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

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.

“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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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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