Solid pitching and consistent hitting continued to bring success to the Sinon Bulls as they topped the President Lions 7-3 at Sinjhuang on Sunday to take three of four games from the cats in the series.
Japanese right-hander Takekiyo Kouji won his second game in three starts for the defending champs with six-plus quality innings of three-hit work on Sunday and has shown signs of progress since joining the team earlier this month.
Other than a poorly located fastball that Lions first baseman Kao Guo-ching crushed for a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, a former star in Japanese professional baseball, was rock solid in keeping the Lions bats quiet.
The scoreless affair between the two clubs through the first four innings quickly turned in favor of the visiting Bulls when five consecutive singles and a Lions defensive error, all coming with two outs, quickly led to four runs in the top of the fifth inning for the Bulls.
Even though the Lions closed the gap to within one with Kao's seventh-inning blast, the Bulls promptly answered with three runs of their own in the next inning on shortstop Lin Tsung-nan's inside-the-park home run -- his first career round-tripper -- to regain a four-run cushion.
Star closer Kuo Yong-chih entered with two on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth and allowed a single to load the bases before inducing an inning-ending fly ball to escape the jam. He then retired the side after issuing a leadoff walk in the ninth to record his league-leading 16th save of the year.
All four hitters at the top of the surging Bulls' order enjoyed a multiple-hit night, with Huang Chung-yi and cleanup man Chang "Prince of the Forest" Tai-shan both going 3-for-5 with one RBI. The Sinon crew has averaged nearly six runs per game over their past eight past contests to win every game but one during the two-week stretch.
Taking the loss for the Lions was starter Hansel Izquierdo of the US, who allowed four runs (three earned) on a dozen hits over seven innings in his first loss of the year.
The loss by the Lions dropped them to fifth place in the standings for the second half and third overall in the race for the postseason, trailing the Bears and the Bulls. In order for the Lions to qualify for the three-team postseason matches, they must win at least half of their 21 remaining games and hope for the fourth-place Macoto Cobras to lose more than half of their 20 remaining games.
The scheduled series finale between the Brother Elephants and the La New Bears in Kaohsiung was rained out and will be rescheduled for Oct. 2.