Ryosuke Kikuchi drove in the go-ahead run on a squeeze bunt as Japan rallied with four runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat the MLB All-Stars 5-3 and take a 3-1 lead in their six-game exhibition series on Tuesday.
The ninth-inning comeback started when Kirby Yates walked leadoff batter Kazuki Tanaka, who stole second and scored on Seiji Uebayashi’s single to center to cut the MLB lead to 3-2.
Japan tied the game on Kosuke Tanaka’s single to center that scored Uebayashi from second.
John Brebbia replaced Yates, and Japan took the lead on Kikuchi’s squeeze bunt up the first base line that scored Kosuke Tanaka from third.
“I thought we defended it well,” MLB manager Don Mattingly said of Kikuchi’s bunt. “It wasn’t a surprise. Carlos (Santana) was there, he just didn’t get a lot on the throw. They did a nice job of fouling balls off and putting balls in play.”
The hosts added an insurance run on Yuki Yanagita’s high chopper over the head of Brebbia that allowed Shogo Akiyama to score from third.
Yasuaki Yamasaki recorded the final three outs for the save.
Yates, who gave up four runs, two unearned, took the loss.
Maeda, who spent nine seasons with the Hiroshima Carp before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, struck out two and gave up one hit before being replaced by Matt Andriese.
Rhys Hoskins hit an opposite-field solo homer to right in the second inning to give his team an early lead.
The MLB squad added another run in the seventh.
Ronald Acuna Jr., who was named National League Rookie of the Year earlier in the day, reached on a missed catch error by the pitcher, stole second, and scored on Juan Soto’s double to right.
Akiyama hit an inside-the-park home run down the left field line past a diving Soto for Japan’s first run in the top of the eighth.
A sacrifice fly by Santana to left field in the ninth scored Amed Rosario from third and restored the two-run lead before Japan’s four-run ninth.
Former Hiroshima Carp and major league pitcher Hiroki Kuroda threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The final two games are on Wednesday and Thursday in Nagoya.