Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 20 News List

League leaders about to face off

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Lions starting pitcher Donald Lemon prepares to throw some heat during his last win, which was against the Whales on July 11. The Lions face the Elephants this week.

PHOTO: CPBL

Regular-season play will resume this week in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League following the completion of All-Star activities in Hsinchuang over the weekend.

The matchup of the week will be a highly anticipated four-game series between the league-leading President Lions and the second-place Brother Elephants.

With the Elephants trailing the big cats by just a game in the standings as of Monday and the Sinon Bulls lurking a half-game behind the Elephants, the outcome of the series could play an important role on how the standings shape up by next week.

Inconsistent starting pitching, which had not been a problem for the Elephants until recently, has quietly crept up to the top of skipper Lin Yi-tseng's (林易增) list of problems.

His experimentation with placing top starter Jonathan Hurst at the closer's role for two weeks in the interest of improving late-inning relief has led to three blown saves. As a result, Lin has decided to put Hurst back in the starting rotation.

Rookie starter Chuang Pei-chuan (莊培全) has shown some brilliance at times, and he maintains a respectable 2.84 ERA. But Chuang continues to struggle with his control, having thrown a team-high four wild pitches in six starts, in addition to hitting four batters.

With Nakagomi Sin at age 34, Yokota Hisanori turning 37 in two months, and Hurst approaching 38, manager Lin and pitching coach Liu Yi-chuang (劉義傳) may have to reach into their bag of tricks to bring the team into the postseason.

on a roll

As for the Lions, who are looking to add to their seven-game winning streak, the series with the Elephants could well be a preview for the postseason matchup, as the league's top starting rotation takes on the most potent offense in Taiwan's professional ranks.

June's Pitcher-of-the-Month Jose Alberro (5-0 in his last seven starts) will lead the Lions with help from newcomer Donald Lemon (2-0 in two starts) and eight-game winner Pan Wei-luen (潘威倫) against the heart of the Elephants order, consisting of Chen "the Golden Warrior" Chih-yuan (陳致遠), Peng "Chia Chia" Cheng-ming (彭政閔), and Tsai Fong-an (蔡豐安).

All three hitters are members of the national team that will compete in the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.

Cobras versus Bears

Also in action this week is the three-game showdown between the Macoto Cobras and the La New Bears.

The two former Taiwan Major League (TML) clubs have both reached a critical junction in the season where winner of the series can remain in stride with the league leaders. The fourth-place Cobras have not lost a game since July 3, while the Bears showed fight during their recent series with the Elephants.

Whales versus Bulls

The Chinatrust Whales' will pay a visit to the Bulls in front of a hostile Taichung crowd this week for a three-game stint. It will be an uphill battle for Whales manager Hsu Sheng-ming (徐生明) and his crew as they attempt to put an end the team's eight-game winless slump.

The Whales will need to focus on defense as they have averaged 2.4 errors per game in their last eight outings.

Despite Hsu's repeated claims that his role as Taiwan's Olympic baseball coach has not affected his team's performance, some observers believe that burning the candle on both ends may be catching up with him.

Also weighing on Hsu's mind is the delayed arrival of new foreign pitcher. The Whales have not had a sound replacement since the departure of former Major Leaguer Rusty Meacham, who was released at the end of June.

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