MLB Japan All-Star Series: J.T. Realmuto goes deep, Juan Soto doubles off the Tokyo Dome roof in opener

Thursday night in Japan and early Thursday morning in the United States, the 2018 MLB Japan All-Star Series opened in Tokyo. Every few years MLB sends a team of players to Japan for a series of exhibition games against Japanese players from Nippon Pro Baseball.

The MLB team beat the Yomiuri Giants, the New York Yankees of Japan, in the exhibition opener Thursday. The final score was 9-6 (box score). The MLB team used a five-run third inning to build a 7-0 lead, which they nursed the rest of the way. Marlins catcher and trade chip J.T. Realmuto was the star of the game, going 2 for 4 with a double and a home run. 

Realmuto is the subject of plenty of trade rumors these days -- his agent even said he expects him to be wearing another unifrom come spring training -- so I am kind of curious to find out what happens if he gets traded in the middle of the MLB Japan All-Star Series. Does he change uniforms mid-series? Do we get an international #hugwatch? The people demand answers.

Anyway, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, and Realmuto all had multiple hits in Thursday's game, including at least one extra-base hit. (Molina was the DH and Realmuto caught.) Soto's double was a pop-up that clanked off the Tokyo Dome roof and dropped in, Tropicana Field style. Check it out:

The highlight of Thursday's game was not Realmuto's homer or Soto's double or anything else the MLB team did. It was Yomiuri outfielder Seiya Matsubara splitting the left-center field gap for a three-run inside-the-park home run. Acuna and Soto had some communication issues, it appeared.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly is managing the MLB team and, following the game, he gave a somewhat serious "we need to play better defensively" response while speaking to reporters. Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times has the details:

"You never know what you're going to get when guys haven't played in like a month and just a couple of days of workouts and trying to get that together," MLB manager Don Mattingly said. "I thought they swung the bat good. But on the backside of that, I think we saw a little bit of rust as far as defensively, some of the plays that we gave up some extra outs.

"We were able to get away with it tonight. That's probably not something that we'll get away with if we continue to give extra outs."

Thursday's game was a tune-up for a six-game, seven-day series between the MLB team and NPB All-Stars. Here are the schedule and results. All games will be televised live on MLB Network.

DateTimeVenueLocationResult

Thurs., Nov. 8

6 p.m. local (4 a.m. ET)

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo

MLB 9, YOM 6 (box)

Fri., Nov. 9

6 p.m. local (4 a.m. ET)

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo

Sat., Nov. 10

6:30 p.m. local (4:30 a.m. ET)

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo

Sun., Nov. 11

7 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET)

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo

Tues., Nov. 13

6:30 p.m. local (4:30 a.m. ET)

Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium

Hiroshima

Weds., Nov. 14

7 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET)

Nagoya Dome

Nagoya

Thurs., Nov. 15

6 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET)

Nagoya

Nagoya


Here is MLB's 29-man roster for the MLB Japan All-Star Series. Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda is the lone Japanese-born player on MLB's roster. He pitched eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp before coming over to MLB. Japanese baseball legend and longtime Yankee Hideki Matsui is coaching first base for the MLB team. I imagine MLB would've loved to get Angels righty-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani involved in the event, but his recent Tommy John surgery interfered. 

The MLB Japan All-Star Series has been played at irregular intervals since 1986. The MLB All-Stars came into 2018 leading the all-time series 48-20, though the NPB All-Stars won three of the five games in 2014. The 2018 event will help serve as a development opportunity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Mariners and Athletics will open the 2019 regular season with two games at the Tokyo Dome on March 20 and 21.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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