While the 2018 MLB season has officially come to a close, thanks to the Red Sox’ championship win last month, there’s no shortage of baseball to watch these days. The Arizona Fall League is still in full swing, with no plans to wrap up until next Saturday, and over in Tokyo, the MLB All-Star team is taking on Samurai Japan in the seven-game Japan All-Star Series.
Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina made a big impact for the team on Sunday, collecting three hits en route to the MLB All-Stars’ first win of the series. He led with a base hit off of right-hander Shinsaburo Tawata in the first inning, then returned in the fourth to leg out another broken-bat single. In the fifth, however, he hit his stride with a powerful three-run homer, scoring the Dodgers’ Kiké Hernández and Royals’ Whit Merrifield to boost the team to a 5-1 lead.
It was a triumphant follow-up to a strong season for the 36-year-old catcher, who completed his 15th campaign with the Cardinals in 2018. While his best days are well behind him, he turned in an All-Star worthy performance after batting .261/.314/.436 with 20 home runs, a .750 OPS, and 2.2 fWAR through 503 plate appearances.
Following a four-run rally in the fifth, helped along by both Merrifield’s go-ahead bunt single and Molina’s home run, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez and Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger tacked on a pair of back-to-back RBI hits in the seventh. In the bottom of the ninth, Japan staged a rally of their own with two run-scoring doubles off of the Cardinals’ John Brebbia, but couldn’t quite catch the MLB All-Stars as they coasted to a 7-3 win.
With three games left to play, the series will pick up again in Hiroshima on Tuesday before concluding with its final two games in Nagoya. Samurai Japan currently leads 2-1.