Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Cobras wriggle way into race for league's top spot

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Cobras starter Kleber Ojima earned his fifth win against the Lions on Wednesday, giving up one run on three hits and striking out nine batters in a complete-game effort.

PHOTO: CPBL

Back-to-back wins by the Macoto Cobras over the President Lions earlier this week have shrunk the Lions' lead over the second-place Brother Elephants to a half game and made the first-half title chase a three-way race, which includes the Elephants.

A clean sweep by the Lions in the four-game series had their fans talking about the Lions' potential crowning of the first-half title at home in Tainan tomorrow.

But now that they have lost two straight, the top three teams in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) are separated by only two games in the standings with five left to play, which means the winner for the first-half will not be determined until the final week of the first-half next week.

Wrap Up

Tuesday night's series opener had the Cobras jumping out to a 2-0 in the top of the first inning when shortstop Hsu Sheng-jeh's (許聖杰) RBI single drove home the leadoff runner that reached first base after a fielding error by Lions starter Benj Sampson. The runner then stole second to get into scoring position. Designated hitter Chiou Chang-rong's (丘昌榮) stand-up double brought home Hsu on the next play.

The 2-0 lead would stand until the bottom of the fourth when Lions right fielder Chen Lien-hung's (陳連宏) sharp liner up the middle brought in left fielder Wang Chuan-jia (王傳家) from second to make it 2-1 after four innings.

Cobras starter Yang Chi-jia (楊騏嘉) pitched five solid innings by allowing one run on four hits to keep the Lions hitters at bay, but the story of the game was the outstanding relief pitching by Lee Ming-jing (李明進), who came into the game in the sixth inning and one-hit the Lions in four masterful frames en route to his third save of the season.

Lee's brilliant performance made him the unanimous choice for the game-MVP honor in following 3-1 victory.

Game 2 of the series on Wednesday had the Cobras out in front 2-0 after the first inning once again -- this time on cleanup man Hsieh Jia-shien's (謝佳賢) two-run blast to right-center off Lions starter Joe Davenport for his eighth home run of the season.

The serpents then scored runs in the fourth, fifth, and seventh inning to seal the 5-1 win.

An illegal substitution by the Lions removed the designated hitter from the lineup and forced Davenport to bat for the first time this year. The sinker-ball specialist from the US, who has recently become notorious after striking a league-high 11 batters with inside pitches this season, grounded out to first -- but the thought of pending retribution may have crossed his mind.

Cobras starter Kleber Ojima earned his fifth victory by surrendering one run on three hits while striking out nine batters in a complete-game effort.

The Brazilian-born Japanese right-hander has quietly dropped his team-leading ERA to 1.65, fourth best in the league.

Upcoming Games

With the first-half title still up for grabs, all three series among the six CPBL teams will carry some weight in a tight race.

The Lions can only play for a tie in the four-game series by winning the remaining two games against the Cobras tonight and tomorrow.

It may be tough for the big cats to accomplish even a tie because they will have to face a pumped-up Lin Ying-jeh (林英傑), who lost a 2-1 heartbreaker last week in an 11-strikeout outing.

As for the Elephants, their three-series against the streaky Chinatrust Whales could be the difference in their title hunt because they need all three wins to remain in the race before the showdown against the Cobras next week.

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