Hideki Okajima proved that you can go home again, but J.D Drew was the star on this night.
Drew put the Red Sox ahead with a sixth-inning grand slam and Okajima got a hero’s welcome as Boston defeated the Yomiuri Giants 9-2 in front of 44,558 fans on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.
“I hit a pitch down and away, a slider or a fastball,” Drew said. “In that situation (trailing 2-0 with the bases loaded), I’m just trying to hit a ball to the outfield for a sac fly and get us on the board. I’ve seen the ball pretty well here in these two games.”
Drew’s shot was his second home run in as many games during the Red Sox’s trip to Japan. The Hahira, Ga., native also hit a home run, of the three-run variety, against the Hanshin Tigers in Boston’s first exhibition contest, a 6-5 win on Saturday.
Boston’s win completes a four-game sweep for the major league squads in the exhibition series against Japanese teams. The Oakland A’s beat the Tigers 10-2 in the first game on Sunday and defeated the Giants in their opening game the previous day.
Okajima entered the game in the seventh to a rousing ovation from both Red Sox and Giants supporters. Hundreds of flashbulbs went off during every pitch as the former Yomiuri reliever worked a scoreless inning. Okajima’s reception was likely a prelude to the ovation Daisuke Matsuzaka will get on Tuesday when the former Seibu Lions ace starts the major league opener against Oakland.
“It is nice to hear the Japanese way of cheering after a long time,” Matsuzaka said. “I am happy to return to Japan as a member of the world champion team.
“I’ve already forgotten about last year. I did all right in the postseason games, but I am not satisfied with my performance last year . . . but I hope to make the best use of last year’s experience. I am honored to be selected to be the opening pitcher.”
The contest almost went south for the home team early with Dustin Pedroia nearly homering off the first pitch of the game.
Yomiuri starter Seth Greisinger eventually hit the Boston second baseman before walking Kevin Youkilis.
With two on and none out, Greisinger got himself out of trouble by striking out David Ortiz, with Pedroia getting caught in a rundown on the play, and Manny Ramirez to end the inning.
Tetsuya Utsumi relieved Greisinger in the third and proceeded to put on a show.
Utsumi, who went 14-7 with a 3.02 ERA last season, had a bit of a rough start, giving up a double to Kevin Cash and walking Pedroia to start the inning.
The 26-year-old left hander got out of the jam by striking out Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez in order. Utsumi started the fourth by fanning Mike Lowell and J.D Drew before ending his night by getting Coco Crisp to fly out to center.
“I was so nervous standing on the mound,” Utsumi said. “But I just told myself, whatever happens happens, and stopped thinking too much.
Tomohiro Nioka was hit by a pitch in the first inning and came around to score on Lee Seung Yeop’s bloop single to put the Giants ahead 1-0. Yomiuri doubled its lead in the third with Lee scoring on a Yoshitomo Tani groundout to make it 2-0.
Drew’s grand slam made the score 4-2 in the sixth and Jed Lowrie’s solo shot in the eighth gave the Sox an insurance run. Brandon Moss added a two-run single later in the eighth that put Boston ahead 7-2. Coco Crisp and Alex Cora each drove in a run in the ninth to make the score 9-2.
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/