NPB: Despaigne blasts PL to 2nd straight victory
Alfredo Despaigne returned to his old stomping grounds and mashed, hitting a game-tying homer as the Pacific League came from behind to beat the Central League 3-1 on Saturday and sweep this year's two-game All-Star series.
After both starting pitchers matched zeroes for two innings, light-hitting Yomiuri Giants catcher Seiji Kobayashi opened the scoring in the third with a solo homer off Orix Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko.
Although Despaigne moved on to the PL rival SoftBank Hawks this season, he got a warm welcome from the fans in Chiba, where he played from 2014 to 2016. The Hawks' designated hitter responded by homering off Hanshin Tigers right-hander Takumi Akiyama and was named Game 2 MVP.
"I'd wanted to play in the All-Star games, so to win the MVP Award made me very happy," he said through an interpreter. "I played three years at this ballpark, so I was very happy to be able to hit one here."
"This (Pacific League) team is packed with superb players. We came out loose and enjoyed ourselves and that showed in how we played. I want to play with these guys again."
Marines captain Daichi Suzuki tripled off the top of the wall to open the fifth off DeNA BayStars right-hander Shoichi Ino and scored on a two-out double by the Seibu Lions' Shogo Akiyama. Suzuki made it a 3-1 game in the seventh, when he homered off Yakult Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro Ogawa.
The game started in electric fashion as three-time PL strikeout leader Takahiro Norimoto went toe-to-toe with Giants star Tomoyuki Sugano and each struck out three in two scoreless innings.
Eagles right-hander Manabu Mima took over from Kaneko and also struck out three in two scoreless innings to earn the win.
The PL made it a clean sweep in the pregame home run derby, too, as Hawks center fielder Yuki Yanagita earning his second straight win.
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