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Deep connections: A's Suzuki homers for 2nd straight game but Tigers roll to sweep of MLB opponents

by Jim Allen (Mar 27, 2012)

Kurt Suzuki didn't wait for his relatives to arrive to put on a show.

Although some of his father's relations are due in town to see him play the Seattle Mariners later this week, the Oakland Athletics catcher homered for the second straight game on Monday in a 12-6 loss to the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.

The game was the last for both teams before their regular season games begin. The the A's play the Mariners here on Wednesday, while the Tigers open at Osaka Dome against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars on Friday.

Cousins of Suzuki's father will visit from Fukushima Prefecture for the A's opener to make up for not coming in 2008, when he was here to open the season against the Boston Red Sox.

"They wanted to come last time but they couldn't, so they're going to come this time," Suzuki told The Daily Yomiuri.

With the A's trailing the Tigers by six runs in the top of the fifth, Suzuki rocketed a pitch from Randy Messenger into the stands for a three-run home run.

"I'm just trying to put the barrel on the ball and keep it simple," said Suzuki, who has 42 homers over the past three major league seasons.

The Hawaiian-born Suzuki, who also hit a three-run shot in a 5-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday night, said the spring tour to Japan is a sweet deal.

"I think it's great. I don't think it's a hassle. I think it's a great experience," he said. "I'd do it every year."

First-year Tigers skipper Yutaka Wada said he'd been somewhat anxious about completing his preseason schedule against major league opposition.

"You want the players to enjoy the experience, but you don't want it to be a distraction by losing to the big league clubs," Wada said.

However, after handily beating the Mariners 5-1 on Sunday, the Tigers took apart the A's for a sweep of the MLB teams.

"Give credit to them," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We didn't play one of our better games and they took it to us."

Messenger started for Hanshin and issued a two-out first-inning walk, but retired the next seven batters and eventually got the win.

Hanshin led 7-0 before Cliff Pennington homered to lead off Oakland's fourth.

Mistakes by the A's gave Hanshin numerous opportunities, and the Tigers cashed in repeatedly. Takahiro Arai came to bat after a two-out error in the first and belted a two-run homer. Hanshin's first-round draft pick last autumn, Hayata Ito, singled in a run in the second, and the Kansai cats added four more in the third.

A one-out walk and a double by Arai set the table for Craig Brazell, whose second hit of the game made it 4-0. Tomoaki Kanemoto, who hit a two-run homer on Sunday, doubled in another run.

On a flyout to center with runners on second and third, confusion on the bases saw Kanemoto stranded off second. But shortstop Pennington's throwing error turned a defensive opportunity into two more Tigers runs.

Takashi Toritani singled with two outs in Hanshin's half of the fourth, stole second and came home on a single by Arai, who went 3-for-4, scored twice and drove in three.

The A's Kila Ka'aihue doubled in a run in the sixth, but Toritani singled and scored his third run of the game in the seventh through a pair of groundouts and a wild pitch.

RBI singles by Kohei Shibata and Ryota Arai tacked on three Hanshin runs in the eighth, and Wes Timmons' run-scoring single accounted for the A's final run in the ninth.

For the Tigers, it was an ideal final tuneup for the season.

"Frankly, we had not played well coming into these games," Wada said. "But playing against the major leaguers seemed to light a fire under us."


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