Lions’ Mori top of the pops

Tomoya Mori continued to be Mr. All-Star home run on Friday, when he hit his third all-star home run in his third game, his two-run, second-inning homer sparking the Pacific League’s three-homer assault in a 6-3 win over the Central League in Game 1 of Japan’s All-Star Game series.

It’s called the All-Star Game despite the fact that there are always more than one. Mori was named MVP, while Seibu Lions teammate and NPB home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa also went deep in the sixth inning, following their former teammate, Rakuten Eagles second baseman Hideto Asamura into the seats.

Fumihito Haraguchi of the Hanshin Tigers, who is recovering from cancer surgery in January, hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth.

The home run came off Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto who pitched the last three innings to earn the save. It was the 10th three-inning save in all-star history but the first since Hiroshi Takamura (Kintetsu Buffaloes) did it in 1996.

The PL now leads the series — which started in 1950 after the CL and PL were formed out of an expansion, 85-78. There have been 11 ties without any help from Bud Selig.

The PL has now won five straight games.

Saturday’s Game 2 will be held at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Yoshida reaches HR derby final

NPB’s ubiquitous and annoying home run derbies have been modified again this year into a single contest, albeit one that is played over two days.

Years ago, the rules for the obligatory batting practice power hitting contest differed from game to game, so nobody really knew what was going on. A few years ago, fans were allowed to vote on the participants for each game, so the most popular players generally appeared in both.

This year, eight players are taking part divided into four groups, each with one player from each league.

Masataka Yoshida of the Orix Buffaloes won Round 1 after defeating Yakult Swallows teenager Munetaka Murakami 5-4. Yoshida then dispatched Yomiuri Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who had beaten Brandon Laird of the Lotte Marines 4-2.

Saturday’s second round will see Hotaka Yamakawa and DeNA BayStars left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo in one group, and Tomoya Mori and Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki in the other.

The winner will take on Yoshida in the final, so now in the future when someone in America says, “so and so won the home run derby in Japan” they’ll actually sound like they know what they’re talking about — because there’ll be only one.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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