Ohtani KOs slump — and Mets — with an emphatic home run


NEW YORK — Wherever Shohei Ohtani goes, a microscope follows.

This week, the well-paid traveling circus known as the Los Angeles Dodgers rolled into Queens on a five-game losing streak for a series against the rapidly disintegrating New York Mets. Three games against the Big Apple’s favorite blue and orange calamity turned out to be the perfect panacea for the Dodgers, who left town with a sweep after Wednesday’s 10-3 victory.

Despite the team’s bounceback, Ohtani looked sluggish for most of the series, extending a cold stretch for the All-World slugger. An 0-for-5 showing in the series opener dipped his OPS over an 11-game span to just .565, the sixth lowest mark across a period that long since Ohtani’s massive, paradigm-altering offensive breakout in 2021.

And then, blam.

With the Mets disintegrating at the seams, Ohtani provided the knockout blow: A no-doubt, opposite field, two-run long ball in the eighth inning on Wednesday that put the Dodgers up 9-3. The blast was his first since May 17, a normal fallow stretch for a normal player, an eternity for a supernova like Ohtani.

The home run came off reliever Jorge López, whose outing will go down in Mets lore for its theatrics on and off the field. López was ejected four pitches after Ohtani’s 399-foot homer for arguing balls and strikes while facing Freddie Freeman. During his exit, he tossed his glove into the stands. In the postgame, López wasn’t apologetic about the glove toss, saying, “No. I don’t regret it. I think I’ve been on the worst team in probably the whole f***ing MLB. Whatever happened happens, so whatever they want do. I’ll be here tomorrow if they want me. I’m going to keep doing this thing.”

(Perhaps lost in translation, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo and Star-Ledger Mets beat writer Manny Gómez reported that Lopez meant to say he was the “worst teammate.”)

López apparently won’t be with the Mets anymore as he reportedly is expected to be designated for assignment.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (probably) couldn’t forecast this level of Mets ineptitude, but he did predict an Ohtani breakout in his pregame media scrum.

“I really feel that today it’s gonna be a good day for him.”

“I still feel great about Shohei swinging at strikes,” proclaimed the Dodgers manager. “I liked the height of where he was swinging at those pitches and if he does that, you’ll see the slug again.”

Once again, Roberts was on the money.

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It’s a reminder that any sample size as small as Ohtani’s 11-game skid isn’t worth an iota of panic, especially for a player with this kind of track record. The lefty slugger now boasts a 1.011 full-season OPS, the fourth-best mark in MLB. But as baseball’s world-famous $700 million man, everything Ohtani-related is subject to extra scrutiny.

Especially when that particular rough patch might have been linked to a specific play.

In the first inning of Los Angeles’ game against Cincinnati on May 16, Ohtani was accidentally drilled in the leg with an errant pickoff throw. The toss from Reds hurler Brent Suter ran too far down the first baseline and struck the 29-year-old superstar in the back of his left leg, right in the center of his hamstring. Upon contact, Ohtani winced in discomfort, grabbed at his left thigh and dropped to a knee on top of first base. He was back on his feet a few seconds later and even swiped second base on the next batter.

Though it looked innocuous in the moment, the stinger lingered.

Against those same Reds a week later, Ohtani coasted around the bases at an abnormally slow pace while legging out a triple. Asked about it after the game, Roberts revealed his most dynamic player was nursing a bruised hamstring and was asked by the club to take it easy while running the bases.

Ohtani downplayed the severity of the injury during his media availability Monday, denying that it had anything to do with his recent slump.

“Obviously, the leg isn’t that great, but I don’t personally think it’s affecting the swing,” he told the gaggle of reporters assembled at Citi Field, also mentioning that his bruised hamstring was getting better “day by day.”

Based upon his monster shot against the Mets on Wednesday, Ohtani looks close to 100%.





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