The Oryx Buffaloes cut their Pacific League championship magic number to two. Second-year pitcher Kohei Azuma, 24, has won seven straight games since making his debut.
The Orix won 3-2 against the Chiba Lotte Marines on April 19 at Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan. With 78 points (4 wins, 47 draws), the Oryx moved within striking distance of the league title by catching second-place Chivarode (63 points, 5 draws, 59 losses) on head-to-head. A win on Tuesday would clinch the league title on home soil.
Starting pitcher Kohei Azuma earned his sixth win of the season with seven innings of five-hit ball, one walk, five strikeouts and one earned run. Azuma, who made his first-team debut last season, is 6-0 with a 1.71 ERA in nine games (47⅓ innings) this season. He is on a seven-game winning streak since making his first-team debut, including one win last season.
According to Japanese media outlet Daily Sports, “Azuma has won seven straight games without a loss since turning pro. It is the longest debut winning streak in franchise history, surpassing Minoru Nishida’s six consecutive debut wins in 1957-1958 during the Hankyu era. For Nippon Professional Baseball as a whole, it is the third-best record in 81 years, after Hideo Fujimoto (then Yomiuri) in 1942.”
In the bullpen, Shota Abe (one scoreless inning) and Yoshihisa Hirano (one run in one inning) secured the win with a hold and a save, respectively. Hirano earned his 26th save of the season. At the plate, Ryoichi Adachi, Keita Nakagawa, and Yutaro Sugimoto each had multi-hit performances.
If the Oryx, who have just two magic numbers left, can clinch the league title with a win against Chiba Lotte on Tuesday, they will celebrate in front of their home fans for the first time since Satoshi Nakajima took over as head coach. “All seats are already sold out for the match on Tuesday,” Daily Sports reported, emphasizing the importance of the match.
Meanwhile, in the Central League, Hanshin, which like the Oryx is based in Osaka and the Kansai region, has already clinched the league title with a home win over Yomiuri on April 14. On that day, 안전놀이터 the Dotonbori River in downtown Osaka was already in a festive mood, with Hanshin fans jumping into the river to celebrate the win.
If the Oryx clinch the title, it will be the first time in Nippon Professional Baseball history that both the Oryx and Hanshin have won the league title in the same year. Including the Orix’s predecessor, Hankyu, Hanshin and the Orix have never won the league title at the same time. Hankyu won the title in 1984 and Hanshin won the title in 1985, but never within a year of each other. The two teams have also never met in the Japan Series. The Oryx won the 1975, 1976, 1977, 1996, and 2022 Nippon Series titles, while Hanshin’s only Nippon Series win came in 1985.