Wed, Mar 30, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Sinon Bulls reclaim top league spot

SOLID DISPLAY The defending champions clawed their way back to leading the standings after a flawless display against the popular Brother Elephants last week

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The Whales' Nelson Castro, being congratulated by his teammates after his game-winning home run in the Whales' 9-6 win over the Bears on Sunday.

PHOTO: SBL

Taking three of four games in their series play against the Brother Elephants last week, the Sinon Bulls have reclaimed the top spot in the league standings.

After losing the series opener to the Elephants in front of a home crowd in Taichung, the defending champs bounced back with three solid wins in a row against the nation's most popular baseball team.

Leading the way for the Bulls in those three wins were starters Jeff Andra of the US, Osvaldo Martinez of the Dominican Republic, and local boy Hsu Wen-pin, who combined to hold a powerful Elephants lineup to a lone run on eleven hits in 21 innings of stellar performance. In Martinez's case last Friday, it took the nine-year fireballer just 97 pitches to turn in a two-hit, complete-game shutout.

Offensively for the Bulls, their 5.3 runs-per-game average was more than ample in dealing with the troubled Elephants.

Like the Bulls, the Chinatrust Whales' week started off with Thursday's tough 4-3 loss in the extra innings against the La New Bears when normally sure-handed closer Dario Veras failed to preserve a 3-2 lead by surrendering a two-out, run-scoring double in the eighth to make it a 3-all tie and the game-clinching solo home run to the Bears' Victor Rodriguez in the tenth.

The Whales would return the favor in a close 3-2 win the following night when third baseman Chen Jia-hung's sacrifice fly to deep-right in the bottom of the sixth was the difference in the game, thanks to a perfect eighth and ninth by set-up man Tseng Jau-hao and Veras respectively.

Back-to-back homers served up by the Bears' Jose Vargas in the bottom of the eighth transformed a tight, 6-all tie into a 9-6 Whales' win and made a winner out of the Whales' rookie reliever Shen Yu-jeh, whose two innings of scoreless relief gave him victory number two in the young, yet exciting season.

The promising rookie, who played college ball at Japan's Beppu University, already has a pair of holds to his credit in addition to the two victories under his belt.

Looking ahead in this week's action, the top two squads in the league (the Bulls and the Whales) will meet head-to-head for the first time this season in a crucial three-game series, beginning with tomorrow night's contest in Hsinchu before Saturday's match in Tienmu and Sunday's series finale at Hsinchuang.

How well can the Bulls' staff contain the Whales' top run producer Nelson Castro (batting .333 with eight RBIs in six games thus far) and their ability to hit off the starters of the Whales will most likely determine which club will remain atop the standings come next Monday.

Also worth a visit to the ballpark this week is the four-game series between the President Lions and the Bears, starting with Tuesday's series opener in Kaohsiung.

All eyes will be on the new-and-improved Lions offense with its top RBI man in Israel Alcantara, whose ten RBIs in six games could set the Dominican native on pace to over 150 RBIs for the year.

Alcantara will not be the only man showing off his bat this week because the hosts' Victor Rodriguez with his league-leading .565 batting average and three homers, will make sure that the Lions' pitchers would not get away with many mistakes when facing the US slugger.

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