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Bill Plaschke: Ippei Mizuhara's surrender inspires Shohei Ohtani to soar for Dodgers

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

"Overall we put up a good fight," Ohtani said .

He has been putting up a good fight, with an eight-game hitting streak in which he's batting .457 with four homers, seven doubles and six RBIs.

With each Ohtani plate appearance, the appreciative crowd roars even louder. He's quickly become the local favorite, fans surely appreciating his constant sense of calm and refusal to engage in controversy.

After Friday's game he immediately stepped out of the clubhouse and stood on an interview stage and pleasantly answered several questions. But he pointedly would not address any queries involving Mizuhara. As he showed on the field, he's moved on.

"He's handled it with flying colors," Roberts said. "He's done a great job of just focusing on playing baseball, and not letting it be a distraction for him. And our guys, as well, have handled it really well, as far as that noise and not letting it affect play."

This could be just the player to keep the Dodgers from collapsing for a third straight October. If he can handle an alleged massive betrayal from an alleged close friend, he can surely handle the playoff heat.

"I think he has a very good — I don't want to say poker face — but he's very stoic," said Roberts. "You just don't know his emotions. He just comes in every day the same. You never know if things are good or things are bad, stuff on his mind. He's just a pro. He just wants to play baseball."

Ohtani's coolness is contagious, as Friday illustrated two other examples of resilience winning the fight with uncertainty.

Seemingly moments before the start of the season, Mookie Betts was moved to shortstop, a position he's played for 16 games in the major leagues.

 

It was stunning. It was unsettling. The Dodgers were criticized. He was questioned. The Dodgers didn't budge. He didn't stop working.

It shows. He has been one of baseball's best players, and Friday he hit a three-run homer in the second inning and then pulled off two fielding gems. He nabbed a Jake Cronenworth grounder, sprinted to second and turned a nifty double play to end the Padres' third. In the Padres seventh he dived into the third-base line stands to make a diving catch of a Luis Campusano foul ball.

The former Boston Red Sox star would feel awkward hearing this, but for a moment he actually looked like Derek Jeter.

Then there was Max Muncy, who is still fighting the perception he can't play third base. He struggled coming out of spring training. He made two errors and another miscue in the season's second game.

Yet he kept hacking, kept honing, hit an eventual game-winning home run against St. Louis, and then Friday night blasted his third homer while making two great late-inning stops.

"I think we're good about focusing on the controllables," Roberts said. "I know it's trite. I know it sounds simple. It's not. But our job is to be professionals and play baseball. Represent this organization the best we can each day. So everyone has things going on in their lives. But you have got to be able to focus on our job. And with what we have here with the Dodgers, our guys do a heck of a job."

Yes, they do, as Shohei Ohtani showed on a day when his interpreter surrendered, and he was set free.


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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