Baseball / Japanese Baseball

PL outslugs CL in NPB All-Star Series opener

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

After watching the home run derby before the game, some Seibu Lions, past and present, put on a power show of their own.

Lions catcher Tomoya Mori hit a two-run home run, teammate Hotaka Yamakawa had a solo shot and former Lions star, and current Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles player, Hideto Asamura also went deep to lead the Pacific League to a 6-3 win against the Central League in Game 1 of the NPB All-Star Series on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.

Mori was named MVP of the game. He was also MVP of the opening game last season.

“I’m really happy,” he said.

The PL hit the most home runs, but the loudest one came off the bat of a CL player.

Hanshin Tigers catcher Fumihito Haraguchi, who had surgery to combat colorectal cancer earlier this year, hit a two-run shot in the ninth that brought the crowd at the Big Egg to its feet.

The Pa League extended its All-Star winning streak to five straight with the victory. The CL hasn’t won an All-Star Game since the opener in 2016.

Game 2 is Saturday night at Koshien Stadium.

“We’re in the middle of a winning streak right now and we’re going to try to win and keep it tomorrow,” Mori said.

It was just like old times for the Lions on Saturday night.

Mori was the big star of the game with his homer and three RBIs.

“It was perfect,” Mori said of the home run. “I feel really happy.”

Then there was Asamura and Yamakawa teaming up for consecutive home runs in the sixth inning.

“I wanted to connect on back-to-back homers with him,” Asamura said. “I thought if I hit one, then he definitely would.”

Asamura and Yamakawa were a fearsome duo for Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji, who is leading the PL squad this year, last season, when the Lions captured the league pennant. Asamura left the Lions to sign with Rakuten over the offseason.

“Of course, I kind of had a feeling of nostalgia,” Asamura said of pairing up with Yamakawa again.

Already leading 4-1 thanks to the home runs, the PL padded its lead with an RBI groundout by Mori and an RBI single from the Chiba Lotte Marines’ Takashi Ogino in the ninth.

The PL finished with nine hits, getting two apiece from the Lotte duo of Ogino and Brandon Laird. The CL team also had nine.

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga led the parade of pitchers to the mound, striking out three in two scoreless innings. Senga, who got the win, allowed a leadoff triple against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Tetsuto Yamada to start the game and then got three straight outs.

CL starter Daichi Osera, of the Hiroshima Carp, allowed two runs in his two innings on the mound. Osera was charged with the loss.

Mori got the PL on the board in the second, following a single by Laird with a two-run homer to right.

The CL cut the lead to one on a single by Yokohama BayStars slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo in the fourth.

The Pa League gave itself a little more breathing room in the sixth with Shun Yamaguchi, pitching in his home park, on the mound. Asamura crushed a 147-kph fastball for a home run to center to make the score 3-1. The PL went back-to-back when Yamakawa, last season’s home run king and the leader at the break this year with 29, homered to left.

The PL got two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth, before Haraguchi went deep to center after a single by Shuhei Takahashi.