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MLB stars escape with slim exhibition victory

by Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria hit a grand slam and New York Yankees left-hander Chris Capuano threw four shutout innings as the Major League Baseball All-Stars edged a mixed team from the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers 8-7 in an exhibition Tuesday night.

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Houston Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler both hit solo homers and Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 with one run scored as the MLB team banged out 14 hits in front of a crowd of 26,946 at Koshien Stadium.

Wearing the same white retro uniforms of the Japanese team that faced American baseball stars — led by Babe Ruth — in 1934, the game celebrating the 80th year of Japanese baseball got under way on a fast pace. The 80s rock band Mr. Big, who are touring Japan, sang the U.S. national anthem.

Tigers lefty Atsushi Nomi allowed a one-out single on a liner to right in the first inning, but got Longoria to ground into an inning-ending double play to get out of trouble.

He then struck out the next three batters he faced, all swinging in the dirt at his splitter, to get through the second inning.

“The pitching mound felt a bit different, but I was able to adjust and stayed fairly calm. When I got a first strike, I was determined to throw a splitter. Major leaguers don’t miss fat pitches,” Nomi said.

Capuano didn’t allow a runner until a two-out single to Hanshin’s Yamato Maeda in the third, but got out of the inning unscathed. He walked one and struck out three.

“Overall, I pitched pretty well to allow one hit and no runs,” said Capuano. “It was not cold out there, actually it was perfect for pitching.”

The MLB players struck in a two-run fourth and piled on more damage in the fifth and sixth.

Alcides Escobar had a fourth-inning leadoff single, followed by Cano’s second hit on a single to left. The runners advanced to second and third on reliever Suguru Iwazaki’s wild pitch and Longoria drew a walk to load the bases.

Escobar scored when Cleveland’s Carlos Santana grounded into a double play and Cano, the 2013 World baseball Classic MVP for the Dominican Republic, came home on Yasiel Puig’s single to right to give MLB a 2-0 lead.

Giants right-hander Yuki Egarashi took over in relief from the fifth but loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batsman. After Cano struck out looking, Longoria, the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year, went deep to center to make it 6-0.

“I was able to get a good pitch and drive it,” said Longoria. “It felt good to get that first big hit out of the way here tonight.”

Perez, whose team lost in seven games to the San Francisco Giants in this year’s World Series, hit a two-out solo blast to widen the lead in the sixth, and Fowler hit a leadoff shot in the seventh to cap the scoring for the big leaguers.

Tigers second baseman Hiroki Uemoto drove in a run on an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth in a game in which hits were few and far between for the Japanese team early on.

But a contest that started as a major league blowout quickly spun out of control when the hosts drove in five runs in the seventh against lefty reliever Franklin Morales to cut the deficit to two.

The Giants’ Taishi Ota had a two-run triple to key the big inning as Giants-Tigers rapped out six hits in the frame before Washington Nationals lefty Jerry Blevins came in to extinguish the fire.

Another run scored on a fielding error by Houston shortstop Jose Altuve in the eighth, but MLB escaped with a slim victory in its first game in Japan in eight years.

The Japanese team loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but reliever Jeff Beliveau got the next two outs to end it.

A five-game series between the MLB stars and the Japan national team managed by Hiroki Kokubo gets under way with Game 1 on Wednesday night at Kyocera Dome.

American League Rookie of the Year finalist Matt Shoemaker of the Los Angeles Angels will start against Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda.