Red-hot Ohtani 'pretty awesome to watch'

Fifth straight multi-hit game, paired with Outman's HR and Paxton's gem, keys win vs. Twins

April 9th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- The ideal path to view Monday’s total solar eclipse was well south of the Twin Cities. Instead, Twins fans were treated to a lunar eclipse of sorts during the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory at Target Field.

and launched sky-high moonshots that soared out of the park for solo home runs in the seventh. Outman’s leadoff blast put the Dodgers on top 3-2, while Ohtani’s two-out blow -- his third of the year, all coming in the last five games – provided an insurance run that wasn’t needed, thanks to Dodgers pitchers retiring the final 18 Twins batters they faced.

Ohtani had two doubles to go with his home run, giving him eight extra-base hits in his last five games. He’s also posted five straight multi-hit games, the longest such streak in his career.

Although he hasn’t been wearing Dodger blue for very long, Ohtani has quickly shown he’s capable of living up to the high expectations that accompanied his arrival.

“You expect the ball to come off really hot when he swings the bat and he barrels it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s something I have never seen. When he’s controlling the strike zone and he’s getting pitches in his nitro zone, there’s just really not a better hitter.”

Winning pitcher , who gave up two runs and struck out four over six innings, knows all too well what kind of damage Ohtani can do. Last year, Ohtani took him deep as the Angels dealt Paxton his first loss of the year with Boston.

“I mean, it’s pretty awesome to watch. If he puts the barrel on the ball, it’s coming off at 105-plus,” Paxton said. “It’s pretty amazing, just how hard he swings and just how hard he hits the ball. I’m glad to have him on my side.”

Ohtani’s home run was an opposite-field shot that left the bat at 106.9 mph with a 38 degree launch angle. Twins reliever Jay Jackson, who surrendered both home runs in the seventh, could only watch as the ball carried and carried, finally dropping just beyond the flower boxes above the left-field wall.

“Shohei got a good pitch, he made a good swing, and he’s a great player. It happens,” Jackson said. “He’s strong as anything. That ball got out. I was surprised, but he was a big boy, so he’s gonna hit a lot more of those.”

While Ohtani’s homer was the 174th of his Major League career -- leaving him one shy of tying Hideki Matsui for the most MLB home runs by a player born in Japan -- Outman’s was the 25th of his career, and his first of the season. He entered the game in a 4-for-32 skid to begin 2024, and he acknowledged a bit of relief when the ball cleared the 23-foot wall in right.

“It felt good to see a ball land,” said Outman. “It’s still pretty early in the season so it was a little early to freak out, but yeah, it’s a start in the right direction for sure.”

Roberts commended his young center fielder for keeping a level head when battling through hard times -- and not just in the past two weeks.

“If there was any time to panic, it was last year, and he didn’t panic last year,” Roberts said. “So I think for us, and for him most important, to know that he can get to the other side of it is very helpful.”

It can’t hurt to have an all-world talent like Ohtani -- a fellow left-handed hitter, no less -- join the lineup. But Outman noted trying to pick up tips when studying Ohtani’s at-bats would be as useful as trying to learn how to fly by watching "Superman."

“He does things to the baseball that not really anyone else can do, so it’s hard to try and emulate, it’s hard to try to be like that,” Outman said. “Everyone in this clubhouse, they got to the big leagues by being themselves, so as much as everyone would like to be that, you’ve still got to be yourself.”