Wang Chien-ming (王建民) tossed six innings of shutout ball and Peng “Chia Chia” Cheng-min (彭政閔) homered on a two-RBI effort as Taiwan defeated Australia 4-1 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium yesterday afternoon to win the opener of Pool B play in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
It was the first game that Wang had played in Taiwan in more than 10 years, and the former New York Yankees ace was at his very best as he silenced the Aussie hitters with a stunning sinker that led to three double plays over six innings of four-hit ball to give the home team an auspicious start in a tournament in which it had not fared so well previously.
“Getting ahead of the hitters was very important for me, then it becomes a matter of keeping them off-balance because they are behind in the count,” a soft-spoken Wang said after the game.
His total dominance on the mound also provided the Taiwanese coaching staff with plenty of flexibility in terms of the number of pitchers that will be available in later games.
“[Wang] was definitely the key to our success today; being able to go six innings under the pitch count really made it easier on us in terms of who we can put on the mound later on,” a very pleased Taiwan skipper Hsieh Chang-heng (謝長亨) said after the game.
With Wang holding his ground, the home batters also made it count early in the contest as Yang Dai-kang (陽岱鋼) led off the bottom of the first with a single off Australian starter Chris Oxspring and scored two batters later on Peng’s single to right to give Taiwan a quick 1-0 lead.
Taiwan added to their advantage by a couple in the third, when Lin Chih-sheng (林智勝) drilled a double to deep-left with men on first and second for his team’s second run, before Chou Si-chi (周思齊) followed with an RBI groundout to first that scored the runner from third to make it 3-0.
After a scoreless fourth against Aussie reliever Warwick Saupold, the home team were able to strike again on offense, this time with Peng going deep against the righty from Darwin for a solo blast to the opposite-field in a 4-0 game.
“The scouting report says [Saupold] likes to pitch near the plate, so I just wanted to make good contact on the ball early in the count,” Peng said of his at-bat.
Trailing by four and running out of time, Australia managed to get a run back in the seventh on the strength of a solo blast by Stefan Welch off Taiwanese reliever Yang Yao-hsun (陽耀勳). The run proved to be the only offense that Australia could muster against their hosts as Yang promptly retired the next batter he faced on an inning-ending strikeout before Kuo Hong-chih (郭泓志) and Chen Hung-wen (陳鴻文) combined for a perfect eighth and ninth respectively to preserve the victory for Wang.
Next up for Taiwan is a tough game against the Netherlands with the opening pitch scheduled for 2:30pm this afternoon.
Wang Yao-lin (王躍霖) was named the starter for today’s game by Hsieh right after the win over Australia yesterday afternoon.