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Shohei Ohtani’s first walkoff hit as a Los Angeles Dodger beats the Cincinnati Reds in extra innings

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LOS ANGELES — Shohei Ohtani Day became a four-day weekend in Los Angeles.

The largest Dodger Stadium crowd in five years lined up hours in advance to get his first bobblehead as a Dodger on Thursday. On Friday, the LA City Council proclaimed May 17 ‘Shohei Ohtani Day’ in Los Angeles.

And on Sunday, Ohtani capped it off with his first walkoff hit as a Dodger, driving in the winning run in the 10th inning of a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

“Overall, it was a special weekend,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I wasn’t able to get a base hit during my bobblehead day. But I was able to end it on a very good note so happy to be able to do this.”

Ohtani’s RBI single — his first walkoff hit since Sept. 4, 2020 — secured the Dodgers’ 20th win in their past 26 games. It featured more stellar work from a shuffled and reconstituted bullpen. Four relievers — including journeyman left-hander Anthony Banda freshly added to the roster — combined to hold the Reds to one run on two hits over the last 5 1/3 innings.

“It’s huge,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said of the bullpen’s ability to compensate for the loss to injury of four high-leverage right-handers (Evan Phillips, Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier and Brusdar Graterol). “Michael Grove is the one that I think is the biggest one (to step up). He’s been throwing in seventh, eighth inning situations.

“Then you trade for Anthony and he comes out throwing 97 mph bullets. … Our whole pitching staff, they’re why we’re winning so many games. But Grover settling in has been the biggest one. It seems like we’re down a whole bullpen.”

A month into his big-league career, Andy Pages has experienced a number of firsts – including his first slump. After a fly out in his first at-bat Sunday, Pages had gone 7 for his last 45 (.156) with 18 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit (a double).

  • Hunter Greene #21 of the Cincinnati Reds speaks with umpire...

    Hunter Greene #21 of the Cincinnati Reds speaks with umpire Chad Whitson #62 during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 19, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Andy Pages #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his...

    Andy Pages #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his two run home run with Freddie Freeman #5 past Luke Maile #22 of the Cincinnati Reds, to take a 2-0 lead, during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 19, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Andy Pages #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a...

    Andy Pages #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two run home run, to take a 2-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds, during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 19, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, is congratulated by Will...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, is congratulated by Will Smith after hitting a walk-off single during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, second from right is hit...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, second from right is hit with a bucket of ice and water by Teoscar Hernandez after Ohtani hit a walk-off single during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is congratulated by teammates...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk-off single during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani hits a foul ball during...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani hits a foul ball during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani heads to first for a...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani heads to first for a single during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, is safe at first...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, is safe at first as Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Sam Moll attempts a late tag during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani heads to second as Freddie...

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani heads to second as Freddie Freeman grounds out to end the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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But right-hander Hunter Greene gave him the gift of a hanging slider in the fourth inning and Pages hooked it into the seats down the left-field line for a two-run home run that gave the Dodgers the lead.

It held up for a while.

Landon Knack proved a reliable fill-in starter once again, holding the Reds scoreless into the fifth inning. But back-to-back doubles cut the Dodgers’ lead in half.

Ryan Yarbrough came on to face the lefty-heavy top of the Reds’ lineup and kept the lead intact into the seventh inning. Then he became his own worst enemy.

Yarbrough walked Jonathan India to start the inning. Stuart Fairchild dropped a bunt on the grass to the right of the pitcher’s mound, looking to move India into scoring position.

Yarbrough fielded it, spun and threw to first base – where no one was covering. Freeman had charged in from first but second baseman Gavin Lux had been playing up the middle and didn’t get to first in time.

“I’m pretty far up the middle,” Lux said. “So either I’ve got to know that situation, that he could bunt, and shoot over or we’ve got to read it. I’m sure we’ll talk about it tomorrow. But either I’ve got to cheat over or we’ve got to read it. We can’t do both.”

The blunder left men on second and third with no outs. Yarbrough got Santiago Espinal to pop out harmlessly then intentionally walked Tyler Stephenson to load the bases.

Alex Vesia was summoned from the bullpen to face the top of the lineup. Vesia and pinch-hitter Spencer Steer battled for nine pitches. Vesia finally missed with a slider outside to walk in the tying run.

The game stayed tied into extra innings.

After his dynamic four-hit, four-steal game on Thursday, the Dodgers kept Elly De La Cruz off the bases. Rob Manfred put him back on.

De La Cruz (0 for 13 with eight strikeouts in the last three games of the series) was the free runner at second base to start the top of the 10th. But he never made a move to steal third and was still at second while Banda retired the side in order.

“You definitely have to pay attention to him,” Banda said of De La Cruz. “But the main thing was getting him to stop his feet, keeping him close to the bag and execute the pitch from there.”

The Dodgers couldn’t advance their own free runner in the bottom of the 10th until Ohtani came up with two outs. The Dodgers were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position to that point and Ohtani fell behind 0-and-2 to Reds reliever Alexis Diaz.

Ohtani took a ball, fouled another off then got a fastball down and in that he was able to line into right field for the game-winning RBI.

“He has a unique delivery so I just wanted to make sure I put the ball in play and it worked out well,” Ohtani said.

Ohtani started the season 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position. Since then, he has gone 11 for 31 (.355) in those situations including five for his past 12 after Sunday’s walkoff hit.

“It’s gotten better,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s certain times I think that you can expand (the strike zone), you should expand. But I think by and large, you need to stay disciplined in your strike zone and certainly Shohei covers more than most players. But, the last four weeks, he’s been very stubborn in his strike zone, earning good pitches to hit and when they make mistakes he takes advantage.”

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Bill Plunkett , 2024-05-20 05:58:28

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