Shohei Ohtani (29-LA Angels) has been on a tear lately as he heads into free agency. The team is keeping its playoff hopes alive after nearly a decade in the doldrums.

Ohtani started as the team’s No. 2 designated hitter in the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) opener against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday.

From his first at-bat, Ohtani’s bat was hot. Stepping to the plate with one out in the first inning, he battled Texas starter Cody Bradford for six pitches before lining a double to right field. But the next two batters, Brandon Drury and Anthony Rendon, both struck out to end the inning.

After drawing a walk in the third, Ohtani finally got on the board in his third at-bat. With one out in the top of the sixth, he led off with a single to right, moved to second on Drury’s single through the left side of the infield, and then made a smart play at second base on Rendon’s grounder to shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the throw. Ohtani’s good play cut the deficit to 2-3, and the Angels scored on Hunter Renfroe’s two-run double to make it a 4-3 game.

Texas never gave Ohtani a good pitch after that. After walking on a wild pitch in the seventh, Ohtani drew a walk to start the ninth. It was a full count, but none of the seven pitches were in the strike zone, according to Major League Baseball’s Gameday. He stole second base (his 10th of the season) and came home on Drury’s single.

Ohtani finished the day 2-for-2 with a double, three walks, two runs scored and one stolen base. He didn’t have a home run, but he got on base when he needed to, and he didn’t hesitate to draw walks. Behind Ohtani’s performance, the Angels won 7-3.

After batting .243 in May and falling short of his career high in home runs (eight), Ohtani has been on fire in June. He has a 메이저놀이터 10-game hitting streak, his longest of the season, since going 5-for-4 against Houston on June 4. For the month of June, he is batting .417 with a whopping 1.366 OPS.

His overall season stats are equally impressive. At the plate, Ohtani is batting .296 with 20 home runs, 50 RBIs, 10 doubles, and an OPS of .973, leading the American League in home runs. On the mound, he’s also been solid, going 5-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 games. Ohtani, who is eligible for free agency at the end of this season, is looking to raise his price tag.

He’s been the subject of trade rumors for a while now, but the odds may be stacked against him this year. That’s because the Angels are on an unexpected tear. With a 14-game winning streak, a three-game winning streak, and an 8-2 record in their last 10 games, the Angels have a .551 winning percentage on the season (38-31). They’re currently just one game behind Houston for the third American League wild card, and if they keep up their momentum down the stretch, fall baseball is possible.

After making the playoffs six times in the 2000s, including a World Series title in 2002, the Angels have only made the postseason once (2014) in 13 seasons from 2010 to last year. Coincidentally, the prime years of the team’s biggest star, Mike Trout, 32, coincided with this stretch, leading to criticism that the team failed to capitalize on Trout’s abilities. Ohtani hasn’t even played a full season of fall baseball.

But if things continue as they are, Ohtani’s first major league fall ball is not out of the question. After winning the 2016 Nippon Series in Japan, he’s ready to write his own fall legend in the United States.

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