The difference between playing a mostly representative NPB season — as opposed to 50 or 60 games — or having it all fall apart was always as tenuous as some dinner plans.

That was laid bare last week as the league experienced its first midseason coronavirus cluster, with five Hanshin Tigers players and two staffers testing positive. The Tigers, of course, were the first NPB team to be struck by the virus, with pitcher Shintaro Fujinami and two others testing positive in March.

In this instance, pitcher Masumi Hamachi had a positive result come back Thursday. That was followed by positive virus tests for pitchers Kosuke Baba and Yuta Iwasada, captain Kento Itohara and infielder Naomasa Yokawa.