The Hanshin Tigers, a baseball team based in Japan’s Kansai region, are back at the top of the Japan Series for the first time in 38 years.
Led by manager Akinobu Okada, 65, Hanshin defeated fellow Kansai team and Pacific League champion Oryx Buffaloes, 7-1, in Game 7 of the 2023 Japan Series on Friday at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan.굿모닝토토 도메인
By defeating the Oryx in a thrilling Game 7, Hanshin finally won their second Japan Series title in franchise history, 38 years after winning the title in 1985.
There’s a special story here, too. Coach Okada experienced Hanshin’s victory as a player 38 years ago. Hanshin made it to the Nippon Series in 2003 and 2005, but came up short each time. In 2005, Hanshin won the Central League title and lost the Japan Series in four games to the Chiba Lotte Marines, who were led by Lee Seung-yeop (now manager of the Doosan Bears in the KBO).
Okada then took the reins of Hanshin, but was unable to win a championship, and when he returned to the manager’s chair recently, he led Hanshin to the Central League title and the Japan Series title.
The Oryx won 5-1 behind a 138-pitch complete game from Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is trying to make it to the U.S. at the end of the season after falling to 2-3, but fell short in game seven.
It was an inevitable matchup. Both teams fielded the best players they could muster.
Hanshin’s starting lineup was Koji Chikamoto (center field), Takumu Nakano (second base), Shota Morishita (right field), Yusuke Oyama (first base), Sheldon Noji (left field), Fumihiro Haraguchi (designated hitter), Teruaki Sato (third base), Seiya Kinami (shortstop), and Seishiro Sakamoto (catcher). The starting pitcher was Koyo Aoyagi.
The Orix batting order was Keita Nakagawa (center field), Yuma Mune (third base), Kotaro Kurebayashi (shortstop), Tomoya Mori (catcher), Yuma Tongu (first base), Marwin Gonzalez (second base), Yutaro Sugimoto (designated hitter), Tomoya Noguchi (right field), and Shuhei Fukuda (left field), with Hiroya Miyagi facing Aoyagi.
The game started out as a pitcher’s duel. Aoyagi and Miyagi both pitched three scoreless innings, adding to the tension.
Hanshin’s offense got on the board in the top of the fourth inning. Morishita led off the inning with a single to left, and after Oyama was hit by a pitch to put runners in scoring position, Noiji came up with runners on first and second and blasted a solo home run over the left field fence to give Hanshin a 3-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth inning, they added another run to solidify the lead. RBI singles by Sakamoto and Chikamoto put runners at first and second and third after Nakano’s grounder, Miyagi was removed from the mound and the Oryx brought in Motoki Higa, but Hanshin Morishita’s RBI single and Oyama’s infield single and Noiji’s RBI single scored two more runs to extend the lead to 6-0.
Hanshin, on the other hand, held Aoyagi scoreless for 4⅔ innings before the bullpen held him to one run the rest of the way.
In the top of the ninth, Morishita’s RBI single capped a three-run inning. Oryx Tongu gave up a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth, but there was no more damage done, and Hanshin held on for the win.
Thousands of baseball fans flocked to the Dotonbori Riverfront, a symbol of Osaka, a major tourist destination in Japan. The Osaka Prefectural Police deployed 1,300 troops to ensure safety. There were also the usual celebrations. According to Japanese media, this had happened before when the team won the league championship, but this time, even more fans showed up. Even a large police presence didn’t stop them.
According to Japan’s Daily Sports, Okada told a press conference after the win, “Most of the players were not born 38 years ago. I was only in my sixth or seventh year in the organization,” Okada said, adding, “I was the president of the organization when I was 27, and it was the first time in 21 years that we won. It was the first time we won the Japan Series, and I can’t forget the feeling even now.”
His victory as a manager was no less impressive. “I can’t believe it’s been 38 years since then. “I can’t believe it’s been 38 years since then. I started with the goal of winning the Central League, but I didn’t expect to do it,” he said. “The Oryx were a really strong team, having won three straight Pacific League titles, but the players did a great job throughout the year until the end. “The Oryx were a really strong team, three-time defending Pacific League champions, and they played their part all year, right up until the end.