Oh Seung-hwan, no KBO MVP, finally wins Hanshin title after 18 years! Consulate warns of ‘overflow crowds’

The Hanshin Tigers were the most popular team in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), but they were far from the top. Now, after 18 years of hard work, they’ve won their first league title.

Hanshin won its 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball home game against the Yomiuri Giants 4-3 on Thursday at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan.

The win was Hanshin’s 11th in a row, improving their season record to 80-44-1 (.645 winning percentage) and erasing the last remaining “1” from their magic number. Even if second-place Hiroshima (69 wins, 59 losses, and four draws) wins all of its games and Hanshin loses all of its games, it will not be able to overturn its win percentage. With the win, Hanshin clinched the Central League title.

Hanshin was 0-0 through five innings before the bats came alive in the sixth. After a leadoff single by Koji Chikamoto, Hanshin had runners on first and third when Shota Morishita singled to left. Yusuke Oyama led off the inning with a sacrifice fly and scored on Teruaki Sato’s two-run home run to give Hanshin a 3-0 lead.

After starter Hiroto Saiki pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, Hanshin gave up single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but were able to hold on for the win. When closer Suguru Iwazaki got the final out, everyone in the dugout rushed to the mound to celebrate.

The victory was a happy one for Hanshin. It was their first Central League title in 18 years, since 2005. Back then, Hanshin topped the league with a season record of 87 wins, 54 losses, and five draws (a winning percentage of 0.617). With a batting lineup led by Tomoyaki Kanemoto and the “JFK” pitching staff, Hanshin advanced to the Japan Series, where they were swept in four games by Chiba Lotte, led by Lee Seung-yeop (now manager of Doosan), who hit three home runs.

Prior to this victory, Hanshin had won just five league titles in the more than 80 years since its founding in 1937. After winning their first Nippon Series title in 1985, they hadn’t reached the top of the Nippon Series since. Even in 2003, when they had the best combined winning percentage in both leagues (0.630), they lost the Japan Series to the Dai-Eh Hawks (now SoftBank) in three games to four. 카지노

As the years passed without a win, Hanshin brought in players from the KBO to bolster the roster, most notably Oh Seung-hwan (now Samsung), who won the save title two years in a row and was named the Climax Series MVP in 2014, leading the team to the Japan Series. Since then, the team has brought in foreign players such as Mel Rojas Jr. (former KT), the 2020 KBO MVP, Willin Rosario (former Hanwha), Jerry Sands (former Kiwoom), and Raul Alcantara (current Doosan).

However, they were unable to make it to the top of the standings, despite several second-place finishes. Last year, their winning percentage dropped to .063, and they had to fight their way back to make the postseason.

This year was different. Hanshin started off fresh with four straight wins to open the season, followed by a nine-game winning streak in May, and a 10-game winning streak in August for the first time in 16 years. They followed that up with an 11-game winning streak in September that eventually sealed the title. Akinobu Okada, who won the title in 2005, brought another honor to Hanshin by stabilizing the team in his first season back.

Hanshin’s fans, who are known for their rabid fandom, had a wild night as the team clinched its first title in 18 years. The Dotonbori River in Osaka, home to many Hanshin fans, is traditionally known for fans jumping into the river after every Hanshin victory, and this year was no exception. According to Japanese media, including the Sankei Shimbun, police were heavily deployed at the Ebisu Bridge, a popular diving spot, but fans continued to jump from the promenade into the river. At one point, police even closed the bridge to traffic.

The bridge was packed from 5 p.m. before the match started, and as Hanshin’s victory grew closer, the crowds grew larger. When Hanshin finally won, the entire area erupted in cheers. Fans jumped into the river to celebrate, despite police urging them not to.

The Korean government had anticipated this situation and warned tourists to be careful. The Korean Consulate General in Osaka posted a notice titled “Notice of Precautions for Traveling to Osaka” on the 11th. “As a large number of people are expected to congregate in the Dotonbori area, we ask our citizens who are planning to visit Dotonbori to visit other areas during daytime hours if possible and have a safe trip,” the consulate said.

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