Seoul Series 2024: Top Takeaways From Dodgers-Padres Season Opener

MLB's Seoul Series 2024 did not disappoint. Here's what we took away from watching the Dodgers and Padres on the global stage.

Seoul Series 2024 Dodgers Padres
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 23: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Machado #13 of the San Diego Padres chat on third base during a game at Dodger Stadium on April 23, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The San Diego Padres won, 6-1. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to envision a better opening salvo to the 2024 MLB season than the display put on by both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the Seoul Series.

A dynamic rivalry fueled by geographic proximity, star talent galore in both dugouts, and tension between rabid fanbases, the Dodgers and Padres each lived up to the hype they promised. And they’ve left us with plenty to talk about before the excitement of stateside Opening Day next week.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Seoul Series 2024.

Mookie Betts Looks Poised For Another MVP-Caliber Season

No individual player had a better performance at the plate in this two-game set than Mookie Betts, the Dodgers’ new full-time shortstop (at least for the time being).

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In nine at-bats across both contests, Betts notched six hits, including the first home run of the 2024 regular season in game two.

Betts cashed in seven runs over the two-game set, once again proving to be the catalyst of a high-powered Dodgers lineup that also includes Freddie Freeman, Shohei Ohtani, Will Smith, Max Muncy, Teoscar Hernandez and more.

There’s no reason why Betts can’t (and won’t) be considered for NL MVP in 2024 despite being surrounded by teammates who are also capable of securing that honor. Perhaps the presence of greatness has only motivated the 31-year-old shortstop to elevate his own game to new heights.

Ohtani Sho’d Up, But Not Without Drama

Speaking of greatness, Shohei Ohtani looked pretty great in his first series with the Dodgers.

Ohtani was a major factor in Los Angeles’ game one victory over the Padres, going two-for-five with a stolen base and an RBI in the eighth inning. He also had a sacrifice fly in game two, ending his series with two RBIs and three hits in 10 total at-bats.

But the biggest Ohtani storyline from the Seoul Series wasn’t his on-field performance. Rather, it was controversy surrounding his now-former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who was accused of wiring money from Ohtani’s bank account to pay off gambling debts to a Southern California bookmaking operation. The episode, deemed “a massive theft” by Ohtani’s lawyers, is sure to have lasting ripple effects as investigations are conducted.

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Keep in mind that Ohtani typically prefers to maintain a low profile, too, so this incident threatens to upset the apple cart. That should only add fuel to the Dodgers’ fire in 2024.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto Shelled in his MLB Debut

Few players in MLB will carry more weight from expectations this season than Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed a 12-year, $325 million mega-contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers this off-season despite having no prior big league experience.

That lack of seasoning was evident in Yamamoto’s big league debut, as the 25-year-old right-hander was knocked around for five runs and four hits in just one inning pitched, needing 43 pitches to escape his nightmarish outing.

One negative result from Yamamoto’s debut was particularly alarming: he threw just 23 of those 43 pitches for strikes, while also recording only five whiffs on 18 swings. Command was one of Yamamoto’s biggest selling points coming over from NPB, so the Dodgers should hope this outing was merely a flash in the pan as their prized pitching acquisition focuses on adjusting to MLB.

The best thing we can say about Yamamoto’s start was that it was his first. Growing pains will surely continue to accompany the 25-year-old’s path to big league stardom. Los Angeles, however, doesn’t have much time to be patient given the pressure to win it all this season.

Padres’ Jackson Merrill Notched His First Big League Hit

Merrill, Just Baseball’s No. 11 prospect, became the youngest center fielder to start on Opening Day since Ken Griffey Jr.

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At just 20 years old, Merrill’s strong showing in Padres’ spring training put him on the fast track to his big league debut. Because of San Diego’s middle infield logjam, however, Merrill moved from his original shortstop position to center field, where he’s expected to become a mainstay in 2024.

Merrill collected his first career MLB hit in the two-game series, while also displaying impressive exit velocities in his other at-bats, leading to what we would call a successful debut at the game’s highest level.

Jake Cronenworth’s Redemption Arc

No player reversed his luck more emphatically in the Seoul Series than Padres’ first baseman Jake Cronenworth.

In the first game, the 30-year-old not only went hitless in four at-bats, but was also the victim of sheer misfortune when a ground ball skirted through the webbing of his glove in the middle of an eighth-inning Dodgers rally.

That play allowed Los Angeles to score the go-ahead run, a lead they would not relinquish en route to their 5-2 win.

Thankfully, the second game produced better results for Cronenworth, as he notched a perfect four-for-four at the plate with four RBIs, including a first-inning triple off Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

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Cronenworth proved to be the spark behind a thrilling 15-11 Padres win to ensure a split of the Seoul Series with the Dodgers.

Closing Thoughts

The Seoul Series brought plenty of twists and turns over its two-day lifespan and it didn’t disappoint.

At the end of the day, however, these were just the first two games of a long season ahead. Overreactions are bound to stem from this miniscule sample size, no matter what transpired.

In the long run, though, we expect players like Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani to continue performing at MVP levels, while also anticipating improvement from rookies Jackson Merrill and Yoshinobu Yamamoto as they gain experience. And most importantly, the Dodgers and Padres have much to offer the game between their heated rivalry and star-powered rosters.

But the biggest takeaway of all? Baseball is officially back.

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