Chunichi’s Rally for a Comeback Championship This Year with Plunge from First to Last in 8 Years | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Chunichi’s Rally for a Comeback Championship This Year with Plunge from First to Last in 8 Years

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Manager Tatsunami (right) welcomes Nakata, who hit a home run. The presence of these two individuals is having a significant impact on Chunichi this year.

At one point, they stood at the top of the league standings alone for the first time in eight years and amassed up to six consecutive wins, but a string of losses saw them plummet to last place by May 4th. With two consecutive 6th place finishes in the previous seasons, Chunichi seems to evoke sighs of ‘Will it be the same this year?’ from fans. Will their early-season momentum end up as just another spring anomaly?

However, former Chunichi ace Tatsuo Komatsu remains optimistic.

“It’s still May, you know. The difference between the first and last place teams in this season’s Central League is small. There’s no need to be pessimistic just because we’ve dropped to the bottom. I believe we have a chance not only to enter the A-Class but also to come back and win the championship.”

“I am passionate about this.”

Chunichu’s’ resurgence is by no means a pipe dream. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as pointed out by Komatsu, it’s the presence of Sho Nakata, who transferred from the Giants.

“The lineup has gained depth. Last season, only Seiya Hosokawa was marked as the main threat, but with Nakata’s addition, the attention of opposing pitchers has been divided. This has relieved pressure on Hosokawa, allowing him to hit more freely, which is significant.”

Nakata’s positive influence extends beyond the depth of the batting lineup.

“Nakata not only communicates with the outfielders but also freely talks to the pitchers and unifies the team. Despite his tough image, he is a very caring player. During his time at the Nippon-Ham Fighters, he often invited teammates to his hometown during the Hiroshima away games. Even with the Giants, he diligently coached his junior player Akihiro (Masato) during voluntary training, which helped him break through.

Even after joining the Chunichi Dragons, his attitude of caring for those around him has not changed. Ace pitcher Yuya Yanagi, who hosted a meal gathering, was impressed by Nakata’s passionate explanation of batter psychology to young pitchers, saying that they could feel his enthusiasm. There may be further downturns in the team’s condition in the future. However, with the presence of Nakata as their elder, he will surely inspire the players and help them overcome adversity.” (Team insider)

The second reason for Chunichi’s comeback victory is the transformation of Manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami.

“In his third year as manager, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami seems to have gained a sense of ease, as his smile has become more frequent. Until last season, scenes of him sternly reprimanding players for mistakes with a strict expression were common. After two consecutive last-place finishes, he must have thought, ‘What can I do to produce results?’ and made a ‘change’ as a manager. The tense mood of the team has been refreshed, and the players are playing in a very positive atmosphere. Even in the face of losses, there’s a forward-looking attitude that we can bounce back.

With a solid starting rotation including Shinnosuke Ogasawara, Takahiro Matsuba, Humberto Mejia, Hideaki Wakui, and Hiroto Takahashi, the relief pitchers are solid. Furthermore, the addition of Nakata to the lineup has strengthened the offense. The team’s strength is comparable to that of last season’s champions, the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants. I feel a sense of strength in this season’s Chunichi Dragons. With the current Dragons, they can seriously aim for the championship.” (Sports Newspaper Reporter)

Will it end as wishful thinking, or has Chunichi truly changed? The mid-season, where their true worth will be tested, is beginning.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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