There probably wasn’t anyone with an easier job at the Gulliver All-Star Game than reigning Central League MVP Kosuke Fukudome. The Chunichi star made his first appearance in the game as a pinch runner in the seventh to replace teammate Tyrone Woods, who had just hit a double to center.

News photoYakult Swallows outfielder Alex Ramirez smacks a two-run home run off Takahiro Mahara of the Softbank
Hawks in the seventh inning on Game 1 of the NPB All-Star Series at Tokyo Dome on Friday. The Central
League defeated the Pacific League 4-0.

Then instead of running Fukudome simply jogged home at a leisurely pace after Tokyo Yakult outfielder Alex Ramirez sent the CL fans into a frenzy with a line-drive home run that shattered a scoreless game in the CL’s 4-0 win on Friday night at Tokyo Dome in front of a crowd of 39,710.

The homer was Ramirez’s first in three All-Star appearances.

“He threw me a good pitch to hit and I was able to put good wood on it,” Ramirez said. “I really wanted to show a performance today so I’m happy that I could hit a home run.”

He was referring to his trademark routine with the Swallows mascot before the TV cameras.

Ramirez was named the game’s MVP and took home a 2 million yen reward.

“It was awesome,” Yokohama BayStars All-Star closer Marc Kroon said. “Drinks are on him tonight.”

Fellow Central Leaguers Tomonori Maeda of the Hiroshima Carp and Masahiko Morino of the Chunichi Dragons each took home 1 million yen awards after being named outstanding players of the game. Pacific League pitchers Yu Darvish of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Hiroyuki Kobayashi of the Chiba Lotte Marines were given the contest’s Fighting Spirit award and received 1 million yen as well.

Maeda followed Ramirez’s two-run blast with a home run of his own to give the Central League a 3-0 advantage.

The Tokyo Dome video board caught CL manager Hiromitsu Ochiai with a wide smile on his face during Ramirez’s home run trot. His smile probably got wider in the eighth when he saw one of his Dragons, Masahiko Morino, give the CL an insurance run with a shot to right-center.

The All-Star Game was a pitcher’s duel before the Central League slugged its way into the lead.

PL starter Darvish and pitchers Hideaki Wakui of the Seibu Lions, Yasuhiko Yabuta and Kobayashi of Lotte and Takahiro Mahara of the Softbank Hawks combined to hold the CL to no runs on two hits through 6 1/3 innings.

Mahara gave up three runs on the home runs by Ramirez and Maeda to take the loss. Hisashi Takeda of Nippon Ham gave up the game’s final run on Morino’s homer.

The CL staff was even better with starter Koji Uehara, who usually closes games for the Yomiuri Giants, and Shingo Takatsu of Yakult, Masanori Hayashi of the Giants, Atsushi Kizuka of Yokohama, Hitoki Iwase of Chunichi and Hiroki Kuroda of Hiroshima, Tomoyuki Kubota of the Hanshin Tigers, Kroon and Kyuji Fujikawa of Hanshin combining for a one-hit shutout.

Kubota picked up the win.

The CL did not allow a baserunner after yielding an infield single to Lotte’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka and hitting Greg LaRocca of the Orix Buffaloes in the first inning. The CL staff needed just 77 pitches to lead the team to its fifth consecutive All-Star Game win.

The Pacific League still leads the all-time series 73-66-8.

Game 2 of the 2007 Gulliver NPB All-Star Series takes place Saturday at Fullcast Stadium Miyagi in Sendai.

The starting pitchers are expected to be Hisanori Takahashi of Yomiuri for the Central League and rookie Masahiro Tanaka of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the Pacific League.

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