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Red Sox, A’s split MLB opening series in Japan

By web

Section: Sports

March 28, 2008

Major League Baseball began its 2008 regular season on Tuesday as the Oakland A’s and the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox played a two game series in Japan. The series, which became the earliest opening day in MLB history, ended in a split as the Sox took the opener 6-5 and the A’s responded 5-1 in Wednesday’s follow-up.

Prior to these contests, both Boston and Oakland played exhibition games against teams from Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s premier professional league. Each of these four games ended in a victory for the MLB team.

American teams have played exhibition series in Japan since 1908. Typically, the format of these early matches pitted a barnstorming club from the United States against sandlot-quality Japanese teams; the American teams usually won handily. Major League teams would sometimes go on exhibition tours against semi-pro Japanese clubs; rarely would the home team even come close. However, as the quality of Japanese baseball rose, the nature of these contests changed, and since 1986, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have worked together regularly to provide spring training matches for the Japanese fans.

Tuesday’s game was the 3rd MLB season opener to be held in Japan, and Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima’s victory marked the first time a Japanese pitcher had been credited with a win for a game played in his native country.

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