“We opened the door to history.”
The Hanshin Tigers swept the Orix Buffaloes 7-1 in Game 7 of the best-of-seven Japan Series 2023 (JS-7) at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan, on Friday to take the top spot in the best-of-three series.
It was only the second championship in franchise history and the first in 38 years since 1985, ending a long wait. The dramatic win for Hanshin, which along with the Yomiuri Giants is one of the most popular baseball teams in Japan, was widely covered by the Japanese media.
“History has been made,” said Nikkan Sports, a Japanese sports publication. The Hanshin Tigers have topped the Nippon Series for the second time in 38 years, since 1985.” Hanshin, which is based in the Kansai region, is one of the most popular professional sports teams in Japan, along with Yomiuri, but it hasn’t had much luck in recent years, finishing as runner-up in 2003, 2005, and 2014.
As such, Hanshin has been unwillingly labeled as the “second best team in the world” after Yomiuri. Even that has been shaken by the recent success of teams other than Yomiuri, such as the SoftBank Hawks and Oryx Buffaloes, in winning the Japan Series.
All the more dramatic, then. Japanese media also highlighted the story of head coach Akinobu Okada, 65, who led Hanshin to the Japan Series title as captain in 1985, returning to complete Hanshin’s sweep as head coach 38 years later.
“Akinobu Okada’s outstanding team management and leadership skills have led the team from the league championship to the top of the Japanese standings,” said Nikkan Sports, “and he has won the Japan Series title for the first time in the Tigers’ long history, both as a player and a manager. Next season is the final year of his two-year contract, but Hankyu Hanshin Holdings Chairman Hiroyuki Okada has mentioned the possibility of a long-term deal,” he said.
“I was 27 when I won (my first title), but it’s been a long time coming. I’m happy that I was able to achieve the top spot in Japan, both as a player and as a manager,” Okada smiled.
This year’s Japan Series saw the Central League’s top-ranked Hanshin and the Pacific League’s top-ranked Oryx go head-to-head in the Japan Series for the first time ever. Both teams are based in the Kansai region. In fact, Hanshin’s home stadium, Koshien, and the Orix’s home stadium, Kyocera Dome, are only a 17-minute train ride away on the Hanshin Namba Line.
The Japanese series, also known as the “Namba Line Series,” was a tightly contested affair. Hanshin won games 1-4 and 5, and Oryx won games 2-3 and 6, making it a three-game series until game 6. The teams were evenly matched at 23-23 in the best-of-seven series.
The seventh game, however, went the other way and ended in a sweep for Hanshin. In the top of the fourth inning, foreign hitter Sheldon Noiji hit a three-run home run. Noiji crushed a changeup from starter Hiroya Miyagi, one of Japan’s top young guns, over the left field fence.
With the momentum going their way, Hanshin added three more runs in the top of the fifth inning on a bases-loaded walk to extend their lead to 6-0.
Hanshin’s Koyo Aoyagi pitched the seventh inning in relief of the opening day starter to secure the win. Okada called him into the manager’s office to let him know that he was going to take on a big role, and Aoyagi repaid the faith with a complete game shutout.
In addition, Hanshin wrote a dramatic storyline that thrilled fans, as players who had been underperforming came up big in the series-deciding game with Okada’s faith in them.
According to Japanese media, Hanshin’s dramatic victory has been met with an outpouring of enthusiasm, with major Japanese broadcasters and social media outlets posting about Hanshin’s victory. 캡틴토토 주소