Sox Edge Hanshin In Japan Opener

A 17-hour transcontinental flight didn't faze the Red Sox, who made their Japanese debut a successful one Saturday.

David Ortiz and J.D. Drew homered to spark a four-run first inning and the Sox held off the Hanshin Tigers, 6-5, in front of a raucous crowd of 37,431 at the Tokyo Dome. It was the first game the Sox have ever played outside of North America.

"Any game we play, we don't ever talk about jetlag," Terry Francona told reporters. "We were supposed to show up and play the game today, so that's what we did. We came out early and swung the bats pretty well. We swung at strikes. David and J.D., they put some good swings on the ball."

Ortiz blasted a solo homer with two outs in the first. Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell followed by reaching base, after which Drew delivered a three-run shot. The Sox extended their lead to 5-0 in the top of the second on Kevin Youkilis' RBI single.

But the Tigers stormed back in the bottom of the second, when they scored four runs off Sox starter Clay Buchholz. Norhiro Akahoshi laced a two-run double while Kelichi Hirani added a two-run single.

The Sox extended their lead to 6-4 on another RBI single by Youkilis in the top of the sixth. Hirani's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning pulled the Tigers back within one, but the Sox received impressive relief work from Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon, who combined to allow just one hit in three scoreless innings. Papelbon worked around a walk in the ninth and struck out two to record the save.

Ortiz, Youkilis and Lowell all had two hits apiece for the Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury and Julio Lugo, who batted eighth and ninth respectively, had a hit each.

Buchholz, who is expected to open the season as the Sox' fifth starter, allowed four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. He threw 76 pitches, 45 for strikes.

Afterward, Francona said he may have pulled Buchholz earlier had it been a regular season game. "You also treat it a little differently because it is an exhibition game," Francona said. "You're going to leave your pitcher out there and try to get his work in."

Kyle Snyder succeeded Buchholz and pitched well in allowing one run on three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Lopez allowed the only hit over the final three frames.

The Tokyo Dome had a distinctively Fenway Park feel to it over the last couple innings as "Sweet Caroline" was played before the bottom of the eighth and Papelbon entered in the ninth to the strains of "Shipping Up To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys. And after the Sox' win was official, the Fenway victory staple "Dirty Water" blared out from the loudspeakers.

The Sox return to action Sunday, when they face the Yomiuri Giants at 7 p.m. Japanese time (6 a.m. Sunday Boston time). Tim Wakefield is scheduled to make the start.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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