Shohei Ohtani's monster night for Dodgers reminds Angels of what they lost, but his old team gets last laugh

LOS ANGELES — On a mild, 76-degree night at Dodger Stadium, the typical sea of white and blue apparel could be seen in the crowd. And as expected for the annual Freeway Series against the Los Angeles Angels, spots of red were visible around the stadium as well.

However, this matchup is substantially different than it has been in recent years. Shohei Ohtani, who played the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Angels, is now a Los Angeles Dodger. On this night, he was facing his old team for the first time since signing a record-breaking, 10-year, $700 million free-agent deal with the Dodgers.

And for both Dodgers and Angels fans alike, Ohtani's performance in the Angels' 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in 10 innings should've come as no surprise.

Ohtani hit a 455-foot, two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The home run set Dodgers season highs with Ohtani both scoring a run and driving in a run in six straight games. He reached base in all four of his plate appearances Friday.

In the end, the lead didn't hold, as Taylor Ward's two-out RBI single in the 10th inning was the difference. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he doesn’t believe this reunion between Ohtani and the Angels changes anything for the two-time AL MVP.

“Certainly doesn’t warrant any other conversation,” Roberts said before Friday's series opener. “I think he’s very grateful of his time in Anaheim, and I think he’s certainly happy here. I think it’s one of those things where he’s excited to get here, this day to get here to get it over with, because I think he just wants to play baseball.

“For Shohei Ohtani, these questions certainly happen. He impacted a lot of fans. So for him to come north a little bit, it’s a big deal. But I’m sure he just wants to play baseball.”

In the same vein, when asked postgame whether it felt strange to play against his former team, Ohtani emphasized that this was just another game.

“We played at home today, so not necessarily," he said through an interpreter. "I think it’s going to feel a bit different when we play in [Angel] Stadium."

Overall, it was a quiet night offensively for the Dodgers, who managed just three hits outside of their superstar slugger. Ohtani's two-run homer, which plated Austin Barnes, was his National League-leading 22nd of the season.

After that, it wouldn’t be until the bottom of the eighth inning that the Dodgers got another base hit, an Ohtani single, though he was caught stealing at second to end the threat.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a two-run home run against the Angels on Friday at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a two-run home run against the Angels on Friday at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Between those two hits by Ohtani were errant pitches by Dodgers reliever Ryan Yarbrough. In the top of the sixth, the lefty hit three batters, one of which resulted in the Angels' first run. The Angels scored again on Mickey Moniak's sacrifice groundout to tie the score 2-2.

Those errant pitches proved to be crucial. In the 10th inning, the Angels took the lead when automatic runner Jo Adell scored on Ward's single off reliever Evan Phillips.

With that, the Angels snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Dodgers in the Freeway Series dating to 2021. That streak consequently came at the expense of Ohtani, who has now lost 11 straight games in this series.

Ohtani knows that a major difference about playing on the Dodgers versus the Angels is that he has a chance to play well into October. He never reached the playoffs with the Angels. However, he doesn’t want to let the end goal deter him from doing his job on a day-to-day basis.

“I really feel that the organization really values a long-term approach. Yet at the same time, although the players do understand that, we really value winning the game each and every day,” Ohtani said. “So for me, the approach doesn’t really change.”

Despite that, Ohtani also understands that with more winning day-to-day and potentially playing for a World Series comes more fun than he’s used to.

“I'm sure more so as we head into the second half of the season,” he said. "It’s something that I haven’t really experienced in the past, so I’m looking forward to it.”