• Reuters, KYODO


Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani hit his major-league leading 32nd home run of the season on Wednesday, breaking Hideki Matsui's MLB record for long balls in a single season by a Japanese player.

The milestone homer was the 15th in the last 20 games for Ohtani, who has been electrifying in the batter's box, on the mound and on the basepaths. It was a 433-foot (132-meter) solo shot to right off Eduardo Rodriguez (6-5) that broke a tie in the fifth inning and helped the Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani and Matsui are the only Japanese in MLB's 30-homer club. No Japanese has won a single-season home run title in either league in the majors.

"I watched him play all those years growing up so I feel honored," Ohtani said.

"I'm going to work hard so I can hit a lot more (home runs) and live up to expectations. It's a confidence boost for the team to have won a close game over a great team like the Red Sox."

Matsui, who hit 31 homers with the New York Yankees in 2004 and took home World Series MVP honors in 2009, had nothing but praise for Ohtani.

"Thirty-two home runs in a season is just a passing point for a hitter like Shohei," Matsui said in a statement released by the Angels, where he spent a season in 2010.

"I was once considered a long ball hitter in the majors, but I believe that he truly is a long ball hitter."

Matsui also called Ohtani an "amazing pitcher" who "exceeds what is considered conventional for a MLB player."

Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts this season.

"There is no one else like him," Matsui said.

"I hope he continues his success this season as he carries the hopes and dreams of many fans and young children. As a baseball fan myself, I can't wait to see what he is able to do next."

Next up for the 27-year-old phenom is his first appearance at next week's All-Star Game, where he will take part in the home run derby on Monday and hit and pitch in the game on Tuesday at Coors Field in Denver.

Ohtani is the first player to be selected for an All-Star Game as both a hitter and pitcher.

With Ohtani, the only comparison that can be drawn is to Babe Ruth, a fellow two-way player who became an icon of the game with his dazzling play nearly a century ago.

Ohtani's previous single-season high was 22 homers, set in 2016 with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan and matched in 2018 in his rookie season with the Angels.

Just a day after he pitched seven innings to take his fourth win of the season, Ohtani went 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and two strikeouts in front of 20,001 fans in Anaheim.

The Red Sox trimmed the deficit to 4-3 with a run in the sixth, but Jared Walsh got that run back in the seventh, with his second solo homer of the day.

Andrew Heaney (5-6) was credited with a win and Angels closer Raisel Iglesias struck out the side in the ninth for his 18th save, as the Angels won two out of three games to take the series against the team that entered Wednesday's game with an American League-best 54-33 record.

At T-Mobile Park in Seattle, the New York Yankees tallied all five runs in the first two innings against Yusei Kikuchi in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Kikuchi (6-4) took the loss after allowing the runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out five over five innings.

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