Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees and Angels won’t be facing each other in the playoffs this year, but Shohei Ohtani makes every series interesting.

This series was no different even as New York took two out of three games and won another series. The crowd paid extra attention whenever Ohtani stepped inside that batter’s box, and he didn’t even pitch this time around. Los Angeles also proved a scrappy hitting team aside from Ohtani, notching 22 total hits to the Yankees’ 19. They were the worse team, but far from an easy out.

Some takeaways:

All-in on Ohtani. Shohei Ohtani’s upcoming free agency will be the story of the MLB offseason and the Yankees seem like they’ll at least check in. A report from Brendan Kuty of The Athletic detailed how the Yankees sold t-shirts featuring both Ohtani and team captain Aaron Judge. The reigning MVP also added that he’s excited to see how Ohtani’s free agency plays out.

Shohei Ohtani signing with the Yankees in free agency is still highly unlikely. For both money and baseball reasons. The better bet would be Steve Cohen writing another big check to bring the international superstar to the crosstown rival Mets. Be it in the Bronx or Queens, Ohtani playing in the Big Apple would mean can’t-miss baseball.

Power gap. Giancarlo Stanton will miss the next several weeks with a bad hamstring, leaving the Yankees without one of their best power bats. His absence from the lineup was a big one in the Angels series as power was scarce across the board. The Yankees might have taken two of three games, but they and the Angels each only hit one home run in the series.

This is the Yankees’ reality until probably June: Gleyber Torres bats cleanup unless someone else steps up. This isn’t to say Torres isn’t good enough to bat in that spot, far from it. But he’s more a contact hitter while Stanton has natural, borderline automatic power. New York isn’t sunk without him, but scoring is that much tougher when Stanton isn’t in the lineup.

All the small things. The good news for the Yankees is that in their first series without Stanton, they learned how to win without his home run swing. Just look at their two wins against the Angels. Aaron Judge’s home run opened the scoring on Wednesday, but Torres’ sacrifice fly won the game.

Thursday was even more of a small-ball celebration. The Yankees kept the line moving with walks and base hits. In fact, the Yankees drew 23 walks in three games and looked as patient as they have all year.

This is what was so sorely missed when Stanton was injured last year. Players tried too hard to make up the power void instead of just keeping the lineup moving and wearing pitchers down by either working the count or putting together a big rally. The Angels aren’t a playoff team and were thus a good opponent for practicing this.

Now, let’s see the Yankees keep at it and keep winning until Stanton comes back.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.