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Action-packed All-Star Series finale ends in 5-5 tie

by

Staff Writer

There were home runs, some great plays, a few not-so-great plays and a host of other things in between.

There just wasn’t a winner.

Shohei Otani had three hits, including a home run, for the Pacific League, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo had two hits and a homer for the Central League, but the pitchers had the last word in the ninth inning as Game 2 of the NPB All-Star Series ended with a 5-5 tie on Saturday night at Yokohama Stadium.

The CL beat the PL 5-4 at Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome in Game 1 to notch the only victory of the series.

“I am glad I was able to hit a home run but wish we would have won tonight’s game,” Otani said. “I didn’t get a chance to take the mound and pitch, so I had to show some good batting.”

Otani, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ two-way star, won the home run derby before Game 1, and shined at the plate during Game 2. He homered in the fifth, singled and scored a run during the seventh and hit a game-tying single in the eighth.

The only time Otani failed to get on base was when he took a called third strike against starter Kenta Ishida, of the Yokohama BayStars, in the second inning.

“I got him with a slider,” Ishida said. “It went to the right spot and I’m lucky he didn’t swing at it.”

Otani was named MVP of the second game. The festive atmosphere in Yokohama put the young star in a good mood early on and the good feelings never faded.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “When I hit the fans cheered a lot, so it felt great.”

Tsutsugo, the Game 1 MVP, won one of the performance awards given to the three other standout players of the game after a 2-for-3 night at the plate. He homered on the first pitch of his first at-bat, taking Chiba Lotte Marines ace Hideaki Wakui deep to lead off the second inning.

“I was prepared to swing hard at the first pitch since I was facing my sempai Wakui-san,” said Tsutsugo, who attended Yokohama High School a few years after Wakui.

Tsutsugo also had two hits, one being a home run, in Game 1.

“He had a pretty good two games,” said Fighters infielder Brandon Laird.

The other recipients of performance awards were Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp and the Seibu Lions’ Hideto Asamura.

Offense led the day, with the PL All-Stars connecting on 12 hits and the CL recording 10. Keeping the ball in the park proved to be a challenge at the BayStars’ cozy stadium. Tsutsugo and the Carp’s Yoshihiro Maru went deep for the CL, while Otani and Asamura homered for the Pa League.

Otani and Asamura each finished with two RBIs and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya also drove in a run for the PL.

Five different players accounted for the CL’s runs, with Tsutsugo, Suzuki, Maru and Hanshin Tigers’ Fumihito Haraguchi and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Keiji Obiki each recording an RBI.

Tsutsugo got things started with his deep home run to right in the second.

“Wakui-san threw a fastball, so it was thanks to that,” he said.

The CL then reeled off three straight singles before a sacrifice fly by Suzuki made the score 2-0.

The lead stretched to three runs when Maru homered in the third.

Otani got the PL All-Stars on the board with his shot to lead off the fifth, and Asamura added a game-tying two-run homer later in the inning.

“I was trying too hard yesterday,” said Asamura, who was 0-for-2 in Game 1. “Today I was just more relaxed and tried to enjoy myself.”

Otani singled to begin the top of the seventh and moved to second when Laird grounded out. The next batter, Asamura, struck out, bringing Imamiya to the plate. Imamiya hit a pop-up, but confusion by the CL players led to the ball dropping as Otani, already running with two outs, came home to score.

Suzuki connected on a one-out double off Fighters pitcher Kohei Arihara in the bottom seventh and scored the tying run on an RBI double by Haraguchi. Obiki then broke the tie with an RBI single to make the score 5-4.

The Seibu Lions’ Shogo Akiyama singled to start the eighth and advanced to third on a one-out single by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita. Otani then singled to right to tie the score at 5-5.

The BayStars fans went wild in the top of the ninth as Yokohama closer Yasuaki Yamasaki entered the game. He allowed a leadoff single to Asamura, but retired the next three batters to make sure the CL wouldn’t lose.

Arihara made sure they wouldn’t win either, retiring all three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth as the game ended in a tie.