Photo: Ronald Martinez (Getty)

Mike Scioscia has mostly protected Shohei Ohtani from lefty pitchers during his rookie season. Partly this is because the lefty-lefty matchup is often brutal for hitters; partly it’s because Albert Pujols is still kicking around, and is capable of taking those DH plate appearances and doing some damage; and partly it’s because Ohtani hasn’t done especially well with his limited opportunities, entering September batting below the Mendoza Line in 63 at-bats against lefties on the season.

But Pujols is now out for the season with a knee injury, and Scioscia is ready to let his rookie phenom spread his wings and get some more opportunities, in the junky, otherwise irrelevant games left on the Angels’ schedule. Per MLB.com:

“I think that as Shohei starts to get more at-bats against left-handed pitching, you’ll be able to evaluate him more,” manager Mike Scioscia said recently. “He only has [60] at-bats against left-handed pitching. It’s not an excessive amount. But compared to the way he’s hit right-handers, obviously, it’s like night and day. I think he’s going to be a very balanced hitter as he moves forward in his career. But right now, getting acclimated to lefties is one thing that he’s working very hard to do.”

Ohtani has now faced a lefty starting pitcher in each of his last two starts at DH. Friday night he went 1-for-3 with a walk against Houston’s Framber Valdez; Tuesday night he went 1-for-3 against Texas’s Mike Minor. Ohtani struck out in each of his first two at-bats against Minor, but on his third time through, in the top of the sixth inning, Ohtani sent a hanging 2–1 slider to the hell of baseballs:

It was Ohtani’s 16th dinger of the season, but just his first off of a lefty pitcher. Ohtani had success hitting lefties in Japan, but that success doesn’t necessarily translate, at least according to his manager, who said “you can hit lefties well in Triple-A or in other leagues, but major league left-handed pitching is just different.” Know what else is just different? Shohei friggin’ Ohtani, who can paint the corners at 100 miles an hour, and throw an untouchable splitter, and mash taters to the opposite field like it’s nothing. The safe money says if he’s given the right opportunities, he’ll figure it out.