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Shohei Ohtani Has a Solid Home-Opening Series Against Cardinals

Despite ongoing probes of the gambling scandal that led to interpreter Ippei Mizuhara's firing, Shohei Ohtani appears to be maintaining his focus on baseball.

As the 2024 Major League Baseball season gets underway, Shohei Ohtani is keeping his focus on his job in spite of the ongoing gambling scandal involving his longtime former interpreter. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara during the team's 2024 MLB season-opening Seoul Series on March 20 after allegations of "massive theft" from the two-time American League MVP's bank account. 

Mizuhara was alleged to have wired $4.5 million USD (around ¥680 million JPY) to pay an illegal bookie for gambling debts.

On the same day, the Dodgers opened their season with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in the South Korean capital, followed by a 15-12 defeat the next day.

Ohtani addressed the shocking revelations of the Mizuhara scandal for the first time at Dodger Stadium on March 25 before a large throng of reporters. Reading a prepared statement, he said that he's never gambled on sports. He also said he never authorized Mizuhara to wire money from his bank account to pay his gambling debts. MLB is conducting its own investigation, while the International Revenue Service and the US Department of Homeland Security are also conducting probes.

Three days later, the Dodgers opened a four-game series against the visiting St Louis Cardinals. Ohtani went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk in the series opener, a 7-1 win for Los Angeles.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani stands at home plate against the St Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on March 29. (Jonathan Hui/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Shohei Ohtani Aspires to Hit Home Runs

Teammates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman homered in the rout, and the ultra-competitive Ohtani wanted to match their power-hitting exploits in the home opener.

"I was the only guy who couldn't hit a homer, but overall I felt like I had a pretty good game today," Ohtani was quoted as saying through his new interpreter, Will Ireton, by The Associated Press.

On March 29, Ohtani was hitless in four at-bats. The Dodgers won again, 6-3.

He singled and walked in five at-bats in a 6-5, 10-inning defeat on March 30. In this game, Dodgers right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto made his second start of the season and bounced back in a big way from his nightmarish first MLB start on March 21 (five runs allowed and four hits in one inning).

Dodgers right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto in action against the Cardinals on March 30. (KYODO)

Against St Louis, Yamamoto fanned the side in the first inning and allowed just two hits in five innings. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

"I was able to calm down and recover [from my previous outing]," said Yamamoto, a three-time Sawamura Award winner who left the Orix Buffaloes after the 2023 season and joined the Dodgers on a 12-year contract, according to Kyodo News. "I'm gradually starting to feel good about my pitches. So I went to the mound with confidence. I managed to fine-tune my mechanics."

Dodgers Close Out Series with Another Win

The Dodgers then won their third game of the series against the Redbirds on Sunday, March 31. Ohtani doubled in his four at-bats and scored a run. LA triumphed 5-4.

Earlier in the week, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he doesn't think Ohtani will be distracted by the scandal.

"He's handled it with flying colors," Roberts said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I just don't think it's going to affect [his] performance, I really don't."

The Dodgers are back in action with a three-game home series against the San Francisco Giants on Monday through Wednesday, April 1-3.

Time will tell if Ohtani, who played for the Los Angeles Angels from 2018-23, can keep his focus solely on playing baseball. But it appears that after a tumultuous week, Ohtani has settled in with his new team.

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Around the Majors

Japanese pitchers Yusei Kikuchi of the Toronto Blue Jays and Kenta Maeda of the Detroit Tigers both made their first starts of the season on Saturday. 

Kikuchi allowed three runs and six hits in 4⅓ innings. He walked three and struck out four and was charged with the loss in Toronto's 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Maeda was shelled in 3⅓ innings, giving up three home runs and seven hits in total. He allowed six runs. The Tigers rallied and pulled off a 7-6 road win in the 10th inning against the Chicago White Sox.

Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki runs to third base in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers on March 31 in Arlington, Texas. (KYODO)

On Sunday, Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki, hitting in the second spot in the lineup, went 2-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a run in a 9-5 victory over the Texas Rangers.

Also Sunday, Boston Red Sox designated hitter Masataka Yoshida extended his season-opening hitting streak to four games, going 1-for-4 against the Seattle Mariners. He also scored a run in Boston's 5-1 win at T-Mobile Park.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.


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