The Boston Red Sox came to Japan to give their Japanese fans a good show and they didn’t disappoint. But neither did the Hanshin Tigers.
David Ortiz homered and Kevin Youkilis drove in a pair of runs as the Red Sox built a big lead early and were forced to hold on late to edge a pesky Hanshin squad 6-5 in front of 37,431 fans at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.
There were few notable signs of fatigue for the Red Sox, who arrived late Thursday night after a long flight from the U.S. and held a workout Friday afternoon, with Ortiz and J.D Drew hitting first-inning home runs.
“Any game we play we don’t ever talk about jet lag,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We were supposed to show up to play the game today and that’s what we did. We came out early and swung the bats pretty well.
“David and J.D, they put some good swings on the ball. Anytime, and we talk about it all the time, you hit the ball with power the other way that’s a great approach.”
The Tigers went blow-for-blow with the World Series champions, twice cutting the lead to one run, after falling behind 5-0 early, but could never bring the tying run around to score. Hanshin ended an inning with runners in scoring position on four different occasions.
“There weren’t any home runs,” Tigers manager Akinobu Okada said. “But we were able to pretty much execute what Hanshin is good at by using speed and fielding. Overall, I think it was not a bad game today.”
Both starters were touched up early. Yuya Ando was tagged for five runs in four innings of work and Red Sox hurler Clay Buchholz, who earned the win, lasting just 3 2/3 innings.
Boston looked primed for an easy victory after taking an early five-run lead before the Tigers roared back against Buchholz during a four-run second.
Francona said after the game that despite Buchholz running into trouble, the fact the game was an exhibition factored into his decision making in the dugout.
“Whether it’s a regular season game or spring training or an exhibition game here, the best way to play at the end of the day is when you score, hold the other team down,” Francona said. “But you also treat it a little bit differently because it is an exhibition game. . .”
Boston will play one more exhibition game, on Sunday against the Yomiuri Giants, before opening the MLB season against the Oakland A’s on Tuesday.
The game will mark the return of pitcher Hideki Okajima, who played for the Giants from 1994-2005, to Tokyo Dome. Okajima was a member of Yomiuri’s 2002 Japan Series championship team.
“I think we’re all excited,” Francona said. “All his teammates will be excited to see how he’s received back here. We’re going to get the same thing with Daisuke (Matsuzaka), but that game counts. So I think everybody in our dugout will be excited to see how he is received.”
In Saturday’s night game, the A’s scored two runs in the top of the ninth to defeat the Giants 4-3. Rob Bowen’s two-out double and a Yomuri error allowed the tie-breaking run to score to put the A’s ahead 3-2 in the ninth inning.
Emil Brown drove in an insurance run with an RBI single up the middle to give Oakland a 4-2 lead. Pinch hitter Noriyoshi Omichi brought the Giants within one with an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning that made the score 4-3.
That was as close as the Giants would get as Lee Seung Yeop flew out to end the game.
Yomiuri catcher Ken Kato gave the Giants an early advantage with a run-scoring single in the second that put Yomiuri ahead 1-0. The Giants took a two-run lead in the third on Alex Ramirez’s RBI single.
The A’s hammered their way back into the game on back-to-back home runs by Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan to tie it at 2-all in the fourth.