Tokyo suits Sox just fine
Ortiz, Drew smack long balls as Boston holds off Hanshin
TOKYO -- Amid the backdrop of drums beating and fans decked out in yellow (in honor of the Hanshin Tigers) chanting for innings on end, the Red Sox continued their Spring Training in a venue that felt nothing like Florida.
Playing in Japan for the first time, the Sox pulled out a 6-5 victory over Hanshin before a packed house at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.
There was an overall air of excitement between two franchises that have fanatic followings. In fact, the Hanshin Tigers are the team in Japan that has most often been compared to the Red Sox.
"It was definitely exciting just to be out there," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We joked with Manny [Ramirez] that he couldn't hear what was going on in the game because it was so loud back there. It was definitely very interesting how they got into the game. The cheers were all in sync, even the people on the third-base, first-base side. It was pretty cool to hear that. It was definitely an experience."
David Ortiz's swing was certainly no worse for the wear after the 17-hour flight from Florida, as he got the Sox on the board by clubbing a solo homer to left in the top of the first.
"I've had a very good Spring Training," said Ortiz. "I'm glad I was able to hit one in front of Japanese fans."
Three batters later, it was J.D. Drew who took aim at the fence, nailing a three-run shot to left-center.
"The home run came on a fastball away," said Drew. "I made good contact. It's always good to produce with men on base."
If the Red Sox had any lingering jet lag, it didn't show.
"Any game we play, we don't ever talk about jetlag," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "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."
Though the unique chants of the Japanese fans took center stage for most of the game, there was also a little touch of Red Sox Nation when "Sweet Caroline" was played over the sound system before the bottom of the eighth inning. And even more when Jonathan Papelbon's walk-in song "Shipping Up To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphy's was played when he came on for the ninth inning.
And once Papelbon completed the save with an overpowering inning, "Dirty Water" by the Standells -- the traditional Red Sox victory song at Fenway Park -- boomed out as the visitors did their postgame handshakes.
"The local flavor, I'm not sure we knew what to expect," said Francona. "With all those things -- they were beating and yelling and singing -- it was a good experience. I don't know that we knew exactly what to expect but they were enthusiastic and I think both teams put on a good show. It was a good baseball game to watch."
Despite falling in an early 5-0 deficit, the Tigers showed they could compete with the defending World Series champions.
Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz lost his feel in the bottom of the second, being tagged for four runs. The big hits came from Norhiro Akahoshi (two-run double) and Keiichi Hirano (two-run single).
"I think it was a fastball," said Hirano. "I was glad I was able to keep the rally going."
Buchholz lasted 3 2/3 innings, being touched up for six hits and four runs. He walked two and struck out four.
"The best way to win is when you score -- hold a team down," Francona said. "But you also treat it a little differently because it is an exhibition game. You're going to leave your pitcher out there and try to get his work in."
Youkilis stretched Boston's lead back to two runs in the sixth, lacing an RBI single to left. But the Tigers got it right back in the bottom of the inning on Hirani's sacrifice fly.
By the end of the day, the Red Sox had accomplished what they wanted.
"You try to win every game you play, and also get ready for the season," Francona said.
The Sox play again on Sunday against the Yomiuri Giants. That game will carried live on MLB.TV at 6 a.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.