The Hanshin Tigers celebrate their first Japan Series championship since 1985, lofting manager Akinobu Okada after defeating the Orix Buffaloes 7-1 in game seven. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The Central League champion Hanshin Tigers won their second Japan Series championship title, beating the Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes 7-1 at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan.
Hanshin Tigers center fielder Koji Chikamoto was named the 2023 Japan Series MVP after recording 14 hits and scoring eight runs during the series.
This is the first Nippon Professional Baseball championship for the Hanshin Tigers since the 1985 Japan Series, when they beat the Seibu Lions in six games and Randy Bass was named the MVP of the series.
The Tigers pitching staff combined for allowing eight hits, one earned run, one walk, and five strikeouts during in game seven.
The Tigers got on the board in the top of the fourth inning when left fielder Sheldon Neuse launched a three-run home run down the left field line, scoring right fielder Shota Morishita and first baseman Yusuke Oyama to give the Tigers took a 3-0 lead.
Orix Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima went to his bullpen during the top of the fifth inning, bringing on Miki Higa to replace starting pitcher Hiroya Miyagi. Miyagi faced 20 batters through 4.2 innings with 74 pitches, allowing five hits, five strikeouts, and five earned runs during game seven.
A few moments later, the Tigers added three more runs, starting when Morishita laced a double down the left field line scoring catcher, Seishiro Sakamoto to make it 4-0. The next batter, Oyama, hit an infield single between shortstop and third base, and second baseman Takumu Nakano came into score to extend the lead to 5-0. Neuse then ripped an RBI single into center field and Morishita came in to score the sixth run of the game for the Tigers.
Hanshin Tigers starting pitcher Akihiro Aoyagi threw 4.2 innings facing 19 batters with 79 pitches and allowed four hits alongside striking out three batters during his performance.
In the top of the ninth inning, Morishita ripped an RBI single to center field, scoring Chikamoto to make it 7-0.
Tigers relief pitcher Takuma Kirishiki entered the ninth inning looking to seal the second championship in the history of their franchise. Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada went to the mound from the dugout as he took Kirishiki out of the game to call upon relief pitcher Yu Iwazaki.
Iwazaki got Buffaloes designated hitter Yutaro Sugimoto to fly out to left field and Neuse camped under the final out of the game, giving the Hanshin Tigers their second Japan Series championship.
The Orix Buffaloes pitching staff allowed 12 hits, seven earned runs, and eight strikeouts during the game seven loss.
This was the first Japan Series with two teams from Japan’s Kansai region since the Hanshin Tigers faced off against the Nankai Hawks during the 1964 Japan Series.
The Orix Buffaloes failed to win back-to-back championships during Sunday’s game seven loss. The last time the organization repeated as Japan Series champions was when they won three consecutive titles from 1975-77.
YAMAMOTO WILL BE POSTED: The Orix Buffaloes also announced on their website and social media pages that starting pitcher Yoshinobou Yamamoto will be posted as a free agent and will be allowed to sign with a Major League Baseball organization during the 2023-24 offseason.
According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, “If the player accepts an offer from MLB, then the Japanese team will be compensated depending on the guaranteed money in the player’s contract: For Major League contracts with a total guaranteed value between $25 and $50 million, the release fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million plus 17.5 percent of the total guaranteed value exceeding $25 million. For contracts with a guaranteed value of $50 million or more, the release fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million plus 17.5 percent of the next $25 million, plus 15 percent of the total guaranteed value that exceeds $50 million.”
Yamamoto is listed as one of the top 1- free agent players that are available to be signed during the 2023-24 offseason.
The Japan/MLB Posting System agreement has been revised several times since the system started in 1999. The process is, essentially, an auction system agreed and regulated upon by MLB and NPB which allows MLB teams to bid on NPB players before they complete nine seasons and become free agents.
The 30 MLB organizations have 45 days to try to reach an agreement with the player after being placed up for auction by his team in Japan. If no agreement is reached within that period, the player remains with his original team and cannot be auctioned until the end of the following season.