Shohei Ohtani hits his first home run for Dodgers in sweep of Giants

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The official folks in the yellow windbreakers scrambled into the right field pavilion — high and deep into the pavilion, following the arc of the ball. Shohei Ohtani had his first home run as a Dodger, and Team Yellow Windbreaker was on a mission to secure the milestone ball.

After eight games on two continents without a home run, the $700-million man — the one who led the American League in home runs last year — hit his first home run Wednesday, in the seventh inning, in his 37th at-bat this season. Not to say Los Angeles had been anxious or anything, but Miguel Rojas had hit his second home run of the season earlier in the game.

The home runs — the 430-foot one from the designated slugger, and the one from the light-hitting shortstop — highlighted the Dodgers’ 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

Team Yellow Windbreaker delivered the fan who caught Ohtani’s home run to Ohtani himself, who happily swapped a bat, a ball, two caps and a few moments of conversation with the fan for what he called “a very special ball.”

The adjective everyone used in the Dodgers clubhouse to describe Ohtani was “relieved.” Rojas used it. Manager Dave Roberts used it. Ohtani himself used it.

“Honestly, very relieved that I was able to get my first homer,” he said via interpreter Will Ireton. “It’s been a while.”

Ohtani’s last regular-season home run came seven months and 11 days earlier. His next postseason home run will be his first.

The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Giants, and their record stands at 7-2, atop the National League West as usual. They have scored at least five runs in each of their games. So here we go again: The Dodgers are on pace to win 126 games!

This is what we do this time of year, every year. The hapless Colorado Rockies have played seven games, and already they are five games out of first place.

The Dodgers have started the season 7-2 in three of the last four non-pandemic seasons. They won 111 games in one of those three seasons, 106 in each of the other two. This is what they do.

“There have been times I can remember, four years ago in May, we were really terrible,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We were right around .500. It’s just more of continuing to play and try to win that day. … We’re not trying to get to the postseason today. We’re trying to just win. Win or lose, we do it the next day. I think that’s the secret sauce.”

In none of those big three seasons — the 111-win one, and the two 106-win ones — did the Dodgers advance to the World Series.

“When you get kicked in the teeth a couple years and underachieve,” Roberts said, “as far as not winning the World Series, you have talent, and then you have guys that are obsessed and hungry, and being the aggressor, that’s a good thing.

“Not that there was complacency, but there is a different sort of fire with our guys.”

Journeyman Dinelson Lamet, 31, the fourth Dodgers pitcher and the last one available after Tuesday’s bullpen game, worked a perfect ninth for his first major league save.

The victory went to Tyler Glasnow (2-0) in an intriguing quality start.

For all the protective measures the Dodgers enforce to try to take care of their pitchers — inning limits, pitch counts, extra days between starts, generous use of the injured lists — they did not enforce a fundamental principle of in-game analytics.

The principle is easily said and understood: Don’t let your starting pitcher face opposing hitters for a third time. That principle is a foundation for the five-inning starter, and the 13-man pitching staff.

Generally, the statistics bear that out, as a pitcher’s performance tends to wane on a third trip through the lineup. But the Dodgers did not pay Glasnow $136.5 million to be just another arm.

They paid him to be an ace, with a power arm that could propel him through that third trip.

In his Dodgers debut, Glasnow faced two batters on the third time through the order. He retired them both.

In his second start, he faced four batters on the third time through the order. He retired them all.

On Wednesday, in his third start, Glasnow took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, and into his third trip through the San Francisco lineup. He got the first out, but then LaMonte Wade Jr. walked, Jorge Soler doubled, and Michael Conforto singled home both runners to narrow the Dodgers’ lead to one.

Glasnow completed the inning, but he threw 28 pitches in the inning and 100 in all. He has not thrown more than 103 in a game since 2021.

“The way that our rotation is set up, with extra days (between starts), we’re going to do this with a lot of our guys,” Roberts said. “That is something that we are committed to.”

As the Dodgers get deeper into the season and pitchers build up their pitch counts, Roberts said the team would ask not only Glasnow but Bobby Miller, James Paxton and Gavin Stone to navigate a third trip through the lineup.

“We are going to push these guys in the games that they start,” Roberts said. “They are going to have to go 23, 24 hitters. That is my expectation every time they take the mound.”

That is a story to watch into the summer. On this third day of April, the story was Ohtani. The Dodgers’ social media accounts posted video of the home run with this caption in capital letters: “THE FIRST OF MANY FOR SHOHEI OHTANI.”

However, on the night Ohtani hit his first home run of the season, Rojas hit his second. How much longer might Ohtani need to overtake Rojas?

“I hope,” Rojas said with a wide smile, “it doesn’t take long.”

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