April 17, 2024

Shohei Ohtani hits 430-foot shot for first Dodgers home run

LOS ANGELES — The first particular person Shohei Ohtani encountered on his strategy to the dugout was Teoscar Hernandez, who, amid a lot newness and a lot turmoil, has turn into fairly probably his finest pal on the crew. Hernandez, the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ affable nook outfielder, stood close to the railing and bestowed Ohtani with the providing that awaits each teammate who homers: a face filled with sunflower seeds.

Ohtani had lastly damaged via.

The previous 4 months had seen Ohtani face the stress of a $700 million contract, the transition to a brand new group and, most shockingly, the uneasiness of a betting scandal that led to the firing of his longtime interpreter and closest confidant, Ippei Mizuhara. A gradual begin adopted. But on Wednesday night time, within the late phases of a 5-4 victory that solidified a sweep of the division rival San Francisco Giants, Ohtani cranked his first home run in his ninth sport, a seventh-inning, 430-foot drive to right-center area.

It got here on the ultimate day of the Dodgers’ first homestand, in entrance of a sold-out crowd of almost 53,000 individuals.

For the first time as a Dodger, it appeared, Ohtani belonged.

“There certainly was some relief,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned. “I’m certain of that.”

Ohtani, the American League’s unanimous MVP in 2021 and 2023, slashed .242/.297/.333 via his first eight video games and was within the midst of his longest homerless drought to start a season. He had beforehand expressed feeling barely off along with his swing. But Roberts seen indicators of him getting again in sync as Wednesday’s sport performed out, significantly with an opposite-field lineout within the fourth inning towards left-hander Kyle Harrison.

Ohtani got here up once more with two outs and the Dodgers main by solely a run within the backside of the seventh, dealing with one other left-hander in Taylor Rogers. He waited again simply sufficient on a 3-1 sinker up and away and pulled it 105.6 mph. It was the first home run Rogers had given up on a sinker since September 2022; he threw the pitch 346 occasions final season.

“Honestly, very relieved that I was able to hit my first homer,” mentioned Ohtani, whose homerless streak prolonged to 18 video games courting again to final season, the second-longest drought of his profession. “It’s been a while, and honestly my swing hasn’t been great, so, overall, very relieved.”

Ohtani, talking via new interpreter Will Ireton, met the girl who caught his home run and retrieved the baseball in change for two caps, one other game-used ball and a bat.

Between Ohtani’s first two video games of the season in South Korea, ESPN reported that not less than $4.5 million in wire transfers had been despatched from his checking account to a Southern California bookmaking operation that’s beneath federal investigation. An Ohtani spokesman and Mizuhara initially informed ESPN that Ohtani despatched the cash to assist repay Mizuhara’s playing money owed. Mizuhara then mentioned Ohtani had no information of his money owed and had not transferred the cash, whereas Ohtani’s camp alleged a “massive theft” had taken place. Days later, on the Monday earlier than the Dodgers’ stateside opener, Ohtani delivered an extended assertion wherein he denied ever putting sports activities bets and mentioned Mizuhara, who was promptly fired by the Dodgers, “has been stealing money” and “told lies.”

Ohtani, the largest baseball star on the planet, had already been coated feverishly in his native Japan. The salaciousness of a betting scandal amplified the noise round him, all whereas he was making ready for a season of grand expectations. Through that, teammates and coaches marveled at how Ohtani by no means let on that any of that bothered him — whereas admitting that they had no thought what was occurring internally. It’s why all of them appeared so pleased to see him homer.

“It was nice to see that relief off his shoulders and his face, everything,” Dodgers infielder Miguel Rojas mentioned. “It’s really hard. That guy works extremely hard to be a professional and deal with everything every single day. There’s a lot of media, he’s recovering from a surgery. We ask a lot of Shohei, and for us to see him get some success — it’s always important and it’s always nice for us to see him feel comfortable in the clubhouse around the new guys. I think it’s going to be huge now that he got the first homer out of the way. Now he can just relax and play baseball.”

The Dodgers gained six of seven video games of their season-opening homestand and have scored not less than 5 runs in every of their 9 video games in 2024. Since 1900, solely the 1932 New York Yankees (13) had a streak of greater than 10 five-run video games to start a season. Mookie Betts has been off to a scorching begin, and Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy and Hernandez have all made main contributions, exemplifying the depth of the Dodgers’ lineup.

They have not wanted Ohtani to provide.

Perhaps he’ll now, too.

“I know everyone is saying, ‘Finally,’ but it’s still early,” mentioned Dodgers outfielder Jason Heyward, positioned on the injured record due to again tightness earlier than Wednesday’s sport. “It’s still very, very early.”