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OC Register: The hits are falling for Shohei Ohtani, but not landing over the fence

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ANAHEIM – Despite hitting safely in seven consecutive games, Shohei Ohtani was not in the Angels’ starting lineup Saturday. The White Sox started a left-handed pitcher, former Angel Hector Santiago. Ohtani is expected back in the lineup Sunday.

Ohtani’s hitting streak – which he extended to eight games with a pinch-hit single Saturday – is an unusual one for him. It consists of 11 singles and three doubles. His last home run came July 27, a blast off Orioles pitcher Aaron Brooks that cleared the center-field fence at Angel Stadium. This remains the only home run he’s hit since the All-Star break.

“I feel comfortable,” Ohtani said through his interpreter before Saturday’s game. “I feel good plate at the plate. I’m just not getting the right angle. That’s the biggest thing.”

According to MLB’s Statcast technology, Ohtani hit 225 balls in play last season, with an average launch angle of 12.3 degrees. This year his average launch angle is down to 6.1 degrees. His results have followed suit.

Ohtani was named the American League Rookie of the Year after slugging .564 with 22 home runs in 104 games as a DH. He’s hit 15 homers in 85 games this year – a similar pace, but one that contradicts the league-wide trend toward power. Major league hitters are on pace to break that all-time record for home runs with more than two weeks left in the regular season.

Ohtani entered Sunday without a homer in his last 17 games. The stretch includes two games in which Ohtani batted once off the bench. A year ago, Ohtani’s longest streak without a home run lasted 16 games.

Angels manager Brad Ausmus hasn’t budged Ohtani from the number-3 spot in his lineup since he returned from the injured list in May. Ausmus suggested that, since home runs “come in bunches,” patience is the best policy with Ohtani. Once, in Japan, Ohtani said he hit a home run in five consecutive games.

“I’ve been making contact, just missing it by a little bit a few times,” Ohtani said. “So I’m getting closer. Popping up some I shouldn’t be but I should be coming together soon.”


In his most recent bullpen session Saturday, Ohtani threw low-intensity curveballs off a mound for the first time. He also threw a fastball that touched 85 mph. He has yet to throw any other pitches off a mound.

“Pre-surgery, the curveball hurt me the most of all my pitches,” Ohtani said. “But after the surgery, after throwing it today, it actually felt more comfortable than the fastball. So that’s a really good sign.”

Asked how, Ohtani responded, “good surgeon.”

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been doing light work in the field and was scheduled to swing a bat Saturday for the first time since he sprained his left ankle on Aug. 2, Ausmus said.

A little more than two weeks remain in the minor league seasons, not including playoff games. Whether or not Simmons plays any rehab games could hinge on whether there’s still time left in the minor league seasons, Ausmus said.

Although Simmons is expected to be able to take part in a game some time in the next three weeks, “we should be cautious because we don’t want him to have an injury recur in the same area,” Ausmus said.

Keynan Middleton (elbow) threw 16 pitches, including 12 strikes, in a scoreless inning for Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. He struck out one of the three batters he faced. Ausmus said Middleton still has a couple rehab outings remaining before he re-joins the Angels.


Surgery on pitcher Felix Peña’s torn anterior cruciate ligament went as planned. “The report is it went well, but I’ve never had a report tell me it didn’t go well, so take it with a grain of salt,” Ausmus said. “I’ve never had someone come out of surgery and say, ‘that was awful. Guy botched that one.’ ”


White Sox (RHP Dylan Cease) at Angels (RHP Griffin Canning), 1 p.m., Fox Sports West, 830-AM

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