NOTHING CAN STOP THE DODGERS – Amid ongoing Shohei Ohtani saga, Dodgers defeat Angels in Freeway Series opener

Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani runs the bases during a 5-3 win over the Angels.

Storm clouds of the literal variety gathered above Chavez Ravine as Sunday afternoon’s Freeway Series exhibition game between the Dodgers and Angels began.

But as dark as the clouds were, they were far less threatening and ominous than the figurative ones hovering over the Dodgers since news of the illegal gambling and theft scandal involving slugger Shohei Ohtani and his now-former interpreter and confidant, Ippei Mizuhara, broke on Thursday.

The Dodgers have dealt with their share of off-field tumult in recent years with domestic violence allegations sidelining Trevor Bauer in 2021 and Julio Urías in 2023, but both pitchers were immediately placed on administrative leave and removed from the team.

Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers, but Ohtani remains a fixture in the lineup, and with Major League Baseball investigating the allegations and federal authorities and the IRS looking into Mizuhara and the alleged illegal bookmaker involved in the probe, the scandal could be a major distraction for the Dodgers in the coming weeks and months.

“I think we’re certainly battle-tested [in] that regard,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “And we’ve shown over the years that we continue to move forward. Not to be insensitive to various situations, but we all understand we have jobs to do. And so first and foremost, playing baseball and preparing has to be a priority.”

Ohtani has not been accused of gambling, and Mizuhara asserted during an interview with ESPN last week that none of his bets were on baseball, but the scandal has drawn intense scrutiny from fans and the media because of the global superstar, two-time American League most valuable player and $700-million man attached to it: Ohtani.

That was apparent when some 60-75 reporters, photographers and camera operators crowded into the third-base dugout for Roberts’ pregame media availability on Sunday, a scrum so large that team officials planned to move the daily sessions to an interview room moving forward.

But Roberts insisted that the extra media attention, the questions surrounding Ohtani and Mizuhara, who was accused by attorneys representing Ohtani of stealing a reported $4.5 million from the slugger to pay off gambling debts, and the accompanying investigations would not be a distraction for his club.

Dodgers star Mookie Betts bats against the Angels on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“I think it’s just, once you get here, people just get back to work and do their thing,” Roberts said. “Athletes, by and large, have a very good ability to compartmentalize. I think that’s just kind of how we’re wired. … That’s kind of what baseball players do.”

Focus wasn’t a problem on Sunday for the Dodgers, who showed few signs of jet lag from Thursday’s 11½-hour flight home from South Korea and the adjustment to the 16-hour time difference between Seoul and Los Angeles.

Bobby Miller looked sharp for most of his tuneup for Friday night’s regular-season start against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing four hits, striking out five and walking one in 4⅔ innings of a 5-3 victory over the Angels.

The projected starting lineup batted around in a second inning in which the Dodgers scored four runs off Angels right-hander Griffin Canning, Jason Heyward (RBI double to right-center field) and Gavin Lux (bloop two-run single to shallow left) providing the big hits. Mookie Betts (double) and Max Muncy (single) added hits during the rally.

Relievers Michael Grove and Evan Phillips threw scoreless innings, Phillips striking out the side in the eighth, and the Dodgers played a clean game defensively. About the only blemish was the three runs Ryan Brasier gave up in a seventh inning that included Zach Neto’s RBI triple and Jake Marisnick’s RBI double.

“We had two days to [recuperate], so I feel good with where we’re at, and I think [Monday] we’ll come out even better,” Roberts said after the game. “When we broke it open with four runs, I thought that was a really good inning. Jason had a big two-out hit, and there were some other good at-bats, guys taking walks.”

Miller threw 80 pitches, 51 for strikes — ”Definitely a few too many pitches for the amount of innings I threw,” he said — but after giving up a leadoff double to Taylor Ward in the second, the right-hander struck out Brandon Drury and Mickey Moniak, walked Logan O’Hoppe and got Luis Rengifo to ground out to end the 26-pitch inning.

“The second inning was really good for me,” Miller said. “I had a runner on second with no outs and was down 3-and-1 on the count [to Moniak]. I’m never gonna give in. I just keep telling myself there’s no doubt in my mind, I’m gonna make a pitch right here and … get out of it.”

Miller has been working all spring to tighten up a slider that has looked too much like his curveball in both shape and velocity. He was happy with the development of the breaking pitch on Sunday.

“I thought it was a lot better today than it was in my last outing in Korea,” said Miller, who pitched in an exhibition game in Seoul. “You know, it slowed down on me a lot my last outing and blended a little too much with my curveball. But today it was nice and firm, and I was selling it like my heater a little bit more than I was in my last outing.”