Plaschke: Shohei Ohtani has sweeping Dodgers dreaming of a different October

This wasn’t October. This can’t be confused with October. This has nothing to do with October.

Yet make no mistake, the Dodgers’ weekend sweep of the Atlanta Braves at a rollicking Dodger Stadium was a fair predictor of an entirely different sort of October.

An October with Shohei Ohtani.

Goodness, the imagination soars, like a 464-foot blast into the lunging grasps of the pavilion partiers.

My, the possibilities seem endless, like a 412-foot rocket that disappears over the center-field fence.

Ohtani authored both moments during Sunday’s 5-1 sweeping victory, once again leaving witnesses searching for adjectives.

“He just keeps doing things that we haven’t seen before,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Leading this team to its first full-season title in 36 years would qualify as something else few have seen before, wouldn’t it?

Heavens, the potential is enormous.

Ohtani, who was elsewhere while the Dodgers were failing in 10 of their previous 11 postseasons, filled his first playoff atmosphere here with ohhs and ahhs and oh yeahs.

Ohh, he wrecked the pitching staff of the team with baseball’s best record for eight hits in 12 at-bats with three home runs and six RBIs in the three games.

Ahh, he had a game-tying single in extra innings on Friday, a tone-setting homer on Saturday, and two homers among his four hits on Sunday.

Oh yeah, he signed with the Dodgers this winter because he wanted to experience the sort of playoff setting that eluded him during six years in Anaheim, so it only figures he would soak it all in.

I asked him after Sunday’s game if he could feel the big-game atmosphere.

“Yeah, very much so,” he said through interpreter Will Ireton.

Shohei Ohtani greets Dodgers teammate Teoscar Hernández after hitting a home run during the eighth inning Sunday.

Shohei Ohtani greets Dodgers teammate Teoscar Hernández after hitting a home run in the eighth inning Sunday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

He was asked what it feels like to hit a ball 464 feet, the longest Dodgers homer this season, a leadoff shot in the eighth inning that landed deep in the left-center field seats.

“Slug is part of my game,” Ohtani said. “So being able to express that in a game situation like that … is important as well.”

That first part belongs on a T-shirt, no?

Slug Is Part Of My Game.

“That’s deep, people don’t hit the ball out there,” said Roberts when asked about those traveling 464 feet.

Equally as deep is a Dodgers roster dotted with key new players who do not bear the dark stain of postseasons past.

This Dodger team has a new pitcher, James Paxson, who is now 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA after throwing five strong innings Sunday.

Paxson has a 3.46 postseason ERA in three starts for the New York Yankees, so he understands the importance of this weekend’s furor.

“We played really well,” he said. “We showed how well we can play against a really good team.”

This Dodgers team also has a new outfielder, Teoscar Hernández , who hit his eighth homer Sunday and has equaled Ohtani’s 25 RBIs.

Hernández has two homers in four postseason games, so he also seems suited for the big stage.

“With our offense, every game is winnable,” Roberts said.

With Ohtani in the middle of it all, every game this weekend felt like a victory from the first pitch to Randy Newman. The Dodgers outscored the Braves 20-6 and trailed for only brief spells in what amounted to a three-day fiesta capped by Sunday’s Cinco de Mayo roars.

“I saw signs of postseason … it was good to see our guys play to the level and energy that the fans had this series,” Roberts said.

Ohtani said the feeling was contagious.

“I just feel like we’re overall playing really well, so that’s really helping me have quality at-bats and just feeling good overall,” he said.

The scary part for opponents is that both of his Sunday home runs were essentially opposite-field hits, which means his bat has discovered its mojo.

“When I feel confident that I can hit in that direction, then I know I can cover other pitches really well,” Ohtani said.

Paxson explained that in human terms.

“He’s awesome,” the pitcher said with a gasp. “So much power.”

The Dodgers could have used that power last October when they were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a series in which they never led.

Shohei Ohtani runs past Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a home run in the first inning Sunday.

Shohei Ohtani runs past Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a home run in the first inning Sunday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Dodgers could have used that slug two postseasons ago when they couldn’t score in a four-game loss to the San Diego Padres.

And, yes, certainly, they will need every bit of Ohtani this fall if they once again meet the Braves. They are 3-1 against Atlanta during their postseason run, but it is the Braves who delivered the most recent blow with a four-games-to-two triumph in the 2021 National League Championship Series.

It’s far too early to be forecasting a rematch. It’s way too reckless to be celebrating a May sweep.

Yet as this weekend proved, it’s not too early to start believing.

For the last 11 years, the Dodgers didn’t have anyone like Shohei Ohtani.

Now they do, and anything is possible.

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