Japan Slugger Homers Ahead of World Baseball Classic

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan third baseman Munetaka Murakami hits a three-run homer to center in the first inning of a warmup game against the Orix Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome Osaka on Tuesday.

Triple Crown-winner Munetaka Murakami, batting sixth instead of his usual cleanup spot in the order, blasted a three-run homer as part of a four-run first inning, as Samurai Japan pounded the Orix Buffaloes 9-1 on Tuesday night at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida hit cleanup and chipped in against his former team with a bases-clearing triple in the second inning. The Samurai then tacked on a run each in the fourth and eighth innings in their final tune-up for the World Baseball Classic.

Japan’s first match in Pool B is against China at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.

The Buffaloes, the team that bested Murakami’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Japan Series last season, scored their lone run in the seventh inning.

Murakami’s towering home run was his first as a member of Samurai Japan this time around and seemed to signal that he had timed his preparation well to be in form for the team’s first WBC game.

“I was working toward the opener and I’m ready to hit when the games count,” he said. “I feel confident that I can absolutely come up with that one hit that can help us win.”