Red Sox beat Hanshin Tigers in first game in Japan
TOKYO -- David Ortiz showed Japanese baseball fans his awesome power. Again.
That started the Red Sox to a 6-5 exhibition win over the Hanshin Tigers, the first of Boston's four games on the trip. The World Series champions meet the Yomiuri Giants in another exhibition Sunday then play the first two games of the regular season against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Ortiz's homer wasn't nearly as far as the one that hit the right-field lights just below the roof during a tour with major league all-stars in November 2004 soon after Boston won its first World Series in 86 years.
"It was [after] the end of the season," Ortiz said. "I'm glad to hit one to start the season."
Pitcher Yuya Ando was surprised to see it go as far as it did.
"I didn't think it was going to go over the fence," he said through a translator. "The major league baseball strike zone is slightly different from ours, and this was a good experience for me."
But it was a familiar sight as the ball soared toward the 13-foot fence with an eerily similar color to the 37-foot high Green Monster that Big Papi dents with opposite-field hits at Fenway Park.
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"We talk all the time," Boston manager Terry Francona said, that if "you hit the ball with power the other way, it's a great approach."
Kevin Youkilis singled in a run in the second. Hanshin cut the lead to 5-4 with four runs in the second against rookie Clay Buchholz as Tigers fans in left field chanted throughout the inning, as they did every time the team came to bat.
"It was different," Francona said. "I'm not sure we knew what to expect."
Buchholz's bid for a spot in the rotation suffered as he had problems for the fourth time in four spring training starts.
"Overall, I thought it went pretty well. I left a couple of pitches up over the plate and that hurt," said Buchholz, who pitched a no-hitter last Sept. 1 in his second major league start. "The Tiger hitters stayed back on the ball better than I thought they might."
Youkilis singled in another run in the sixth before Keiichi Hirano's sacrifice fly made it 6-5 in the bottom of the inning. Earlier in the day, he and Red Sox translator Jeff Yamaguchi played tourist and went to a shrine where Youkilis made a wish.
"He actually told me I was going to have a good game," Youkilis said of Yamaguchi, "but I didn't know I was going to get a couple of hits."
Hanshin right fielder Lew Ford, a Red Sox draft pick in 1999 who hit .272 the past five seasons with Minnesota, went 1-for-2 with two walks.
Before the game, the sound system played "Eye of the Tiger" in recognition of Hanshin's players. And after the top of the eighth, a recording of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" filled the ballpark, just as it does at the same point in Boston's home games.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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