'In rare air': Ohtani making mark in Dodgers-Giants rivalry

May 15th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- This winter, the Giants were one of the teams that made a compelling offer for two-way superstar . After offering a deal similar to the one he signed with the Dodgers, the Giants were in the running right up until the end.

But instead of landing the two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player, the Giants now have to watch Ohtani suit up for the Dodgers at least 12 times a year for the next decade.

For the first time in the longtime rivalry, Ohtani made his mark at Oracle Park, leading the Dodgers to a 10-2 win over the Giants on Tuesday with three hits and a long homer that almost cleared Levi’s Landing in right field.

“The image of the ballpark I have is, it’s very beautiful, historic. I really like the view of this stadium,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “I’ve seen Barry Bonds hit a lot of home runs, so I’m very familiar with the Dodgers and Giants rivalry.”

Not only is Ohtani now personally familiar with the rivalry, he’s also the closest thing to Bonds and the immense power the all-time home run leader had during his playing career. He showed that power off again on Tuesday, with Bonds in attendance.

With the game scoreless through three innings, Ohtani got the Dodgers on the board with a long blast off right-hander Keaton Winn on a breaking ball that hung over the heart of the plate. As soon as Ohtani made contact with the ball, there was no doubt it was going to go into the seats. The only question was whether it would be a splash hit for the Dodgers’ designated hitter.

“You don’t see too many guys hitting the ball to that part of the ballpark and that far,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Fortunately, I played with one here [in Bonds], but that was pretty impressive.”

The ball ended up bouncing on the walkway, falling just a few feet from landing into McCovey Cove. Ohtani’s homer had an exit velocity of 113.4 mph and traveled a projected distance of 446 feet, per Statcast, the third-longest blast of the season for the Japanese superstar. It was the longest home run at Oracle Park so far this season.

“I thought I hit one today,” Ohtani said with a smile when asked if he thought he completely cleared Levi’s Landing. “I was disappointed it didn’t go over.”

Through 44 games this season, there’s been absolutely no disappointment in what the Dodgers have gotten from Ohtani at the plate. Even with Ohtani not pitching this season, the designated hitter has proved to be worth every dollar he got in his record contract this winter.

Following Tuesday’s 3-for-5 performance, Ohtani is leading the Majors with a .361 batting average, 1.107 OPS and 61 hits. His 12 homers are tied for the second most in MLB. His 16 doubles tie him with Alec Bohm for the most in the Majors.

“I think that the overarching thing that he’s craved and desired so long is to play for a winner,” Roberts said. “Not to take anything away from the Angels, but I think what we’ve done, he’s seen that, and I think that’s raising his level of play, keeping his focus every at-bat, every day, and then you’re seeing what he’s capable of."

Coming into the season, most wondered if Ohtani could be even better offensively given he doesn’t have to worry about pitching. Ohtani has responded with the best start to a season in his career.

"It's hard to say within my last six, seven years if I'm having the best, but I do feel good,” Ohtani said. “Just being in a lineup with a lot of good hitters, putting up a lot of good quality at-bats I think has some effect."

The Dodgers are now 5-0 against the Giants this season, with Ohtani recording two or more hits in three of those games, including a pair of homers. It hasn’t taken long for the Dodgers to enjoy all the benefits of having the slugger on their roster -- and for the Giants to lament what could’ve been.

“He’s becoming a much better overall hitter, in my opinion,” Roberts said. “He’s in rare air doing what he did tonight.”