Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hit his major league-leading 32nd homer on Wednesday to break former New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui's 2004 record for the most home runs in a single MLB season by a Japanese-born player.
The milestone homer, Ohtani's 15th in his last 20 games, 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 Major League Baseball's 30-homer club. No Japanese has won a single-season home run title in either league in the majors.
"I watched (Matsui) play all those years growing up so I feel honored," said Ohtani, whose first-round opponent in the July 12 All-Star Home Run Derby at Coors Field in Denver will be Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
"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 retired from professional baseball following the 2012 season, hit 175 homers in his 10-year major-league career, and one of his five 20-homer seasons came in 2010 as a member of the Angels.
"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, calling Ohtani a true "long-ball hitter" and an "amazing pitcher."
"He exceeds what is considered conventional for a Major League player and there is no one else like him. 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."
Ohtani's previous single-season high was 22 homers, set in 2016 with the 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. The Angels won two out of three games to take the series against the team that entered 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.