Ohtani, Yamamoto deliver mixed results in Oracle debuts as Dodgers


Ohtani, Yamamoto deliver mixed results in Oracle debuts as Dodgers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – An array of Shohei Ohtani’s skills deserve their own story after any given game. His two-way powers at the plate and on the pitcher’s mound, when healthy, have placed him in a league of his own – invoking comparisons to a single player nearly 100 years ago whose pregame meal was a one-man contest of hot-dog eating and beer drinking before playing against literally only white people.

There’s the power Ohtani possesses in the batter’s box that led to him leading the league in home runs last season (44), as well as the artillery that lives inside his right arm that led to him leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings (11.9) the same year. What often gets overlooked and should never be forgotten is what his two legs can do at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

Ohanti in his first at-bat Monday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-4 win against the Giants in 10 innings snapped a hitless streak at Oracle Park on the first pitch he saw. The left-handed hitting superstar followed Mookie Betts’ seven-pitch leadoff home run with a sharp line shot to right field 106 mph off his bat.

Ohtani previously was 0-for-8 with two strikeouts in three games in San Francisco.

The next two times Ohtani came to bat was a display of his forgotten talent on the base paths.

“He hits the ball farther than anybody. When he’s healthy his arm is as good as anyone on the field. He’s faster than everyone on the field,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after LA’s win. “There’s nothing he can’t do. … There’s just so many ways Shohei can beat you.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who played against Ohtani as a rookie in Japan and was his teammate last year in the Baseball World Classic, had a more straightforward answer regarding Ohtani’s speed: “It’s pretty fast.”

Ohtani’s third at-bat actually was his hardest hit ball of the night, a 109.5-mph grounder up the middle snagged by second baseman Thairo Estrada. Though Estrada was able to get Betts out at second base, shortstop Casey Schmitt was unable to complete the double play because of a sprinting Ohtani.

Looking to take advantage of pitcher Jordan Hicks’ high leg kick and the absence of Giants catcher Patrick Bailey behind the plate, Ohtani took a huge lead off first base. When Hicks stepped off the mound, Ohtani was stuck. Until his speed took over.

Once Hicks threw to first base, Ohtani darted for second. First baseman LaMonte Wade Jr.’s throw was off-target, rolling into the outfield. Ohtani kept running at his new opportunity and beat the throw to third base where he was stranded by a Freddie Freeman groundout.

The fifth inning is where Ohtani’s speed truly became a difference maker. The inning should have been all about Mike Yastrzemski’s highlight-reel diving catch down the right-field line to prevent a run from scoring. But a wild pitch with Ohtani up put Andy Pages on third base. The Dodgers didn’t need Ohtani to muscle-up to bring Pages home and get them within one run of the Giants.

His legs did all the work. Ohtani hit a 99-mph fastball straight into the ground, spun off his back left foot and kicked into hyperdrive, forcing Estrada to bobble his exchange as Pages scored. Ohtani’s sprint speed on the RBI single was 30 feet per second, which is considered elite by Statcast.

Though he struck out his final two at-bats, ending 2-for-5 with one RBI, Ohtani still showcased one of the many ways he can beat you in his first game in San Francisco since joining the Dodgers on a 10-year, $700 million contract.

Monday night marked Ohtani’s first experience of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry on the road, as well as Yamamoto’s. The former Orix Buffaloes ace also was coveted by the Giants over the offseason before inking a 12-year, $325 million deal to join Ohtani in Los Angeles. Yamamoto allowed four earned runs off five hits in 5 ⅔ innings and had six strikeouts.

Yamamoto (no decision) was happy the Dodgers came out with a win, but wasn’t satisfied with his personal performance.

“My stuff wasn’t bad, but in the situation I had to hold them to zero,” Yamamoto said through translator Yoshihiro Sonoda. “My ball was hanging and they took advantage of it.”

Luis Matos in his first game back in the big leagues, and his third with the Giants this season, crushed a hanging first-pitch curveball into the left-field bleachers in the second inning to give the Giants an early 3-1 lead.

Through the first two innings, Yamamoto threw 11 curveballs and the Giants didn’t swing and miss once. He only used the pitch eight more times the rest of the way. He also only threw his slider four times, and the fourth was his final pitch of the night.

Heliot Ramos, another young outfielder recently called up from Triple-A Sacramento, turned on Yamamoto’s slider that caught too much of the strike zone and smacked a grounder past a diving Betts at shortstop to score Matt Chapman that put the Giants back on top in the sixth inning.

“That’s something I was not satisfied with,” Yamamoto said. “The curveball, when it’s hanging, it gives them a much higher chance of a home run or to score.”

Yamamoto had allowed just eight earned runs in his last seven starts, but his six strikeouts were his most in his last three outings. Ohtani went down swinging twice and looked silly when doing so against left-hander Erik Miller.

Yet even in a game when neither were their most dominant selves, on a night where fans of both players let their voices be heard amongst a sea of Dodger Blue in the stands, Ohtani and Yamamoto cracked a crystal ball into what could have been for the Giants — as opposed to what will be on the other side for the next decade to open this three-game series where the Giants already dropped to nine game behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

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