03/23/08 11:05 AM ET
Deja Drew in Tokyo
Grand slam gives Boston two-game exhibition sweep
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Not to say that this Drew slam in Boston's 9-2 victory over the Giants was anything close to the magnitude of his shot in Game 6 of the 2007 American League Championship Series, but it was a nice display of a sweet swing not getting lost in translation from one continent to another.
While New Englanders back home were either still sleeping or just arising for Easter Sunday, the Sox were engaging in their final tuneup for Tuesday's Opening Day against the Oakland Athletics, which will be played here under this same roof of Tokyo Dome.
Nobody looks more ready than Drew, who has gone deep in both exhibition games in Japan.
"[I'm] Mr. Japan," quipped Drew.
He's certainly being treated as such. For the second day in a row, Drew -- who has seven RBIs in the two exhibition games -- was asked to do a postgame interview at a podium on the field.
"We call it the hero interview in Japan," said Sohta Kimura, a reporter for the Kyodo News.
Another Japanese custom, Drew was told, is that the "hero" of the game in Japan gets a nice check for his good deeds.
"I guess they give away $10,000 bucks for being star of the game here. I was like, 'Give me a million yen. I'll take a million yen.' That's what someone was telling me," Drew said. "They have a star of the game and a runner-up."
Prize money or not, Drew has no complaint about the fact that the next game will count.
"I feel pretty good about myself going into the season as far as my swing goes," said Drew. "I'm just trying to take a good approach at the plate and take good at-bats. I feel like I've taken good at-bats the last couple of games, so we'll try to transfer that into the regular season."
When Drew stepped to the plate, Boston was trailing, 2-0, with one out in the top of the sixth. His slam came against Giants left-hander Adrian Burnside.
"I've watched mine [from the ALCS] a few times on the scoreboard -- they had it up there [before the game], it was pretty neat," said Drew. "I just followed it up, bases loaded, why not? I was really honestly just trying to square a ball up and get a sac fly out of it, hit a ball deep in the outfield and it ends up going over. It can't work out any better than that."
For the second day in a row, the Red Sox faced off against a tradition-laden franchise from Japan. A day after edging the Hanshin Tigers, the Sox went against the Yomiuri Giants, the most revered franchise in the history of Japanese baseball.
It's doubtful the Giants have seen a knuckleball quite like the one floated by venerable Boston righty Tim Wakefield. Yomiuri did scrape one run across in the first on an RBI single by Seung-Yeop Lee and another in the fourth on a double play grounder by Yoshitomo Tani, but Wakefield cruised for most of his outing.
Over 5 2/3 innings, Wakefield scattered five hits and two runs, walking one and striking out three.
"It's a pretty cool experience pitching over here," said Wakefield. "The biggest thing I had to get used to was the cheering going on during their at-bats. It was pretty cool."
Wakefield has also enjoyed absorbing the new culture the last few days.
"I've always wanted to come here," Wakefield said. "The culture here is very interesting to me and it's been an honor to be here, and to be able to pitch here and to get a taste of the culture and do a little sightseeing and see what it's like over here."
Hideki Okajima knows what it's like over here. This game marked his return to Tokyo Dome -- his home venue for his 11 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants -- and Okajima celebrated it by firing a scoreless inning.
The Red Sox got what they needed to out of the exhibition games in Tokyo. Now, they're ready to get their season going.
"It's pretty special, having a chance to come over here and open a season for baseball and share baseball internationally with the Japanese and kind of get a taste of their culture," said Wakefield. "It's really special for us."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.