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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tigers maul Bronx Bombers

Arias cracks three-run dinger in comfortable 11-7 victory


Staff writer

George Arias cracked a three-run homer and drove in five runs as the Hanshin Tigers thumped the New York Yankees 11-7 in Monday afternoon's exhibition game at Tokyo Dome.

News photo
Hanshin Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano slides home safely for an inside-the-park home run against the New York Yankees at Tokyo Dome. The Tigers won 11-7.

Hanshin hitters battered five different Yankee pitchers for 19 hits on the way to victory, certainly not what manager Joe Torre wanted to see the day before the season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Though many of the Yankee regulars only played a few innings, it was far from an impressive showing by the Bronx Bombers.

In addition to poor pitching, there were also misplays in the field, which combined to make the performance less than inspiring heading into the 162-game regular season.

Despite this, Torre sounded an optimistic note in his analysis of the two preseason games.

"I was pleased with the way we played both games, even though we lost today. The important thing is, we got to play two games in this building, on turf, before we open the season here."

Added Torre, "We want to show the fans in Japan that when Mr. Steinbrenner spends that kind of money, he expects to see results."

A night after starring in a victory over the Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui started in left field and batted second, going 1-for-3 with a single and a groundout, before being replaced by Homer Bush in the bottom of the fourth.

"I would have loved to play more for the fans, but the opening game is tomorrow," said Matsui, who reached base five times in seven plate appearances in the two exhibition games.

"I feel good about how I am hitting now. I had this feeling even before coming to Japan. I'm looking forward to the opener."

Matsui cracked an 0-2 pitch for a single to center off Hanshin starter Katsuhiko Maekawa in the top of the first inning, but was thrown out trying to steal third base when Jason Giambi struck out to end the frame. In his second at-bat, Matsui hit a comebacker to Maekawa to make the last out of the top of the third.

Arias, who rapped out six hits between Monday's win and Sunday's tie with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, likes the confines of Tokyo Dome, where a crowd of 52,000 was on hand to see the game against the Yankees.

"It is always exciting to see major league pitching," Arias said.

"Tokyo Dome has always been good to me. I am seeing the ball well and just trying to get ready for the season."

Arias thinks the Tigers, who won the Central League pennant last year, have improved.

"I think we are a better team this year than we were last year."

Norihiro Akahoshi led off the bottom of the first with a single off New York starter Donovan Osborne. One batter later Mike Kinkade singled, and following a forceout, the Tigers had runners on the corners with two outs, but were unable to capitalize, as Osamu Hamanaka flied out to Kenny Lofton in center.

John Flaherty and Miguel Cairo singled in the top of the second, giving the Yankees runners on the corners with two down, and Flaherty scored the first run of the game when Maekawa uncorked a wild pitch on a 1-0 count to Lofton.

The Tigers tied the score in the bottom of the second, when Arias led off with a single, and one out later Akihiro Yano's line drive back through the box took a bad bounce and deflected off Cairo, who was playing second base, for a hit.

Atsushi Fujimoto then plated Arias to tie the score 1-1 and Makoto Imaoka hit a Texas Leaguer to right that Gary Sheffield was unable to catch up to, scoring Yano.

Akahoshi followed by laying down a perfect bunt, which Osborne fielded but had no one to throw to at first, allowing the speedster an infield hit and scoring Fujimoto to give Hanshin a 3-1 lead.

After Kinkade walked, Tomoaki Kanemoto delivered a broken bat single to right-center field, bring both Imaoka and Akahoshi home to put the Tigers up 5-1.

Arias, batting for the second time in the inning, came up next and stroked a single to center scoring Kinkade and Kanemoto and increasing the Hanshin edge to 7-1.

Rookie Takashi Toritani was retired on a force play at second to finally quell the uprising.

Right-hander Jorge DePaula took over for Osborne, who was 4-0 in spring training entering Mondays game, in the top of the third. Osborne departed having allowed seven runs on nine hits. He struck out one and walked one.

Yano greeted DePaula with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on a fly to center by Fujimoto, but was left stranded.

In the top of the fourth, Jorge Posada singled and Flaherty followed with a two-run homer to left, to cut the deficit to 7-3. Cairo then got on base on an infield single, was sacrificed to second by Lofton, and scored on a single to center by Derek Jeter to make it 7-4.

Jeter came out of the game in the bottom of the fourth, with Felix Escalona taking over at shortstop.

Keiichi Yabu took the mound in the top of the fifth for the Tigers. Maekawa left having allowed four runs on eight hits, with three strikeouts and one walk.

Tony Clark, who took over for Giambi at first base in the third inning, hammered a titanic 159-meter home run to center field off Yabu with one out in the frame to pull the Yankees within two runs at 7-5. Clarks blast struck the huge video screen, damaging the lower right corner of it to the tune of $5,000 in the process.

The Tigers added a run in the bottom of the fifth, when Yano circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run, after Lofton lost a long fly to center in the white backdrop of the roof and went tumbling as the ball rolled away.

In the bottom of the sixth, Kanemoto walked and Hiyama singled before Arias parked a three-run blast into the left-field bleachers off reliever Jimmy Mann to restore a six-run lead for the Tigers at 11-5.

Darren Bragg made a nice play for the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh, throwing out Imaoka at the plate from center field after he tried to score on a single by Atsushi Kataoka.

The Yankees closed out the scoring with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth on a single up the middle by Enrique Wilson.

Giants whipped

Jose Cruz hit a two-run homer off Kimiyasu Kudo in the top of the fourth inning as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays overpowered a lackluster Yomiuri Giants 7-1 on Monday, sending the Central League team to its second straight defeat against a major league team in an exhibition game at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshinobu Takahashi drove in the opening run on an infield single in the first inning for the home team before Cruz's shot made it 2-1 and gave the major leaguers the lead for good.

The Devil Rays tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when Joey Gathright tagged up and dashed home after Cruz hit a fly ball to center. With two out, Robert Fick then hit a two-run drive over the right-field wall to increase the lead to 5-1.



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