Tigers return all-star fire at Koshien

Koji Chikamoto had a night for the record books on Saturday. The Hanshin Tigers rookie became the second player to hit for an all-star cycle and was named the MVP of All-Star Game series Game 2, an 11-3 blowout by the Central League that ended the Pacific League’s five-game winning streak.

Chikamoto became the first rookie to lead off the first inning of an all-star game when he went deep off Orix Buffaloes pitcher Taisuke Yamaoka in the CL’s two-run first.

After Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano’s two scoreless innings, the CL hitters got to face Seibu Lions right-hander Kona Takahashi. To say they schooled him or took him to the woodshed would be an understatement. They went to the lumber yard and gave him a beating with some serious clubs.

Two Tigers catchers went deep back to back to open the inning. Fumihito Haraguchi, who homered in the ninth inning of Friday’s game as a pinch hitter led off. His catching partner Ryutaro Umeno, an early favorite for the CL’s Best Nine Award, followed. Chikamoto doubled and scored on the first of two doubles by the Chunichi Dragons’ Shuhei Takahashi.

After a Tetsuto Yamada singled, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo crushed a line drive out to left center, which takes a tremendous poke at Koshien, which boasts Japan’s deepest power alleys thanks to its original design as a multipurpose stadium.

“I felt my pitches just weren’t good enough to face the best CL hitters.” said Takahashi, who was added to his first PL all-star roster by his skipper, Hatsuhiko Tsuji of the Lions.

“I think I’ll be happy to avoid the all-star game from now on.”

After one win and one loss, Tsuji said.

Chikamoto became the first player with four extra-base hits in an all-star game and the second to have five hits, the other being Yakult’s Roberto Petagine in 2001.

The series, at Japan’s two biggest parks, set a two-tame attendance record of 90,008 spectators.

The two home run derby finalists, each homered in the game. Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp won this year’s derby, beating Friday’s finalist Masataka Yoshida of Orix 4-3.

Suzuki beat Tomoya Mori of the Lions 4-3 in his first round and then knocked off Tsutsugo 5-4 in their semifinal. Tsutsugo advanced past Japan home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa on a tie-breaker.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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