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Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006

Reyes leads MLB to sweep


Staff writer

FUKUOKA -- Jose Reyes rolled into Japan a week ago unable to speak a word of Japanese.

News photo
Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima hits a run-scoring single in the fifth inning of Game 5 of Japan-MLB series on Wednesday at Yahoo Dome. MLB won 5-3 and swept the five-game exhibition series. KYODO PHOTO

Reyes hit a sayonara two-run home run in the 10th inning, giving MLB a 5-3 win on Wednesday at Yahoo Dome in the final game of Nichibei Yakyu.

That's a 5-0 sweep and three words in the Dominican shortstop's third language.

"We came all the way over here from the United States to win," the New York Met said.

Facing Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagle Hisashi Ogura, Reyes homered to right field, scoring himself and Bill Hall.

"I was looking for a pitch to drive, and I put my best into the ball," Reyes said.

Scot Shields retired one batter in the top of the 10th to pick up the win.

MLB gave American baseball its first sweep in Japan since the minor-league San Francisco Seals went 7-0 during a 1949 tour. The 1955 New York Yankees went 15-0-1, the final time an American team didn't drop a game across the Pacific.

The last MLB sweep was the Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig All-Stars in 1934, a 17-0 romp.

"When you look at the talent we brought here and you see the young talent and veterans, it doesn't surprise me what happened here," San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You're not going to see better players in the world than you've seen here in the last week."

Reyes was the hero of Game 5, but Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard won the MVP award.

Howard drove in eight runs and hit four homers, including knocking in the tying run Wednesday and scoring MLB's first run of the night.

"I'm glad the fans were able to see me hit some home runs and that we could win the whole thing," Howard said.

"I got some pitches to hit and I was able to do something."

In Game 5, Howard did it against Hiroshima Carp righty Katsuhiro Nakagawa, who blew hometown hurler Tsuyoshi Wada's chance for a win.

Wada took a perfect game into the fifth when the MLB hitters finally got to him.

Who else but Howard led off the fifth with a single, scoring later in the frame on a Kenji Johjima single.

Wada had given up consecutive singles to David Wright and Johjima, and Hall made it three straight basehits, but Wright was thrown out at home on the play to end the inning.

Wada checked out with a run, four hits and six strikeouts in five innings, but the win would never come thanks to Nakagawa.

In the sixth, Reyes reached on a wild pitch on strike three, the speedster taking first base. Nakagawa then plunked Tadahito Iguchi, and after Jermaine Dye struck out, Howard's double knotted the score.

NPB had taken a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, when Takahiro Arai and Shuichi Murata each hit solo homers against John Lackey, whose pitching line mirrored Wada's, save giving up two runs -- four hits, no walks and six strikeouts in five innings.

Andruw Jones bailed out Lackey right on Howard's heels, blasting a sac fly to center field that scored Iguchi.

Johjima and Iguchi both were in the starting lineup for the first time of the Nichibei Yakyu series, although the two started in the exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants last week.

The duo contributed to the tight win in front of their former home crowd both players were Fukuoka Softbank Hawks before heading to the majors.

MLB was lined up for a win without extra innings, but Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes couldn't slam the door on NPB.

Murata singled with one out, and two batters later, Tomohiro Nioka knocked a pinch-hit single to give NPB two men on the board.

Hawks outfielder Naoyuki Omura singled to left to score Murata and knot the score.

Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan got out of the ninth, and Takahiro Mahara threw his second scoreless inning of relief in the bottom of the frame, keeping MLB at bay.

In the 10th, Nathan got into trouble thanks to a pair of Chiba Lotte Marines as first baseman Kazuya Fukuura singled and catcher Tomoya Satozaki hit a ground-rule double.

Shields got Fukuoka native Murata to fly out to Chone Figgins in right field to escape.

Eagles manager Nomura went to Ogura in the 10th, and the right-hander didn't retire a batter before the walls caved in.



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