Sox win opener in Japan
AP Sports Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
TOKYO ” Daisuke Matsuzaka got the Tokyo Dome fans revved up, and Manny Ramirez struck the winning pose.
In the earliest major league opener, the Boston Red Sox got off to a winning start in their World Series title defense.
Ramirez hit his second two-run double in the 10th inning ” admiring his drive from the batter’s box, thinking it was a three-run homer ” and Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 in Tuesday night.
“Ultimately, it was a great ballgame,” Matsuzaka said through a translator. “I hope people got a chance to enjoy it live.”
A crowd of 44,628, including fans from Boston, cheered at the Tokyo Dome, which hosted baseball’s opener for the third time in nine years. It was 6:10 a.m. back in Boston when the season began, and the organizers tried to make it feel like Fenway Park by playing “Sweet Caroline” after the last out.
Ramirez, starting the final guaranteed season of his eight-year contract, hit a tying, two-double in the sixth inning, and rookie Brandon Moss hit an RBI single that gave Boston a 3-2 lead and chased Oakland starter Joe Blanton.
Matsuzaka left after five wild innings and 95 pitches, and Jack Hannahan’s two-run homer off Kyle Snyder put Oakland ahead 4-3 lead in the sixth. Moss, playing because J.D. Drew hurt his back in batting practice, hit a solo homer in the ninth off Huston Street (0-1)
Then, in the 10th, Julio Lugo reached on an infield single leading off, Dustin Pedroia sacrificed and David Ortiz was intentionally walked with two outs.
Ramirez hit a drive to deep center and was sure it would be a home run. It wasn’t.
Just Manny being Manny.
He learned when he got to the ballpark that he couldn’t use the red-barreled bat he planned on using because it would distract pitchers. So he got some new bats in Tokyo.
“Maybe if I used my American bat that ball maybe would have gone,” he said. “I thought I hit it good. I couldn’t use my bat because it wasn’t legal. Thank God I got some Japanese wood that I could use.”
Oakland manager Bob Geren made the key decision to walk Ortiz.
“They’re both great hitters and you have to pick one or the other,” Geren said. “He got 0-2 and then got a pitch over the plate and Ramirez took it deep.”
Jonathan Papelbon took the mound to his “Wild Thing” theme in the bottom half, but was hardly intimidating. He walked Daric Barton leading off and gave up a one-out RBI double to Emil Brown, who was tagged out in a rundown between second and third.
After a pair of singles, Kurt Suzuki hit a game-ending groundout, giving Papelbon the save and sealing the win for Hideki Okajima (1-0), who used to pitch in the Tokyo Dome for the Yomiuri Giants.
“I’m glad things ended well for the team,” Matsuzaka said, “but, of course, I’m not happy with my own results.”
Matsuzaka allowed a pair of first-inning runs, one on a homer by Mark Ellis. He struck out six and walked five in five innings but allowed only two hits.
“Given the opportunity to start on opening day, I did feel a little nervous and a little excited and that might have shown,” said Matsuzaka, who signed a $52 million, six-year contract with Boston before last season after eight years with the Seibu Lions. “I’d like to apologize to all the fans who turned out and wanted to see me go deep in the game.”
The atmosphere was loud, but not nearly as loud as the regular noise level at Fenway. Fans pounded drums, flashed cameras and gawked at his wildness.
He didn’t find out until shortly before the game that he’d be playing.
“I was shocked,” Moss said. “I saw J.D.’s batting practice and he looked great. I didn’t know anything was going on. I was just sitting there talking. They were like, ‘You might be starting,’ I was like ‘Oh, OK.’
Notes:@ Ramirez was presented with an oversized check for 1,000,000 yen (about $10,000) for being MVP of the game and smiled as he held it up on a stage placed near the mound. He also gets a color laser printer. … Pregame ceremonies that included a band playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and opera singer Michie Nakamaru singing the Japanese national anthem in a red dress with a long train.
Support Local Journalism
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User