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MLB All-Stars Sweep Japanese in 5 Games


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MLB completes sweep with walk-off

 

FUKUOKA, Japan -- In the United States, it has become universally known as the walk-off homer. Here in Japan, the adjective they use for a game-ending blast is "sayonara".

On behalf of all the Major League All-Stars who wreaked havoc here for the past week, Jose Reyes said sayonara to the fine folks of Japan. The Mets' shortstop clubbed a two-run homer with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th inning, instantly capping this Japan All-Star Series with a 5-3 victory over Nippon Professional Baseball in Game 5.

 

It was a clean sweep -- the first in the history of the Japan All-Star Series.

 

"We came all the way over from the States to come here and play, and to win," said Ryan Howard, the MVP of the All-Star Series. "The Japanese team was great, they never stopped fighting. They were in every game. They gave us a good run for our money. Reyes was fortunate to have a little bit of motivation from myself and David Wright and some of our other teammates to be able to go up there and hit one."

 

What did that motivation entail?

 

"We were just messing around with him," said Howard. "We were telling him, 'Don't be afraid to do something.' He rose to the occasion."

 

So much so that the Fukuoka Dome suddenly sounded like Shea Stadium, with chants of "Jose, Jose, Jose" cascading around the home-run hero.

 

"It feels good to have some fans on the other side of the country," said Reyes. "It was exciting for me when I heard my name, Jose, Jose. I felt like I was playing in Shea Stadium. It was kind of exciting for me."

 

And it encapsulated the feel of the entire series, which entailed three games in Tokyo and one each in Osaka and Fukuoka.

 

"It just goes to show you that baseball transcends just where we are," said Howard. "It's global. For people to cheering for Jose and anybody and everybody on the team is a good feeling."

 

 

 

Complete coverage >The MLB squad will get one last night of sleep in the Far East before taking a victorious flight back to the United States on Thursday.

 

The machine-like team that Major League Baseball sent abroad for this Japan All-Star Series nearly suffered a rare glitch. But in the end, the blown save by closer Brian Fuentes in the top of the ninth was just a temporary malfunction, prolonging the inevitable for just a bit.

 

Manager Bruce Bochy set the tone before the trip by saying the mission -- pure and simple -- would be winning and that he didn't want to see MLB come up short on his watch.

 

The Japan All-Star Series has been played every other year since 1986 (excluding the 1994 strike-shortened season). MLB has won the tournament nine out of the 10 times it's been played, with the only exception coming in 1990. It seemed to mean a little more this time, coming on the heels of the World Baseball Classic, which Japan won by taking out Team USA, among others.

 

"Well, when I joined the team in Arizona before the workouts, I looked at the club and I said this is going to be a very difficult team to beat," said Bochy. "Look across the board at the talent we have on this ballclub, and the young talent that MLB assembled. These are our best players in the world right here. We brought our best players over here and I really felt that this club had a chance to sweep."

 

The catalyst in the latest endeavor to the Far East was Howard, who hit .556 in the series with four homers and eight RBIs.

 

This game was easily the most suspenseful of all five, with Howard stroking an RBI double to right to tie it in the sixth and Andruw Jones following with the go-ahead sacrifice fly.

 

"I'm not sure what pitch I hit, but I was able to get a good rip at it," said Howard. "I'm glad that I was able to tie the game. I'm really having a great time out here."

 

Fuentes was called on to protect the 3-2 lead, but he couldn't get it done. The Rockies' closer gave up singles to Shuichi Murata and pinch-hitter Nioka Tomohiro. That set the table for a two-out, bloop single to left by Naoyuki Omura, halting MLB's bid for a clean ending.

 

NPB nearly took the lead in the top of the 10th on Tomoya Satozaki's double to right, that easily would have scored Kazuya Fukuura from first. But the ball bounced out of play for a ground-rule double, much to the agony of NPB.

 

"It's the game of baseball and you can't do much about it," said NPB manager Katsuya Nomura. "The rule is the rule. I do feel a little bit unlucky, unfortunately."

 

Scot Shields came on for a faltering Joe Nathan and stranded runners at second and third by getting Murata on a flyout to right.

 

Bill Hall had opened the bottom of the 10th with a single against Hisashi Ogura.

 

Up stepped Reyes for his sayonara moment into the right-field seats.

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