TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. - Game 1 of the 2014 NPB All-Star Series turned into a showcase of the Hiroshima Carp’s various talents about midway through. Just as in the regular season, Brad Eldred was right in the middle of it all.
Eldred hit a two-run home run in the seventh, drove in four runs overall, and added an All-Star MVP award to the home run derby crown he won earlier in the night as he helped the Central League beat the Pacific League 7-0 in Game 1 of the 2014 NPB All-Star Series.
“It was great,” Eldred, a first-time All-Star, said. “You don’t really know what to expect. You try to obviously put up a good performance. To have a big day like that, it’s not expected because you have such good competition. So it makes it a little bit nicer to do that against good competition.”
Eldred struck out in his first at-bat, then hit RBI singles the next two times up in the third and fifth innings. He sat on the ground for a few moments after fouling a ball of his ankle during the seventh, then got up and hit his two-run blast on the very next pitch. The Carp slugger was 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
He said Carp manager Kenjiro Nomura asked if he was alright afterward, to which the slugger replied in the affirmative. He joked that the home run made his ankle feel better, but he still felt some pain after the game.
All three of Eldred hits drove in a Carp runner.
“That was kind of cool,” Eldred said. “Of course, they (Yoshihiro Maru and Ryosuke Kikuchi) were hitting in front of me. It makes it a little bit better. Give them credit too, it’s what they’ve done all year. They get on base and it helps me do what I do driving guys in.”
Eldred won the home run derby before the game, beating the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita in the first round and reigning three-time Central League home run king Wladimir Balentien, of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, in the final.
Eldred’s game was just a continuation of what he’s done during the regular season. The Carp star leads Japanese baseball with 29 home runs and 80 RBIs at the break and is hitting .290.
Game 1 wasn’t all about Eldred. It was a pretty good night to be a Carp fan in general. The team had a NPB-best eight players named to the All-Star team and seven played in game one.
Carp ace Kenta Maeda started for the CL and threw three scoreless innings to record the win; infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored; Shota Dobayashi was 2-for-3 with a run scored; Yoshihiro Maru was 1-for-5 with a run scored; and Ryuji Ichioka retired the only batter he faced after coming on with runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh. Kila Ka’aihue got the start at first base and finished 0-for-3. Reliever Kam Mickolio was the only Carp All-Star who didn’t get into the game.
Eight of the CL’s 15 hits were recorded by Hiroshima batters.
Hanshin Tigers shortstop Takashi Toritani finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the third. The Yokohama BayStars’ Tony Blanco also drove in a run, connecting on an RBI double in the ninth.
“This was a good Central League performance,” manager Tatsunori Hara said. “It was a 100-point game in terms of agility and power. It was good we could do well for the fans.”
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ Daikan Yoh doubled twice and finished with three hits to notch the best night by a Pa League player. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles infielder Kazuya Fujita also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.
Takayuki Kishi, who threw a no-hitter against the Chiba Lotte Marines on May 2, got the start for the Pa. League in his home park and struck out four over two perfect innings.
“I was able to enjoy it as I usually do,” he said of pitching at Seibu Dome.
The highlight of his night outing was the 150-km fastball that he blew by Balentien to end the second.
“It was a good at-bat,” Balentien said. “He threw a couple of good fastballs. He threw a couple by me. But he did a great job. He wins the battle.”
Prior to the game a ceremony was held to honor this year’s Hall of Fame class. Hideo Nomo, Koji Akiyama and Kazuhiro Sasaki were all on hand to receive their Hall plaques as both teams stood in front of their respective dugouts and applauded.
The second and final game of the 2014 All-Star Series is scheduled for Saturday night at Koshien Stadium. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star Shohei Otani, an All-Star as a batter last season, will get the start on the mound for the PL, while Shintaro Fujinami of the Hanshin Tigers will toe the rubber at his home park for the CL All-Stars.