Playing back on home turf didn't help the Uni-President Lions as they fizzled to a 6-5 loss to a resurgent La New Bears outfit in Game 6 of the 2007 Taiwan Series baseball finals at the Chengching Lake stadium in Kaohsiung County yesterday.
The two sides will meet in the decider tonight at the Chengching Lake stadium at 5pm.
For several innings Game 6 was promising to turn into a cliffhanger as the Lions kept pace with an initial burst of runs by the Bears. But with a change of pitcher at the top of the 6th, the Bears conceded only one more run and held firm to stop the game at the top of the 9th inning.
But an action-packed first hour hinted at the possibility of an epic contest in tonight's deciding game.
The Bears' Chen Chin-feng stamped his mark on proceedings, with his two homers accounting for five of the Bears' six runs, while the Lions' ever-dependable Tilson Brito also hit two homers, though sadly for the Lions the bases were empty when he stepped up to the plate.
The first of Chen's home runs came in the 1st inning after singles by Huang Lung-yi and Tsai Chien-wei. The Bears never relinquished that lead.
But the Lions tried hard, pegging their foe back to 3-2 in the next inning with hits by Yang Sen and Hsu Sheng-chieh sending Liu Fu-hao and Chen Lien-hung home respectively. Liu had been the first batter up and comically survived a fly ball when three fielders were blinded by the floodlights.
The Lions followed that up with good fielding, sending the Bears back into their cave with a double play in the 3rd. But the Bears pulled further ahead by 4-2 in the 4th with a Chen Feng-min double allowing Tseng Hao-ju to make it home.
Brito then answered the call and hit his first homer to peg the score back to 4-3, only for Chen Chin-feng to hit Lions fans in the gut with a two-run homer in the next inning, which would be the team's last runs.
Liu Fu-hao hit a homer in the 6th to make it 6-4, prompting the Bears coaching team to replace pitcher Hsu Yu-wei with Hsu Wen-hsiung, who closed the game strongly, but not before conceding the Lions' final run to Brito in the 7th, who again smashed one over the left field fence.
From there the game slowed down as the two pitchers took control, though the 9th inning scared the Bears momentarily as a substitute for Yang Po-chao -- who had been walked -- survived a double play attempt at second base when the throw crashed into the back of his helmet and flew past the baseman.
But Hsu closed the game with a ground out, delighting him as much as any of the fans.
The Bears' Yu Chin-te, his ankle still in a cast after injuring it in the outfield in Wednesday's game, gave a sympathy pitch for the crowd before the game.
The winner of the Taiwan Series qualifies for the third Konami Cup Asia Series in Japan from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11. The three other teams in the ?100 million (US$875,000) competition are the winners of the Japan Series and the Korean Series and a composite team of Chinese baseballers from the China Baseball League.