SENDAI — Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles slugger Takeshi Yamasaki had an All-Star Game to remember on his home field in Game 2 of the Gulliver All-Star Series. His teammates, however, would probably like to forget what happened as soon as possible.
NPB All-Star Series on Saturday at Fullcast Stadium. The Central League won 11-5.
Yamasaki homered in his first at-bat and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, but it was not enough as Yomiuri Giants star Shinnosuke Abe and the Central League punished starter Masahiro Tanaka of Rakuten on their way to an 11-5 victory on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Fullcast Stadium in front of a crowd of 20,958.
“I didn’t think the ball would go out, but I think it rode the rain and wind,” Abe said. “Tanaka is a good pitcher and I also faced him in interleague play. I know he’s going to get better.”
The contest was called in the top of the eighth after a 12-minute rain delay.
“I’m happy we could win again today, but sorry for the fans we could not complete the game because of the weather,” said CL skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai, who manages the Chunichi Dragons. “These two games showed both sides of baseball, with great pitching yesterday and power today.”
Abe, who crashed the Rakuten lovefest with a second-inning home run, was named MVP and took home the 2 million yen prize. Hirokazu Ibata of the Dragons and Yoshitomo Tani of the Yomiuri Giants were named the outstanding players of the game and received 1 million yen each.
Pacific League batters Yamasaki and Hichori Morimoto of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters were given the Fighting Spirit award and also both took home 1 million yen.
After getting off to a slow start in Game 1 on Friday at Tokyo Dome, getting just two hits through 6 1/3 innings, the CL jumped all over Tanaka in a four-run second and never looked back.
“We’ve got great hitters,” Yokohama BayStars closer Marc Kroon said. “This is a strong division. They’ve got good hitters too, but I’m glad I’m on this side.”
Giants pitcher Hisanori Takahashi started the game and picked up the win despite allowing two runs. Tanaka gave up six runs to take the loss.
The Rakuten supporters turned out en masse to cheer for the seven Eagles on the Pacific League roster. The only Rakuten player who didn’t see action during the game was pitcher Kazuo Fukumori. PL manager Trey Hillman was presumably saving Fukumori for the last inning of the game, but the rain prevented the reliever from taking the mound.
Already in a celebratory mood when six Eagles were announced in the starting lineup, the Eagles fans got their money’s worth early.
Tanaka, who was announced to a rousing ovation, quickly got the crowed fired up after retiring a fearsome trio of hitters — Norichika Aoki of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Toshihisa Nishi of the Yokohama BayStars and Michihiro Ogasawara of the Yomiuri Giants — in order to start the game.
Yamasaki then sent the fans into hysterics when he drove a pitch from Takashashi into the left-field seats to give the PL a 2-0 lead.
Things took a turn for the worse for the Rakuten contingent and the rest of the PL fans in the second. Chunichi star Tyrone Woods led off with a single. Kenta Kurihara of the Hiroshima Carp followed with a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. Abe then cleared the bases with a deep shot to right field that gave his team a 3-2 advantage.
Things continued to go downhill for the celebrated rookie pitcher as the next two batters, Tani and Masahiko Morino of the Dragons, each reached on singles. Ibata then hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2 before Nishi had a two-run double.
Tanaka’s day was done after giving up six runs on seven hits in two innings but the CL wasn’t quite done. Ibata added his second RBI of the game with a single off Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Softbank Hawks in the second and Aoki hit an RBI single of his own to give the CL an 8-2 lead after three innings.
Yamasaki doubled and scored his second run of the game in the fourth on an RBI single by Alex Cabrera of the Seibu Lions to trim the lead to 8-3.
The PL All-Stars put together a brief rally in the sixth on RBIs from Yosuke Takasu of the Eagles and Morimoto to cut the lead to 8-5.
Takahiro Arai of the Carp put the CL back up by four after a leadoff homer in the seventh and Alex Ramirez hit a two-run shot in the eighth to give the CL an 11-5 lead. Ramirez, who before Game 1 had not homered in three All-Star appearances, hit homers in consecutive at-bats.
“I was able to hit back-to-back home runs, so it was a great All-Star series for me, being here with all the star players from the Central League teams and to play for the fans who deserve the best,” Ramirez said.
The win gives the Central League its sixth consecutive All-Star Game victory, although the Pacific League still holds a 73-67-8 lead in the series.
“It’s just like in the (United) States,” said Kroon who is 6-0 in All-Star contests. “In the States the American League has won a lot of games in a row, too. We just got it done.”
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.