Tue, Oct 17, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Lions sweep Bulls to clinch playoffs

BIG CATS The prospect of having to go to Taichung for Game 4 was apparently too much for the Lions, who solved the dilemma by overpowering the Bulls

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

President Lions manager Ohashi Yutaka is soaked in beer after the Lions defeated the Sinon Bulls in Tainan on Sunday.

PHOTO: HUANG CHIH-YUAN, TAIPEI TIMES

Winning the decisive Game 3 by a convincing 6-0 margin against the Sinon Bulls, the President Lions took the Playoff Series in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Tainan on Sunday by sweeping the best-of-five series at home for the right to take on the La New Bears in the upcoming Taiwan Series.

After an 8-4 win in Friday night's series-opener and a dramatic 1-0 victory in Game 2 on Saturday over the defending champs, the home cats held a commanding 2-0 lead in the series and were ready to finish off the visiting Bulls in Game 3 so that they would not have to leave for Taichung in a potential Game 4.

The idea of not having to move the series back to Taichung apparently proved enticing enough for the Lions, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on designated hitter Chen Jia-wei's two-run homer off Sinon starter Billy Sylvester.

The Lions added to their lead by a deuce in the fifth when catcher Kao Chih-kang led off the inning with a triple off Sylvester that chased the US right-hander and scored two outs later on second baseman Yang Seng's double off reliever Alfredo Gonzalez down the third base line before game-MVP rookie Pan Wu-hsiung followed with a single up the middle that staked his team a 4-0 lead.

Pan's third single of the game with runners at the corners in the bottom of the seventh sparked what turned out to be another two-run inning for the Lions that made it 6-0, and that was how it ended as the Bulls failed to produce any runs for the second straight game, ending their quest for a "threepeat" on a down note.

Five shutout innings of three-hit ball by Lions starter Hansel Izquierdo against a potent Sinon lineup earned the Dominican righty his first postseason win in Taiwan as fellow bullpen mates Lin Yueh-ping and Tseng Yi-cheng combined for four innings of scoreless relief to keep the shutout intact.

Taking the loss for the Bulls was Sylvester, who received no run support from his offense despite pitching four-plus innings of three-hit ball for his club.

Other than the two-run homer that he served up to Chen in a shaky first, the Sinon starter was rock solid in retiring all but one of the next 11 hitters he faced before running into trouble in the fifth.

The loss by the Bulls denied the defending champs a chance for a fourth straight Taiwan-Series appearance as they watched the Lions dugout swarm the ribbon-covered field to celebrate the series sweep.

Failure to come up with the clutch hits was to blame for the Bulls as they finished with a disappointing 2-for-21 batting with runner in scoring position over the three-game set.

That, coupled with the Lions' 10-for-23 hitting with men in scoring position, made it surprisingly easy for the home team as they trounced the Bulls in grand fashion.

"I didn't think it would be that easy," a pleasantly surprised Lions manager Ohashi Yutaka said after the game as he reacted to the Lions' three-game sweep over the Bulls.

The Lions manager and his troops will now shift their focus to the Bears as they enjoy an unexpected break from the action before this weekend's showdown in the annual Fall Classic at Kaohsiung against the regular-season champs.

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