Shohei Ohtani puts interpreter scandal behind him, but extends slump in Dodgers loss

As a reporter noted the considerable amount of conversation dedicated to the scandal surrounding Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, this year, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts cut the query off mid-sentence.

“I know we’ve talked about this a lot…” the question began.

“Yes,” Roberts quipped, flatly. “We have.”

After Tuesday, Roberts, Ohtani and the entire Dodgers organization are hoping they won’t have to waste such breath again.

Hours before the Dodgers lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1-0, in yet another quiet day at the plate for the two-way star, Ohtani at least seemed to receive some official closure off the field in the scandal involving Mizuhara

On Tuesday afternoon, Mizuhara pleaded guilty in federal court to bank and tax fraud, admitting to stealing nearly $17 million from his former employer (and close friend) to pay off gambling debts with an allegedly illegal bookmaker. Shortly after, Major League Baseball announced its investigation into the incident — the last major remaining probe into Ohtani’s involvement in the situation — had been closed, with Ohtani cleared of any wrongdoing.

“Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud,” the league said in a statement.

Ohtani declined to answer questions from reporters in the PNC Park visitors’ clubhouse pregame, but did release a statement of his own earlier in the day.

“It’s time to close this chapter,” it read, “move on and continue to focus on playing and winning ballgames.”

During Roberts’ pregame scrum, the manager echoed the same forward-looking tone.

“I think it’s a formality, I guess,” Roberts said of Mizuhara’s plea and MLB’s announcement — two developments that, indeed, had been expected after a federal investigation in April blamed only Mizuhara for wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to an allegedly illegal bookmaker.

“Honestly, we haven’t been following it,” Roberts added. “So I hope it’s closure. That’d be great if it’s closure. We’ve all been ready to move on.”

In Ohtani’s case, this might be a good time to open a new chapter on the field, too.

Entering Tuesday, the slugger had been mired in a two-week slump, batting just .193 over his last 15 games (during which time he also dealt with minor back and hamstring ailments). Then, Ohtani epitomized the Dodgers’ continued struggles by going just one for four at the plate Tuesday night.

Ohtani struck out in his first at-bat against flamethrowing Southland native Jared Jones, a former second-round draft pick out of La Mirada High who spun six scoreless frames with six strikeouts Tuesday.

Ohtani’s other at-bats against Jones weren’t much better: A double-play grounder in the third inning and another strikeout in the fifth.

Ohtani did produce a leadoff single in the eighth inning, eventually advancing to third in the Dodgers’ best chance to tie the game.

But, the club ultimately failed to take advantage, one of many missed chances on a night the Dodgers went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

Over their last 18 games, the Dodgers have now scored four runs or fewer 13 times (that happened only 18 times in their 44 games to start the season).

And of all the problems behind that inconsistent output, Ohtani’s extended slide offensively has become particularly glaring, with his batting average dropping from .364 on May 15 to .321 at the end of play Tuesday.

It all left Tyler Glasnow’s strong return to Pittsburgh wasted. While the right-hander struck out nine batters in a six-inning, one-run start (becoming the first MLB pitcher this year to eclipse 100 strikeouts in the process), Glasnow still took the loss in what was his first trip back to PNC Park since the Pirates traded him to Tampa Bay in the middle of the 2018 season.

Glasnow has now dropped his last three decisions, thanks largely to a lack of support from his offense.

Tuesday marked his fifth straight outing in which the Dodgers failed to score while he was on the mound. In those five games, the team has mustered just eight runs overall — further symptoms of an offensive decline that has impacted almost everyone in the Dodgers’ lineup.

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