Ohtani scorches MLB's hardest hit of '24 as Dodgers win 6th straight

April 27th, 2024

TORONTO -- Seemingly every time Dodgers superstar steps inside the batter’s box, the two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player does something that impresses everyone in attendance.

During his second at-bat of the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday, Ohtani did it again -- this time against Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. As soon as Ohtani made contact on a 2-2 four-seam fastball, you could hear the “Wows” echo through the crowd at Rogers Centre.

Once the exit-velocity numbers popped up on the big screen in center field, it was evident why. Ohtani’s single had a 119.2 mph exit velo, the hardest-hit ball in Ohtani’s career and the hardest by any player in the Majors this season. It’s also the hardest-hit ball by a Dodger since at least 2015.

“Of course there was a little extra adrenaline when I faced him,” Kikuchi said through interpreter Yusuke Oshima. “I think I threw my best fastball this year, but the exit velocity off his bat came out pretty good, as well. He got the best of me there, but I was glad I was able to get him out after that.”

Individually, Ohtani now has three balls hit with an exit velocity of 119 mph or more in his career, which is only behind Giancarlo Stanton (32) and Aaron Judge (6) in the Statcast era.

Ohtani surpassed his own mark for hardest-hit ball in the 2024 season. Just four days ago, Ohtani hit a homer that had an exit velocity of 118.7 mph, the hardest-hit home run by a Dodger since Statcast started tracking data in 2015. It was also the hardest-hit homer of Ohtani’s career and the 12th hardest by any player since '15.

“It's incredibly amazing,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The ball comes off hot, but I think for me, I'm just really impressed with the way he's controlling the strike zone. I think you look at it as: you earn pitches. You earn pitches in the strike zone. In that at-bat, he took some balls down below, got a pitch in his nitro zone and was able to hit it hard.”

Over the first two months with the Dodgers, all of Ohtani's teammates and Roberts have marveled at how consistently Ohtani picks up hard hits. On Saturday, Ohtani broke Statcast yet again.

But as good as Ohtani has been over the past few weeks, he isn’t the only Dodgers player performing at an incredible clip right now. Will Smith is now 9-for-12 over his past 12 at-bats after he hit a two-out double in the first inning. Mookie Betts also continues to hit everything coming his way.

The Dodgers’ lineup has been terrific during the current six-game winning streak.

Saturday marked the second time this season all nine starters recorded at least one hit. The other time? Friday night against the Blue Jays.

On the mound, Tyler Glasnow allowed just one run on two hits over six-plus innings before leaving the start due to cramping on his calf and hand. But the right-hander said it’s something he has dealt with in the past, and it won’t limit him in any way moving forward.

Before allowing that run in the seventh, Glasnow had tossed 14 consecutive scoreless innings. He leads the Majors with 43 innings and 53 strikeouts, showing exactly why the Dodgers pegged him as their ace coming into this season.

“When he’s throwing strikes, it’s just hard to hit his stuff,” Betts said. “You don’t know what’s coming. It all looks the same coming out of his hand. It’s just tough to hit.”

After starting the season 12-11, Roberts said the Dodgers grew tired of not playing up to their standards. Following a hyped up offseason, the club was struggling to translate that onto the field. Over the last week, though, the Dodgers have looked every bit like the juggernaut people expected. And they still believe there’s another level.

“If we can do that consistently,” Roberts said, “there's not an arm that we shouldn't be able to manage.”