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Uchikawa sparks CL to All-Star win

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YOKOHAMA — There were fireworks going off during the second game of the NPB All-Star Series on Friday.

With the show the Central League All-Stars were putting on, it’s a wonder anybody noticed.

Seiichi Uchikawa was the star in his home stadium and the CL lit up Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Yoshihisa Naruse in a six-run fifth to cruise to an 11-6 win over the Pacific League on Friday night at Yokohama Stadium.

“It was good the Central League could come up with a win after we lost last night,” CL manager Tatsunori Hara, who also manages the Yomiuri Giants, said. “I think it was a good game and a good series, and I am sure the fans enjoyed the All-Star summer festival.”

Chunichi Dragons first baseman Tyrone Woods began the fifth with a home run and the hits kept coming as five of the 11 batters the CL sent to the plate recorded at least an RBI in the inning.

“We finished in good shape,” Hara said. “I think we were able to show our strength as the CL.”

It was a good night for Yokohama BayStars fans as Shuichi Murata and Uchikawa had big nights in front of the home crowd. Murata finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs while Uchikawa, who is second in Japanese baseball with a .357 batting average, went 4-for-5 with an RBI.

“I think I did all right,” Murata said. “It was really refreshing because I was tired. I’ve been playing with a tense feeling and I was able to have fun for the first time in a long time.

“The fans gave me a warm welcome so I wanted to hit. . .” Murata said. “Instead Uchikawa hit a lot. So from now on I’m going to leave the job to him when I leave for the national team.”

Chunichi’s Masahiro Araki led all batters with three RBIs on a 3-for-4 night. Eight of the nine CL starters recorded a hit in the 19-hit attack. Araki was named the game’s MVP.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Araki asked jokingly when questioned about what he planned to do with the ¥3 million check he received for winning the MVP award.

“I was just lucky,” Araki said. “I thought Uchikawa would be the MVP, so I was very surprised when I heard it was me. I am very happy to be named MVP, although it was a real team effort tonight.”

Chiba Lotte’s Shoitsu Omatsu added to an already impressive season with a pair of home runs to lead the Pa League stars.

The PL also got homers from Softbank slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who drove in the game-tying run in the PL’s victory on Thursday, and Orix’s Takeshi Hidaka.

“It’s been awhile, Matsunaka said of hitting homer during an All-Star game. “I’m pleased I had one today.”

Matsunaka’s shot came off Chunichi’s Kenshin Kawakami, who started the game and will head to Beijing later this month as a member of the Olympic team.

“He hit it like a home run batter,” Kawakami said. “I have to switch my focus from now on (in preparation for the Olympics). I’d like to go and don’t mind if my body is broken down or whatever.”

Ishikawa relieved Kawakami in the third and pitched one inning to earn the win despite giving up a run. Softbank southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi was charged with the loss after giving up a pair of runs — one earned — in an inning.

Uchikawa’s big night resulted in his being named the game’s best batter, earning the ¥1 million check that goes along with the award. He was also the sponsor’s MVP and was awarded a car by the game’s title sponsor Mazda.

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa retired all three batters he faced and was given the award for best pitcher.

“He’s pretty good both physically and mentally,” Hara said. “I think you can expect that in the Olympics. I think he will lead the team in good condition.”

Omatsu’s two-homer day earned him the award for best play. Omatsu and Fujikawa each won ¥1 million as well.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this story.