The Macoto Cobras wasted no time in securing their first Taiwan Series appearance in franchise history by downing the President Lions 4-2 in Game 4 of their playoff series on Tuesday to win the best-of-five event 3-1.
Facing potential elimination, the home Lions sent Game 1 starter Jose Espinal to the mound to take on Yang Chi-jia of the Cobras in the hope of forcing a deciding Game 5 in Tainan.
But the Dominican righty, who pitched a five-hit gem in the series-opener despite taking the tough loss, could not equal his earlier brilliance. Espinal allowed three hits in the second inning to give the Cobras an early 1-0 lead.
After scoreless third and fourth innings, the Cobras added a pair of runs to their lead in the fifth inning on the strength of outfielder Chiou Chang-rong's RBI ground-out and cleanup man Hsieh "The Ugly" Jia-shien's two-out single up the middle to build a seemingly comfortable 3-0 cushion.
Held to only two hits over six shutout innings against a flagging Yang, the Lions finally made their move in the seventh inning against Cobras reliever Hsu Chu-jien, who surrendered a single and a run-producing double, on top of a walk to start off the inning, before recording his first out on a sacrifice bunt.
Leading 3-1 with runners on second and third, Cobras manager Kuo Tai-yuan called for lefty reliever Lin Ying-jeh, who struck out the next batter before giving up a base hit for the Lions' second run of the game.
It took a picture-perfect throw by Hsieh from the shallow-center to gun down the would-be tying run at the plate, leaving the Cobras with a narrow 3-2 advantage.
"He [Hsieh] really came up huge for us tonight," Kuo said after the game. "Besides playing a role in two of our four runs [scoring one and knocking in the other] on the offensive end, he also stopped the tying run from scoring with that cannon arm which ended their scoring threat."
* Cobras at Bulls, Oct. 29, at Douliou
* Cobras at Bulls, Oct. 30, at Douliou
* Bulls at Cobras Oct. 31, at Taichung
* Bulls at Cobras, Nov. 2 at Chiayi
The Cobras added an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning on catcher Wu Jau-hui's ground-out to second base that scored the runner from third to give his club a 4-2 lead, leaving the rest up Lin Ying-jeh who pitched hitless eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory.
It was Lin's third appearance in the four-game series, netting the regular-season strikeout king two wins and a save.
On a night when at least three Cobras players were deserving of the game-MVP honor, starter Yang beat out Hsieh and Lin for his six innings of two-hit work, completely dominating a Lions lineup that also had the Tainan crowd on its side.
As for the Lions, starter Espinal was dealt the loss for allowing the first three Macoto runs in 4-2/3 innings of work, leaving the veteran pitcher, who joined the team late in August, two losses for the series.