TOKYO (AP) -- Far from home, the Devil Rays showed they can come
Julio Lugo hit a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the
ninth inning Sunday, and Tampa Bay rallied for a 7-7 tie against
the Hanshin Tigers in the opener of four days of games in Japan for
the major leagues.
Lugo, who went 3-for-5, connected off a high fastball from Yuya
Ando. Rocco Baldelli homered twice for Tampa Bay, which trailed 7-2
before scoring three in the eighth.
"It was a great atmosphere out there with the Japanese fans
cheering," Lugo said. "And they must be tired."
The Tokyo Dome wasn't quite full for the exhibition game, with
the attendance announced at 45,000. The Big Egg, as it's called,
was sure to be rocking later Sunday when the Yankees played the
Yomiuri Giants in Hideki Matsui's return to his old ballpark.
On Tuesday, the Devil Rays will open the major league season
against the New York Yankees. For now, it was just a spring
training game with some twists.
There were the usual cheering sections in the stands, and the
game had a lot of the flavor of Japanese ball. The umpires were a
split crew from Japan and the major leagues -- in a twist, Hanshin
pitches used their team's balls, and the Devil Rays' staff threw
with the usual major league Rawlings variety.
Lugo sparked the comeback in the seventh when he led with a
double and scored from second on Tino Martinez's single off the
wall in right. Baldelli then hit a two-run homer off Tomoyuki
"People know we are never going to give up," Lugo said.
Former-Yankee Hideki Irabu allowed two runs -- homers by Baldelli
and Jose Cruz Jr. -- and six hits in six innings
"They had some good pitchers," Lugo said. "Irabu threw the
ball real good. He was hitting his spots."
Baldelli, who had 11 homers in his rookie season last year,
homered for a 1-0 lead in the second.
"I was just trying to get in the swing of things," he said.
"I felt pretty good at the plate today. The Japanese pitchers are
as competitive as they are in the States."
But Hanshin went ahead 3-1 in the third on a run-scoring
throwing error by third baseman Geoff Blum, an RBI grounder by
former-Dodger Mike Kinkade and Shinjiro Hiyama's RBI single.
Cruz homered in the fourth, but former San Diego player George
Arias made it 4-2 in the fifth with a solo homer off Jorge Sosa.
Akihito Yano had an RBI single later in the inning, and Kinkade had
an RBI single in the sixth.
Lance Carter threw a run-scoring wild pitch that made it 7-2 in