TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. – Yokohama BayStars outfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo hit a two-run go-ahead double in the sixth inning as the Central League came from behind to beat the Pacific League 6-5 in the first game of the All-Star series on Friday.
“I was very happy to be able to play tonight with these great players,” said Kinjo, who was named the Central League MVP. “I’m glad I was able to show the fans a good game.”
The Central League improved its record to 73 wins, 62 losses and eight tie games against the Pacific League with the latest victory.
After the Pacific League went ahead 5-2, Yomiuri Giants infielder Kazuhiro Kiyohara sparked the rally with a solo homer to narrow the gap 5-3 in the fifth at Invoice Seibu Dome.
It was Kiyohara’s 13th career home run in an All-Star series, placing him in a tie with Sadaharu Oh for second on the all-time list in Japanese baseball.
In the sixth, Takashi Toritani and Atsushi Fujimoto of the Hanshin Tigers had back-to-back singles and after an RBI grounder made it 5-4, Kinjo drove a ball to right-center off Fumiya Nishiguchi (0-1) for the eventual game-winner.
Kinjo, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs on the night, made it 2-1 in the second with an RBI single to the pitcher but the Pacific League rallied with a three-run third, featuring Softbank Hawks infielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka’s run-scoring triple.
Kiyohara got the Central League started with a run-scoring single in the opening frame before Michihiro Ogaswara’s solo blast tied the game in the bottom half.
Before the game, infielder Akinori Iwamura of the Yakult Swallows gave the Central League a 3-1 victory in the home run derby with three homers out from five swings of the bat.
The second game of the All-Star series will be played on Saturday at Koshien Stadium featuring lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Softbank Hawks starting for the Pacific League and Hiroshima Carp right-hander Hiroki Kuroda for the Central League.
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