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Shohei Ohtani Era Begins as Dodgers Rally to Beat Padres in the MLB Opener

Japanese star Shohei Ohtani delivered a big hit in the four-run eighth inning and looked right at home in Dodger blue at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome.



Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hits a run-scoring single off San Diego Padres reliever Adrian Morejon in the eighth inning of MLB's season-opening Seoul Series on March 20, 2024, at Gocheok Sky Dome. (ⒸSANKEI)

SEOUL ― Shohei Ohtani drove in a clutch run as the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for four runs in the top of the eighth inning on Wednesday, March 20 for a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in their MLB season-opening game.

The Padres held a slim 2-1 lead heading into the eighth at Gocheok Sky Dome, but a weak bullpen combined with the potent offense of the Dodgers was too much for San Diego.

Max Muncy led off the eighth with a walk and San Diego reliever Jhony Brito gave up a single to Teoscar Hernandez. Brito then walked James Outman to load the bases.

Pinch hitter Enrique Hernandez hit a sac fly to left, scoring Muncy and tying the game 2-2.

Adrian Morejon came in to replace Brito and Gavin Lux reached on a costly fielding error by first baseman Jake Cronenworth that allowed Hernandez to score from second with the go-ahead run. 

The Dodgers' Teoscar Hernandez scores the go-ahead run in the eight inning. (Hong Ji Kim/REUTERS)

Mookie Betts then singled on a ground ball to left that plated Outman to make it 4-2, setting the stage for designated hitter Ohtani, who drilled a sharp single to left-center scoring Lux.

Brito, who allowed two hits and a run in his one-third of an inning of mound work, took the loss.


San Diego used eight pitchers in the game. MLB newcomer Yuki Matsui, the Padres' fourth pitcher on the night, worked two-thirds of an inning, walking one and fanning one in the sixth.

Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning, was the winning pitcher.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani singles to right in the third inning off San Diego Padres starter Yu Darvish. (ⒸSANKEI).

Roberts Pleased to See Ohtani Swinging the Bat Well

Ohtani was relatively quiet in the exhibition games before the series so it was a relief to manager Dave Roberts to see his star player swinging the bat well.

He hit a sharp single to right in the second inning off compatriot Yu Darvish, San Diego's starter. In his first at-bat in the first inning, Ohtani grounded into a force out but hit a towering foul ball before that.

"Sometimes with hitters, one swing gets you back," Roberts said. "Even in spring training he was getting some hits but I really feel that swing where he pulled it in the air foul, he really took a good swing and I think that kind of bled into that at-bat where he got his first hit. Just a good night overall for Shohei."

In his highly anticipated Dodger debut, Ohtani went 2-for-5 with one RBI. A solid start to his career as a Dodger after signing a $700 million USD (more than ¥100 billion JPY), 10-year deal in December 2023.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani steals second base in the third inning. (KYODO)

Roberts said he is pleased the Ohtani era has begun.

"I think the bigger picture (tonight's win) is significant because you've got such a generational talent that is on your ballclub in a big market in Los Angeles, there's a lot more eyeballs on the Dodgers and Major League Baseball," Roberts said.


The manager added, "It was a good ballgame and I expect a lot more like this."

Seoul Series
Padres starter Yu Darvish fires a pitch in the MLB season opener. (KYODO)

Padres Take the Early Lead

The Padres got on the scoreboard in the third when Xander Bogaerts singled on a line drive to center to score Tyler Wade from third.

Darvish pitched 3⅔ innings, striking out three, walking three and giving up two hits.

The Dodgers tied the game in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to right by Jason Heyward that scored Teoscar Hernandez from third.

Los Angeles starter Tyler Glasnow got into trouble in the bottom of the fourth when he walked Manny Machado and Korean shortstop Ha Seong Kim.

Glasnow then gave up a single to Jurickson Profar that loaded the bases. Luis Campusano grounded into a double play that allowed Machado to score and the score remained 2-1 until the eighth.

It was the first time MLB has staged a regular-season game in South Korea.

Shohei Ohtani
Police officers with dogs investigate a suspected bomb threat outside the stadium before the game. (Hong Ji Kim/REUTERS)

Security Concerns at Gocheok Sky Dome

Security at the stadium on Wednesday was heavy after organizers received a bomb threat earlier in the day.


The Seoul police received an email Wednesday morning threatening to detonate a bomb at the opener to hurt Ohtani and others.

According to reports, local police deployed 30 commandos and 120 personnel to search the stadium.

MLB issued a statement saying "The safety and security of our fans and everyone at the ballparks where we play are always our first priority. MLB works closely with local officials to ensure a safe environment for all those who attend our games."

The statement went to say MLB intended to continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate steps in coordination with local police.

Korean Trailblazer Returns to the Spotlight

Chan Ho Park, the first Korean player in MLB, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Wednesday's game.

Park began his MLB career with the Dodgers way back in 1994 and spent eight seasons with the National League team. He also had a brief stint with the Padres in 2005 and 2006. His last MLB season was 2010.

"When I made my debut 30 years ago, I never could have imagined a thing like this could happen," Park said at a press conference before Wednesday's game. "I had to endure so much adversity and I think it allowed me to grow and reach the point where I am today."

When Park started out, he and his Los Angeles teammate Hideo Nomo were among the very few Asian players in MLB. There are six now on just the Padres and Dodgers alone.

Seoul Series
A fan poses for a picture with an image of Shohei Ohtani outside Gocheok Sky Dome before the MLB opener. (Hong Ji Kim/REUTERS)

Shohei Ohtani
Baseball fans pose for a photo before the game. (KYODO)

Ohtani a Hit in Seoul

One thing is for sure, Ohtani's popularity in Seoul has led to a thawing in the baseball rivalry between the two countries.

Ohtani won over Korean fans when he arrived ahead of the Seoul Series and said he liked Korea and respected its national baseball team and fans.

His No 17 jersey is one of the most popular around the streets of Gocheok Sky Dome.

Things weren't always this friendly between the two countries when it came to relations on the diamond.

Before the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Ichiro Suzuki said he wanted to teach opponents South Korea and Taiwan that they couldn't beat Japan for the next 30 years. 

South Korea defeated Japan in the first round and again in the second round group stage. After the second game, South Korea pitcher Jae Weong Seo planted a South Korean flag on the mound after a game at Angels Stadium.

Ichiro screamed in frustration and that might have sparked his teammates who went on to win the tournament.

To this day, Ichiro is disliked in South Korea.


Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed a $325 million (approximately ¥48 billion), 12-year deal with the Dodgers in the off-season, will start Game 2 on Thursday. The Padres will counter with veteran right-hander Joe Musgrove, who had a 10-3 record in 2023.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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