TOKYO (AP)—Split two games, get back on a plane.
Rich Harden struck out nine over six innings and Emil Brown hit a three-run homer, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night in the finale of their season-opening series in Japan.
“Last night we lost a heartbreaker. We won tonight. Now everyone’s looking forward to getting back to the Bay Area and recovering,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said.
Boston began its World Series title defense by winning Tuesday’s opener 6-5 in 10 innings after rallying in the ninth. The Red Sox headed to Los Angeles after Wednesday’s game for three more exhibitions against the Dodgers, including one at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday.
“We’ll take a step back tomorrow and have an optional workout,” manager Terry Francona said. “We tried to do our homework on what to expect from travel. We’re not going to talk ourselves into being tired, and we’ll do what we need to do to get ready for the next start in Oakland.”
After the New York Yankees went to Japan to start the 2004 season against Tampa Bay, several players said they had trouble adjusting when they got home.
The Red Sox and A’s resume their regular seasons with a two-game series starting Tuesday in Oakland.
Since the teams arrived last week, the focus was on the Red Sox, coming off their second title in four seasons, and Oakland was almost an afterthought.
Indeed, late in the game, an Oakland flag above the scoreboard in center fell and landed on the warning track between innings. A groundskeeper went out and retrieved it.
“We were received so warmly,” Francona said. “Having Daisuke and Hideki added to that and hopefully we gained some fans.”
Harden (1-0) helped the A’s gain something from the trip. He is coming back from three injury-plagued seasons, and he made just four starts last year—none after July 7. This time, the right-hander allowed three hits and three walks, throwing 95 pitches.
“I had some bad luck the past couple of years,” Harden said. “But hopefully, I can put that behind me and do what I need to do to help the ballclub this season.”
Harden said he tried to stay focused for Wednesday’s game and not let the unique surroundings at Tokyo Dome affect him.
“You want to be consistent with how you approach your starts,” he said. “It did feel a bit different out there, almost like a playoff game, but you just try to treat it like any other game.”
David Ortiz was 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk against Harden. Coming in, Ortiz was 4-for-5 against Harden, and Ramirez was 2-for-3, each homering twice.
“Rich showed tonight against the world champions how good he is and how much we need him,” Geren said. “His entire spring training went well with no health issues. We’re hoping to get 30-plus more starts like that.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” said Brown, who made up for a costly baserunning mistake in Tuesday’s loss. “We didn’t play too bad last night, I made a mistake and it cost us. I was glad I could help the team today, so that we can head home with a win.”
Ramirez struck out three times after hitting a pair of two-run doubles Tuesday. He stood at the plate admiring his 10th-inning drive in the opener, thinking it was a three-run homer, and had to hustle to reach second.
He could afford to stand and watch his shot Wednesday, a sure home run deep into the left-field seats that moved him within nine of joining the 500-homer club.
Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke and Alan Embree followed Harden with one scoreless inning apiece, completing a five-hitter. Oakland rebounded from its fourth straight opening-day loss. Foulke threw a called third strike past Ramirez to end the eighth with a runner on second.
Lester gave up four runs, five hits and three walks in four innings.
“Emil got one pitch just a little bit over the plate and he hit it over the
The crowd was much more subdued than it was during the opener, when Matsuzaka pitched in his homeland for the first time since signing a $52 million, six-year contract with Boston before last season. … Boston OF Brandon Moss was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after the game. He went 2-for-8 with two RBIs in the series.