OSAKA--The All-Star series' first tournament-style home run derby started with a bang, but ended on a foul note.
The event was supposed to be a warmup act to pump up the crowd at Kyocera Dome Osaka for Game 1 of the All-Star series. But it came up flat, just like the two finalists, who both failed to go deep in the last round.
The Saitama Seibu Lions' G.G. Sato sent his final swing high and deep down the line in left, but the drive hooked outside the foul pole. The result: a 0-0 tie between Sato and hometown hero Tuffy Rhodes of the host Orix Buffaloes on Thursday.
The two split the 500,000 yen first-place prize money in the event, which was a team-oriented contest in past years.
The first round saw Rhodes beat the Hanshin Tigers' Tomoaki Kanemoto with five homers. After that, Alex Ramirez--tied for the CL home run lead with 30--made more impact with a joke than his bat.
Ramirez tried to get inside Sato's head just before their matchup by boldly predicting Sato would not leave the yard at all.
As it turned out, Ramirez was the one who couldn't reach the seats. Sato's lone home run got him into the final against Rhodes, who leads the Pacific League in longballs with 26 homers.
After his first-round matchup, Sato joked, "I'm glad I got one."
Once he managed to get past the homerless Ramirez, Sato shot back: "I knew one would be enough."