Hanshin Tigers Roar to 1st Central League Title in 18 Yrs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hanshin skipper Akinobu Okada gets the ceremonial victory toss after the Tigers clinched their first Central League title in 18 years at Koshien Stadium on Thursday night.

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo — The Hanshin Tigers clinched their first Central League pennant in 18 years and sixth overall with a 4-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium on Thursday night.

Yusuke Ohyama delivered a sacrifice fly and Teruaki Sato hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Tigers won their 11th straight game, their longest winning streak in 41 years, to clinch the pennant in 128 games, their fastest ever.

“Everyone wanted to clinch the title at Koshien,” said Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada, who returned to the post this season. “I never imagined we would be this strong in September.”

Okada, 65, the skipper when the Tigers won their last league title in 2005, instilled a philosophy of defense-oriented baseball centered on a strong mound staff led by 10-game winner Shoki Murakami.

The team won 19 games in May, a club record for wins in a month, which included a nine-game winning streak that was its longest in 16 years.

The Tigers took over the Central League lead on May 13 and, after falling out of first place at one point in both June and July, moved on top to stay on July 28.