Many say the gap between the two leagues has gotten closer, and that’s a valid argument. But in terms of the amount of overall muscles, the big leaguers still have a big advantage.
Oakland pinch hitter Donnie Murphy blasted a grand slam off Hanshin reliever Jeff Williams in the top of the eighth inning as the Athletics tamed the Tigers 10-2 before a crowd of 16,746 at Tokyo Dome on Sunday afternoon.
“I was looking for a specific pitch — a fastball, low — and put a good swing on it,” said Murphy, an infielder. “I got a really good pitch to hit. It was a two-seam fastball down and away in the zone.”
The Athletics jumped out to an early lead with two homers, and never let the Nippon Professional Baseball team have a chance to catch up, capitalizing on their big shots.
Oakland got on the board in the first inning, when No. 3 batter Jack Cust clubbed a two-run shot off Hanshin right-hander Shinobu Fukuhara.
“It was a fastball down and away,” Cust said of his home-run pitch. “I thought I got under it too much, but fortunately it went out.”
In the third inning, leadoff hitter Travis Buck hit a solo shot and Daric Barton’s lucky RBI hit gave the A’s a 5-1 lead.
Trailing by four runs, Hanshin responded to the ever-enthusiastic Tora fans that filled the left-field bleachers by rapping out four straight hits and scored a run to cut it to 5-2 on Shinjiro Hiyama’s RBI single in the fifth.
“The two batters before me (right fielder Lew Ford and catcher Akihiro Yano) made good contact,” Hiyama said. “So I was able to step up to the plate for a good image.”
But there was more than enough gas left in Oakland’s tank, and Hanshin was unable to make another comeback, like it exhibited in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Oakland added five more runs in the eighth, including Murphy’s aforementioned round-tripper.
“It’s good to get the offense moving,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “We swung the bat pretty good. I’m looking forward to the season opening.”
Barton went 2-for-4 with two RBIs (both hits were doubles), and infielders Mark Ellis and Mike Sweeney went 2-for-2 for Oakland, which had 12 hits in the game.
For Hanshin, center fielder Norihiro Akahoshi went 2-for-4.
Duchscherer gave up six hits and two earned runs, striking out four for the A’s, while Hanshin’s Fukuhara yielded five runs on eight hits in five innings.
Editor’s note: For more coverage of the MLB-Japan exhibition games, as well as the upcoming MLB season-opening series, visit www.japantimes.co.jp/