're really going to hit lefties is you've got to go out there and experience it. You can practice all you want. You've got to go experience it. Now I think there's opportunity for him to get some more at-bats against left-handed pitching with Albert being out. We'll see when he's available if he can swing it and maybe get a little bit of experience to understand what lefties in our league are doing."
Ohtani's homer wasn't enough to back left-hander Andrew Heaney, who gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings.
The Angels got on the board in the first inning after David Fletcher doubled, stole third and scored on a groundout by Andrelton Simmons, but Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre crushed a pair of solo home runs off Heaney to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
"The first-pitch fastball to Andrus that he ambushed, he hit it good," Heaney said. "Beltre's given me trouble for a long time. Every time I face him. He knows what I like to do. I try mixing it up on him sometimes, and that time he got me. He ambushed the fastball in and he got every bit of it. He put a good swing on it."
Texas added another pair of runs in the fifth on Nomar Mazara's two-out, two-run double. Heaney retired the first two batters he faced to start the inning before yielding a single to Rougned Odor and walking Andrus. Mazara then drove a first-pitch curveball to the warning track in center field to clear the bases and extend the Rangers' lead to 4-2.
"It wasn't that bad of a pitch," Scioscia said. "Good piece of hitting there. All in all, I thought [Heaney] had good stuff."
Ohtani's 16 home runs are tied with Hideki Matsui for the second-most by a Japanese rookie in a single season. Kenji Johjima holds the record after crushing 18 homers for the Mariners in 2006.
HE SAID IT
"I want to go out there and keep trying to compile numbers. Maybe the results haven't been as great as I'd like, but I feel like the ability to go out there and make that many starts in a row, you're able to make adjustments, you're able to see what you can do in certain situations and what you can and can't get away with. Sometimes when you're off for a long time it's hard to get back into that rhythm. There's some things I'd like to be doing better, but I am proud of the season I'm having, and I just want to finish strong." -- Heaney, on not missing a start in his first season back from Tommy John surgery
• Heaney gets nomination for Clemente award
Rookie Jaime Barria (9-8, 3.46 ERA) will duel veteran Bartolo Colon (7-11, 5.45 ERA) in Wednesday's series finale between the Angels and Rangers at 5:05 p.m. PT at Globe Life Park. In his last seven starts, Barria is 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA. He has enjoyed success against the Rangers this season, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in three outings.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.