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In an All-Kansai Japan Series, Hanshin's Offense Faces a Stiff Test vs Orix's Superb Pitching

For the first time since 1964, two teams from Kansai will square off in the Japan Series. Fifty-nine years ago, the Hawks triumphed over the Tigers.



Japan Series
A photo collage of the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes, who will meet in the 2023 Japan Series. (©SANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - In an All-Kansai Japan Series, Hanshin's Offense Faces a Stiff Test vs Orix's Superb Pitching

The Hanshin Tigers are hoping their balanced attack can counter the stellar pitching of the defending champion Orix Buffaloes when the first all-Kansai Japan Series in 59 years kicks off on Saturday, October 28.

In 1964, the last time two teams from Kansai squared off in the Japan Series, the Osaka-based Nankai Hawks, currently the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, defeated the Tigers four games to three.

There is certain to be an electric atmosphere in Kansai and all over Japan for this series. 

Hanshin hasn't won a championship title in 38 years and its notoriously rabid fans will make their presence felt both at Koshien Stadium and at Kyocera Dome where the Buffaloes are the home team.

"I think everyone is going to see a passionate Kansai series, one that will excite the entire nation," Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima said, according to Kyodo News.

The Buffaloes defeated the Tokyo Yakult Swallows four games to two in the 2022 Japan Series and have experience on their side.

You have to go all the way back to 1985 for the only time the Tigers won the championship. That was when Randy Bass was the MVP in a four games to two victory over the Seibu Lions.

Japan Series
Hanshin Tigers fans, seen during Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series Final Stage on October 20 at Koshien Stadium, have waited since 2014 for the team to return to the Japan Series. (©SANKEI)


The Road to the Japan Series

The 2023 Tigers wrapped up the Central League pennant with a comfortable 11½-game lead over second-place Hiroshima. And they quickly dispatched the Carp in the final stage of the Climax Series with a three-game sweep.


"The support we received from the home fans was on a different level from the regular season," Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada told Kyodo News after the win over Hiroshima.

Japan Series
Tigers manager Akinobu Okada (KYODO)

Orix was equally dominant in the Pacific League, finishing 15½ games ahead of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who the Buffaloes defeated in four games in the other second-stage series to book a spot in their third straight Japan Series.

High-Scoring Tigers Rely on Collective Contributions

The Tigers did not have a single starting player bat over .300 in the regular season, but that didn't stop them from scoring a league-high 555 runs.

Okada preached patience at the plate and the Hanshin batters took heed, leading the league in walks with 494.

At the plate, the Tigers were led by leadoff hitter Koji Chikamoto and sluggers Yusuke Oyama and Teruaki Sato.

Japan Series
Teruaki Sato is one of Hanshin's offensive catalysts. (©SANKEI)

Chikamoto batted .285, drove in 54 runs and stole 28 bases. Oyama had 19 homers and 78 RBIs while Sato connected for 24 homers and had 92 RBIs.

But it was very much a balanced attack with batters 1 through 9 contributing whether it was rookie Shota Morishita or infielder Seiya Kinami ― they all chipped in.

Japan Series
Tigers rookie Shota Morishita (©SANKEI)

Can the Tigers carry that balanced approach over when they are up against one of the best pitching staffs in Japanese baseball?

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.



Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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