The three men who managed the Orix Buffaloes prior to Norifumi Nishimura — Akinobu Okada, Hiroshi Moriwaki and Junichi Fukura — had two winning seasons in a combined nine years in charge.
They made just one trip to the postseason — in 2014 when Moriwaki’s team finished in second place and missed out on the Pacific League pennant by percentage points.
The vast majority of their near-decade in charge was filled with questionable decisions on and off the field and losses. A lot of losses. The Buffaloes had two seasons where they lost at least 80 games and another with 79.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying everything can’t be laid at the feet of Nishimura, the latest Orix manager to depart having lost more games than he won (he was 77-108-11).
Nishimura, who was hired in 2019, resigned Thursday. The team was 16-33-4 and had lost 13 of the last 16 games he managed, including getting off to an 0-3 start in last week’s series against the Seibu Lions.
Farm team manager Satoshi Nakajima took over Friday and promptly won his first three games in the big chair as Orix salvaged a split in the series.
Adam Jones homered in all three wins — hitting two Saturday — to help get the Nakajima Era off to a good start. He drove in eight runs in those three games.
“Just trying to be aggressive,” Jones said. “I’m not trying to hit the ball out the park, I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and put a good swing on it and the last couple days, it’s been working. So hopefully it can continue.”
After falling a season-high 17-games under .500 on Thursday, something probably needed to change.
“I’ve been leading this team as the manager since last year and I’ve felt the growth of the players,” Nishimura said in a statement released by the team. “But we couldn’t turn that into results and as the leader I have to take responsibility.”
The Orix brass, though, isn’t without blame. A lot of their decisions (including hiring Nishimura, some would say) led the club to this point, even if the manager is the one falling on his sword. Trouble in Orix is a feature, not a bug, at this point and something the club is going to have to figure out at some point.
Let’s not forget, Fukura got the job after Moriwaki took the mysterious “rest” managers who’ve lost a lot of games seem to take and never come back from in 2015. Moriwaki himself got the gig when Okada was shown the exit in September of 2012.
Stable teams don’t do this.
Whatever is ailing the club, it’s all on Nakajima’s plate now.
“I want to combine what I’ve been doing on the farm up until now with the power of the entire team,” Nakajima told the club website. “Our key man is going to be everyone on the team.”
Teams who are in good shape don’t usually change managers midseason, so Nakajima may have an uphill fight on his hands.
Orix is last in the PL in runs scored and is the only NPB team with a winning percentage under .400.
Daiki Tajima and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are the only pitchers on the team with at least six starts and ERAs under 3.50. No Buffaloes hitter has reached double digits in home runs despite Jones’ weekend blitz. Masataka Yoshida, though, is batting .373 with seven homers.
Nakajima will get a trial by fire in his first full week in charge, with road series against the first-place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and second-place Chiba Lotte Marines queued up. Orix is 3-20-1 against those two clubs this year.
At least they’ll be riding into this week on a three-game win streak.
“We’re just going to play the game as hard as we can, as a team,” Jones said. “Just try and be there for each other and play the game hard and play it right.”
The Hawks and Marines, actually, met last week in Chiba. The Marines won three of the first four games, including a tie, to move into sole possession of first place Friday.
Their time at the top was fleeting, as SoftBank took the last two games and moved back to the top.
The Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita spent the weekend seeing how far he could hit balls at Zozo Marine Stadium, with homers in each of the last three games. Yanagita finished the series with seven hits and drove in six runs.
In Sapporo, Sho Nakata continued to drive in runs in bunches for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Nakata hit three homers and drove in eight runs to help the Fighters go 3-2-1 against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Nakata is currently leading NPB with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs.
Starting this week, the PL will move away from six-game series, which were implemented to limit travel, and return to playing three-game sets.
The Chunichi Dragons have been the hottest team in the Central League. They kept it going last week by winning two of three against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and sweeping the Yokohama BayStars.
The Dragons are currently in third place in the CL. The club hasn’t finished in the A-Class since 2012 but is hoping to stay in the hunt this season — although due to COVID-19 only the pennant winner will have a postseason.
Chunchi had a good week on the mound. Koji Fukutani and Takahiro Matsuba each went seven innings in their starts, with the former allowing two runs and the latter just one. Then on Saturday, Yariel Rodriguez went six scoreless.
Ace Yudai Ono took the mound Sunday and capped the week with a five-hit shutout.
The Dragons have now won five straight series. The team was nine-games under .500 on Aug. 6 and is now 26-27-4.
At the top of the standings, the Yomiuri Giants began the week by sweeping the Hanshin Tigers before being swept by the Hiroshima Carp to end it. Yomiuri, though, is still 4½ games ahead of the second-place BayStars.
As for the rest of the CL, the BayStars were 2-3-1 last week; the Hanshin Tigers and Tokyo Yakult Swallows were each 2-4 and the Carp finished 3-2-1.
Oh yes: Yudai Ono
The Dragons ace tossed a five-hitter against the BayStars on Sunday and is one of the hottest pitchers in NPB.
Sunday’s gem was Ono’s fourth consecutive complete-game victory and his first shutout of the season. Ono has allowed just five runs in his last 36 innings.
Hard to get one over on the: Yomiuri Giants
With Thursday’s 2-0 win over Hanshin, the Giants didn’t just sweep the Tigers, they completely shut out their CL rivals.
Yomiuri’s pitching staff didn’t yield a single run during the three-game series, something they hadn’t accomplished against the Tigers in 25 years.
Keep slinging it: Choji Murata
The former Lotte great, now 70, threw out the first pitch before the Marines-Hawks game Saturday and the 215-game winner has still got a little left in the tank.
Murata, who pitched from 1968-1990, got a nice ball to the catcher cleanly, on the fly and didn’t come close to bouncing it. While the speed wasn’t displayed on the scoreboard this time, Murata hit 112 kph on the gun during a first pitch in 2018.
It was a good week for: Adam Jones
It’s been an eventful week for the Buffaloes, but fans will surely be hoping the way the American ended the week — with four homers in three games — is a sign of better things to come.
It was a bad week for: Norifumi Nishimura.
The now-former Orix manager struck a losing note on his way out the door last week.
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