Four first-inning runs by a fierce Macoto Cobras attack set the tone early in the game against the Sinon Bulls as the Cobras beat the defending champs 11-6 in the opener at Taichung on Saturday for Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League season.
The losers from the 2005 Taiwan Series avenged an embarrassing 0-4 sweep to the Bulls by stringing up 15 hits against three different Bulls pitchers in a game that set several league marks for a season opener, including most hits by a team, most combined runs (17), most home runs (three, all by the Cobras) and most RBIs by a player (four by the Cobras' Chiou Chang-rong).
"We knew we had to get to him [Yang Jien-fu] early in the game if we want to beat them, so our hitters went to work right away," Cobras manager Wu Fu-lien said.
Wu replaced the legendary Kuo Tai-yuan who had taken the club from dead last in 2004 to a first-half title last season.
Cobras starter Lin "Little chick" En-yu pitched seven strong innings for the win, allowing a pair of runs on five hits while fanning four and walking three. It was his first career victory against the Bulls after going 0-2 in four starts against them in all of last season.
The second-year right-hander out of the National Taiwan College of Physical Education was named both the league's Rookie of the Year and MVP last season.
Standing opposite to Lin was Sinon ace Yang, whose rocky start (surrendering seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks over five innings) coming off an injury-plagued 2005 sent an early message to manager Liu Rong-hua and the rest of the Sinon organization that perhaps waiving Osvaldo Martinez (the league's winningest pitcher with 108 victories) and 16 game-winner Lenin Picota during the offseason was not such a good idea.
The defending champs found themselves trailing 5-0 after the third inning before getting their first run in the fourth on a grounder to short by Chang "Prince of the Forest" Tai-shan.
The Cobras scored two more runs in each of the next three innings on two-run homers by Chiou (fifth), cleanup man Hsieh Jia-shien (sixth), and first baseman Chuang Jing-heh (seventh) to put the game away for good, showing no signs of the effect from the departure of their top two hitters (Wilton Veras and Mario Encarnacion).
Aside from Chiou's four-RBI night, four other Cobras players had multi-hit games, led by newcomer Amaury Garcia's 3-for-5 effort in his CPBL debut and veteran slugger Wang Chuang-jia's 3-for-5 night.
Offensively for the Bulls, Chang's two-out single in the bottom of the first was the lone highlight for the hosts on a night that not much went in their way. It was the 11-year veteran's 1,000th career hit, making him just the sixth player to reach the mark in Taiwan pro baseball history.