SAPPORO – Norichika Aoki hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning as the Central League rallied to beat the Pacific League 10-8 in Game 1 of the two-game All-Star Series Friday.
The Yakult Swallows outfielder followed a leadoff single by pinch hitter Yoshiyuki Ishihara with a shot over the right-field wall on a 2-2 fastball from Hisashi Takeda (0-1) at Sapporo Dome.
Tony Blanco added an RBI single to cap the CL’s three-run ninth. Daisuke Miura (1-0) threw two scoreless innings from the eighth.
Aoki was named the MVP after going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Alex Ramirez, batting cleanup for the CL, went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and two RBIs.
The PL appeared to have put the game away with a five-run seventh that made it 8-3, but the CL came right back to score four runs in the eighth, drawing within a run.
Yu Darvish started for the third year in a row but left after just one inning. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters ace was struck in the right shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Ramirez in the top of the first.
The CL improved its All-Star record to 69-74 with eight ties.
Before the game, Blanco won the Home Run Derby, beating Michihiro Ogasawara 3-2 in the final.
The series moves to Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima for Game 2 on Saturday.
The CL will start Hiroshima Carp right-hander Kan Otake, while Seibu Lions right-hander Hideaki Wakui will take the mound for the PL.