Orix repeats as PL champion on historic tiebreaker after win on dramatic final day

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Orix Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima is given the ceremonial victory toss on Sunday night in Sendai after the team repeated as Pacific League champion.

The Orix Buffaloes did not have total control over their own destiny, but when the dust cleared and the Pacific League season was over, they came out as champions for the second straight year — and only by rarely used tiebreaking criteria.

Orix went into its season finale on Sunday night trailing the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks by one game, but the two teams finished with identical 76-65-2 records when the Buffaloes defeated the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles 5-2 in Sendai, then two minutes later, the Hawks finished up a 5-3 loss to the Chiba Lotte Marines in Chiba.

With the two teams tied with .539 winning percentages, the Buffaloes won the pennant based on its 15-10 head-to-head record against the Hawks.

That gave the franchise its 14th pennant overall, dating back to its days as the Hankyu Braves, and was its fourth as Orix, adding to back-to-back championships in 1995-1996.

Orix’s claiming of the PL title capped a remarkable surge by the Kobe-based team, which had been 11½ games out of first place in May. The pennant race gradually tightened up and the top five teams finished separated by only 7½ games.

It marks the first time ever that the pennant was decided by a head-to-head tiebreaker. In the past, teams have finished with no games separating them in the standings, but because of different numbers of ties, the titles were decided by differences in winning percentages.

The last time that two teams with a chance of winning the pennant both played on the final day of the season came in 1994, when the Yomiuri Giants defeated Chunichi Dragons for the CL pennant.