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Grand Central / CL rebounds to pound Pacific for 11 runs, 19 hits behind local 'Star Uchikawa

by John E. Gibson (Aug 2, 2008)

Fireworks were popping left and right in the middle of Game 2 of the All-Star series at Yokohama Stadium. The Central League's bats were also making a few big bangs around the same time.

Seiichi Uchikawa of the hometown Yokohama BayStars led a 19-hit barrage with a sparkling 4-for-5 performance as the CL lit up the Pacific League in an 11-6 rout before 27,433 on Friday night.

Uchikawa, who had a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning in Thursday's Game 1, collected four base hits before lining out in the eighth inning to tie Ichiro Suzuki's 2000 All-Star record for hits in consecutive plate appearances with five.

He earned the award for best player over the two-game series, which the leagues split thanks to the CL squad's six-run fifth inning that blew the game open.

"The first hit I got didn't really go all that far, so I wanted to get a good strong hit in my second at-bat," said Uchikawa, the CL's second-leading hitter at .357.

"I had no idea I'd put together four hits," said Uchikawa, whose .833 average in the series tied Kazuhiro Kiyohara's 1990 mark when he was with the Seibu Lions.

But the Chunichi Dragons' Masahiro Araki grabbed the MVP award, going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.

"I really thought Uchikawa was going to be the MVP, so I'm really shocked," Araki said. "But I'm happy."

The CL squad rolled up seven extra-base hits--six doubles--off to edge closer to the PL, which leads the all-time series 74-68-8.

"The Central League showed off a number of its strong sides tonight," said CL skipper Tatsunori Hara of the Yomiuri Giants.

"Uchikawa showed why he's one of the leading hitters. That last out was close, too," said Hara, whose CL squad posted the highest team average (.378) and slugged a record seven doubles in the series.

After seeing its six-game winning streak snapped the night before, the CL responded with a six-run inning off Chiba's Yoshihisa Naruse, who got knocked around the yard in both of his extended innings.

The lefty allowed an All-Star record eight runs--seven earned--on a series-record-high 11 hits.

The PL squad took the lead off Chunichi ace Kenshin Kawakami, Fukuoka SoftBank slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka doing the honors in the top of the second inning with a solo blast to straightaway center field.

It was Matsunaka's second homer in All-Star play, the first coming four years ago.

The PL squad hammered four home runs, but they didn't make a dent in the CL's lead.

First-time All-Star Shoitsu Omatsu of Chiba Lotte went deep in his first two at-bats to earn the best play award, and Takeshi Hidaka took a 161-kph fastball from Yomiuri's Marc Kroon--the fastest pitch ever clocked at the festivities--over the center-field wall for two runs in the eighth that closed out the scoring.

Kyuji Fujikawa of Hanshin earned the best pitcher award for his perfect ninth inning.

Yakult's Shohei Ishikawa allowed a run in the third inning, but picked up the win, while SoftBank's Toshiya Sugiuchi suffered the loss.

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Ramirez wins HR derby

After Alex Ramirez's dreadful performance in the Game 1 home run derby, the Yomiuri slugger, tied for the Central League lead in longballs, won the contest on Friday in Yokohama.

Ramirez launched five shots over the fence in the opening round--after failing to get one the night before--and beat Saitama Seibu's G.G. Sato 7-1 in the final.

When asked what the difference was, Ramirez basically shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't know."

"I put better swings [together] today," said Ramirez, who is tied with Yokohama's Shuichi Murata for the league lead with 30 homers.

Ramirez admitted getting some help from a stadium that he doesn't exactly care in winning the two-round derby.

"I don't really like to hit too much here, but today it was a good day. The wind was blowing out and carried a couple of those balls," said Ramirez, who took home the 500,000 yen prize for first after a homerless tie in the final before Game 1.

Murata barely drove the ball to the outfield, finishing homerless in the first round.


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