Crowd Cheers Nomo Homecoming at Tokyo Games; U.S. Wins 6-1
TOKYO (AP) _ It was a homecoming for Hideo Nomo.
He didn’t disappoint the fans, and they didn’t disappoint him.
A loud ovation welcomed Nomo back to Japan, and he got a U.S. major-league all-star team started toward a 6-1 victory Saturday in an exhibition game against the top players from Japan’s Central and Pacific leagues.
``For me the important thing was letting the people of Japan see me pitch,″ Nomo said after pitching three shutout innings. ``I wanted them to get a taste of what major league baseball is all about.″
``I just wanted the people who have known me for a long time to see me pitch at home again.″
And they were happy to see him, even though he left the Kintetsu Buffaloes two years ago for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
``He was great, just great,″ said Hideki Aoyagi, 20, who came to the game at the Tokyo Dome clad in both a Nomo cap and a Dodgers team jacket. ``I just wish he had pitched a little longer.″
Nomo kept to his schedule of only pitching three innings, though he said later that teammates had pressed him to go on. He allowed two hits and struck out three.
Thousands of fans photographed Nomo, and the flashes were so intense that the Tokyo Dome announcer asked fans to stop taking pictures. Nomo said the flashes did not bother his pitching.
``It had been a long time since batting against him,″ said Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta, who hit a fly ball to right in the third inning. ``I really wanted to get a hit off of him.″
U.S. manager Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants said Nomo pitched about the same as he did in the United States, though he was a little more relaxed.
``It was pleasant to see some smiles and personality on him,″ Baker said. ``He’s usually all business.
``All the guys were really pulling for him. They all knew everybody was there to see him. He started off a little slowly, but by the second and third innings his breaking ball was really moving.″
The U.S. team scored the first run in the third inning on an RBI double by Steve Finley of the San Diego Padres that scored Jeff Cirillo of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Atlanta Braves left-hander Denny Neagle took the mound in the fourth, and held the Japanese to four hits over five innings. Cleveland Indians reliever Jose Mesa pitched the final inning.
Andres Galarraga of the Colorado Rockies, Julio Franco of the Cleveland Indians and Texas’ Juan Gonzalez homered for the American team.
Seibu Lions slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara scored the only run for the Japanese, homering in the seventh against Neagle.
``The Japanese side had some good hitters,″ said Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza. ``We won this on quality pitching.″
The U.S. team had lost the first game of the eight-game tour 6-5 on Friday. The third game of the series is scheduled for Sunday at the Tokyo Dome.
American teams have a long history of playing exhibition games in Japan. In 1992, the Americans won the series 6-1-1. In 1990, the Japanese won 4-3-1, and in 1988 the U.S. team came out ahead 3-2-2. The series allows tie games.