Ohtani passes Matsui for most HRs by Japanese-born MLB player

Superstar's power show, Dodgers' 8-run fifth highlight blowout win vs. Mets

April 21st, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- has done a lot to raise the bar in his career, changing what we even think of as possible in baseball. Now, he’s set the new standard for Japanese slugging excellence in MLB.

Facing Mets right-hander Adrian Houser in the third inning of the Dodgers' 10-0 win on Sunday, Ohtani connected with an 0-1 slider left over the heart of the plate for his 176th career homer, breaking a tie with Hideki Matsui for most by a Japanese-born Major Leaguer. The blast was an absolute no-doubter, a liner with an exit velocity of 110 mph that traveled a Statcast-projected 423 feet into Dodger Stadium's Right Field Pavilion.

“I'm relieved and happy,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “I took a while to get this point since my last homer, so just honestly, happy, relieved.”

It took seven games between Ohtani tying Matsui on April 13 and when he broke the record. He was plenty productive in that span, though, going 11-for-29 with three doubles and six walks. Ohtani reached twice more after Sunday’s homer, adding a single that deflected off Houser’s left foot in the fifth, then working a walk in the sixth before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

"His presence, his ability as a player, he's just a great player," Matsui said of Ohtani through an interpreter. "The numbers on my end are just not comparable. ... I'm sure many of the fans have their expectations as far as what he may do, what he may accomplish. As far as myself, my hope is just that he stays healthy."

Now that Ohtani holds sole possession of the Japanese-born MLB homer mark, the question becomes just how many more homers he’ll add. The 29-year-old is in the first year of his record-shattering 10-year, $700 million deal, and his 2024 is off to a blistering start.

He leads MLB with 35 hits and 11 doubles, and his .368/.431/.663 slash line would put him on pace for one of the best offensive seasons of his career. Those numbers surpass his unanimous ’23 AL MVP campaign (although unlike last year, Ohtani will not be pitching in ’24 as he recovers from right elbow surgery).

But for the time being, Ohtani will enjoy a milestone that’s particularly meaningful to him on a personal level.

“Hideki Matsui was a great ballplayer, great home run hitter, world champion,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “And I know that Shohei admired him. … So for him to eclipse that mark, it's a big deal. And I know that whatever kind of mark is ahead of Shohei, he's trying to take them all down.”

One of those marks actually belongs to Roberts. Ohtani’s fifth homer of the season also surpassed Hideo Nomo for the second-most homers by a Japanese-born player in Dodgers history, and he now trails Roberts by just two.

“I want to break my manager's record,” Ohtani said with a smile.

Ohtani’s home run proved to be the catalyst for a much-needed offensive outburst, helping L.A. avoid its first sweep of the season and end a tough homestand on a positive note.

Beyond Ohtani, five of the Dodgers’ nine starters had at least one hit, and all but James Outman reached base at least once. Freddie Freeman and No. 3 prospect had multihit games, with Pages launching his first career home run to cap an eight-run rally in the fifth.

It also provided a boost to right-hander , who turned in his best start as a Dodger yet with eight scoreless innings.

“It's awesome,” Glasnow said of Ohtani’s record. “I'm sure he'll have a lot more records while I'm playing here. He's a really good player.”