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Shohei Ohtani’s 455-foot home run can’t save Dodgers in 10-inning loss to Angels

Angels closer Carlos Estévez celebrates after striking out Gavin Lux in the 10th inning.
Angels closer Carlos Estévez celebrates after striking out Gavin Lux in the 10th inning to secure a 3-2 win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Friday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Shohei Ohtani was on the losing end of a Freeway Series game for the 11th consecutive time Friday night.

This one just happened to be his first defeat in the rivalry while wearing Dodger blue.

Despite a mammoth two-run home run from Ohtani that opened the scoring in the fifth inning, the Dodgers couldn’t muster anything else in Ohtani’s first regular-season game against his former team, falling to the Angels 3-2 in 10 innings at Dodger Stadium.

Teoscar Hernández has helped elevate the mood in the Dodgers’ dugout with his unique celebrations and his reputation for delivering in clutch moments.

June 21, 2024

“This is certainly the hottest I think we’ve seen him,” manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani, who has seven home runs and a .400 batting average in his last 11 games. “Tonight we just couldn’t support him.”

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The Angels, who made a habit of wasting big games from Ohtani during his six seasons in Anaheim, are eerily familiar with the feeling.

Playing without Mookie Betts (hand fracture) and Will Smith (planned day off) Friday night, the Dodgers’ lineup was entirely Ohtani-reliant.

He reached base in all four trips to the plate, with two hits, two walks and two RBIs on his fifth-inning blast. The rest of the lineup, however, managed only three more hits, including none from fellow stars Freddie Freeman or Teoscar Hernández.

Even after a third-inning forearm injury to Patrick Sandoval forced the Angels to dip into their bullpen early, the Dodgers (47-31) barely threatened in the latter half of the game, failing to even put a runner in scoring position until an automatic runner started at second in the 10th.

By then, the Angels (30-45) had erased the two-run deficit, scoring twice off reliever Ryan Yarbrough in the sixth after the left-hander hit three batters in the inning, including one with the bases loaded.

“I think this year, in particular, his surface is good as far as ERA,” Roberts said of Yarbrough, who has a 3.28 ERA in his long relief role. “But the walks are certainly up there, the hit batsmen are up there. I don’t know if it’s a mechanical thing, but it’s very uncharacteristic.”

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That inning denied rookie right-hander Landon Knack, recalled earlier in the day for a spot start, a potential win in his fifth start of the season. Knack spun five scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.10. But whether he remains in a short-handed Dodgers rotation moving forward is unclear.

Dodgers pitcher Landon Knack delivers in the first inning against the Angels on Friday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

With three off days in the next two weeks, the Dodgers — who put Walker Buehler on the injured list Wednesday — could try to get by with a four-man rotation for the time being.

“I feel comfortable now, whenever I get to come up and make a start,” Knack said. “Whenever they need me, I always try to be ready. So yeah, definitely feeling comfortable now.”

In the top of the 10th, the Angels finally took the lead on an RBI single from Taylor Ward, who lined a two-out, two-strike slider from Evan Phillips through the left side of the infield.

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The Dodgers couldn’t respond in the bottom of the inning, stranding their automatic runner at third base to end a 10-game winning streak against the Angels — a Freeway Series record — that dated to 2021.

In each of those games, Ohtani was on the losing side, providing one of the lone bright spots for an Angels club that never made the postseason during his time with the team.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, left, greets Angels infielders Michael Stefanic, center, and Mickey Moniak before Friday's game.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

This season, in the first of the 10-year, $700-million contract he signed with the Dodgers last December, Ohtani has been the best player on a contending club that is not only cruising toward October, but is currently holding the best betting odds in all of baseball to win the World Series.

His 455-foot blast Friday was his National League-leading 22nd of the season, and seventh in his last 11 games (three of those have been 450 feet or more). In addition to his two walks and eighth-inning single, it also raised his OPS to 1.026, trailing only Aaron Judge for the major league lead.

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“My stance is stabilized and I have a good read of the strike zone,” Ohtani said in Japanese of his recent streak at the plate. “I think that leads to me hitting hittable pitches.”

Friday, nonetheless, was a reminder the Dodgers — just like the Angels for the last half a dozen years — still need more than just Ohtani on any given night.

The Dodgers might already have a Yoshinobu Yamamoto-caliber frontline starter in Gavin Stone, who was solid in a 5-3 series-clinching win over the Rockies.

June 20, 2024

Whatever personal revenge he exacted in his first meeting with his former team ultimately didn’t matter.

In yet another Freeway Series game, Ohtani was on the losing end again.

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Walker Buehler plan TBD

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler walks back to the mound after giving up a hit against the Texas Rangers on June 13.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Two days after the Dodgers put pitcher Walker Buehler on the injured list because of hip inflammation, Roberts said the team was still deciding how it would handle Buehler’s rehabilitation process — one that will double as a midseason “reset” for the struggling pitcher.

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Returning from a second career Tommy John surgery, Buehler was 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in eight starts before going on the IL last week. He was at Dodger Stadium on Friday, though Roberts said it’s possible he could go “off site” as he tries to find some consistency with his delivery.

“We haven’t figured that one out completely,” Roberts said. “I think with Walker, it’s sort of trying to figure out who he is as a pitcher right now, where his body is at. He’s a lot heavier and stronger than he was before the surgery. So to kind of figure out how his body is moving, related to the pitch mechanics and delivery. It’s going to be a process.”

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Clayton Kershaw’s next rehab outing

After pitching three innings Wednesday with single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Clayton Kershaw will make the second start of his minor league rehab assignment with triple-A Oklahoma City next Tuesday, Roberts said.

The Dodgers are targeting four innings from Kershaw in that game, which will be on the road against the Reno Aces. After that, Kershaw will make at least one more rehab outing before the club will evaluate whether he is ready to return from his offseason shoulder surgery, according to Roberts.

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