Close plays dominated recent action in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League, with the Brother Elephants pulling off a pair of narrow wins over the Macoto Cobras by a total margin of three runs -- first in Sinjhuang on Thursday and again in Hsinchu on Friday.
Thursday's 5-4 win for the Elephants had the Cobras drawing first blood in a three-run first inning against Elephants starter Brian Rodaway on the strength of team captain Chiou Chang-rong's RBI double, a hit batsman with the bases loaded that squeezed in a run, and Chen Keh-fan's sacrifice fly to left.
Wang Jin-yong's solo home run in the top of the third off Cobras starter Chang Hsien-chih cut the Cobras lead to 3-1 before the Elephants went ahead 5-3 with a four-run sixth inning on Chen Guan-ren's two-run double and Lee "Rambo Junior" Chich-jeh's two-run single.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CPBL
The Cobras loaded the bases against Rodaway one out into the eighth that promptly brought on Elephants closer Blas Cedeno. But the Venezuelan righty still gave up a run by issuing a walk before striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning with his team still leading 5-4.
Down by a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Cobras threatened again by putting the tying run on second with one out against Cedeno. But Cedeno retired the final two Cobras to preserve the win for Rodaway.
Taking the tough loss was Chang in a decent start, allowing five runs on as many hits in 5-1/3 innings of work.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CPBL
Elephants 5, Cobras 3
Lee "Rambo Junior" Chih-jeh's chopper to short that scored the go-ahead run for the Elephants in the top of the sixth inning broke a 3-all deadlock before the red-hot slugger added an insurance run with a solo home-run blast in the ninth inning for a 5-3 Elephants win in Hsinchu on Friday.
After the Cobras jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the opening inning on outfielder Hsieh Jia-shien's RBI single to shallow right, the Elephants quickly answered with three runs in the second inning on three singles and a triple to claim a 3-1 advantage.
Wang Chuan-jia's two-bagger off Elephants starter Chuang Hong-liang in the fourth then scored two runs to knot the game at 3-3.
Chuang was credited with the win for pitching six innings of three-run ball on 10 hits, seven strikeouts, and two walks, while Cedeno picked up his fifth save in seven chances to lead the league.
Bears 4, Bulls 3, Game 1
Bulls 4, Bears 2, Game 2
The La New Bears split Games 2 and 3 of their four-game series against the Sinon Bulls in Douliou on Thursday and Friday with a 4-3 win and a 4-2 loss to fall behind in a series for just the second time this year.
After Wednesday's 4-2 series-opening loss to the defending champs, the league leaders sent staff ace Kenny Rayborn to the mound in search of his third straight win in as many games against the Bulls' hard-throwing Alfredo Gonzalez.
And the American righty responded nicely with eight innings of three-run work (two earned runs) on 10 hits and two strikeouts.
The league's two premier sluggers -- former major-leaguer Chen Chin-fong of the Bears and Chang "Prince of the Forest" Tai-shan of the Bulls -- belted out home runs. Chang's solo shot off Rayborn in the bottom of the second tied the game at 1-1 for the Bulls before Chen's two-run homer off Gonzalez over the left-field wall made it 3-1 in favor of the visiting Bears.
DH man Huang Chung-yi's ground out to second base in the bottom of the sixth inning forced a 3-3 tie before the Bears delivered the knock-out punch on Huang Long-yi's one-run single in the top of the seventh inning.
Friday's 4-2 Bulls' win had the Bears jumping to a 2-0 lead after three innings on run-scoring hits from Chiang Chih-tsong in the second inning and Chen in the third.
But that was all the Bears could manage against Bulls starter Jorge Cortez, as the former closer quickly regrouped and pitched four consecutive shutout innings before being relieved after the seventh, earning his third win of the year.
Offensively for the Bulls, Chang Jia-hao's two-run triple followed by Yu Shien-ming's RBI single amassed a three-run seventh inning that helped turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 win.
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