More than 20,000 eager fans are expected to pack the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium this afternoon to witness the opener of this year’s Taiwan Series, where the hosts, the Lamigo Monkeys, will take on the Uni-President Lions in a showdown for the Chinese Professional Baseball League title.
This year’s “Fall Classic” features a potent Monkeys attack that bombarded the opposing pitching during the regular-season with three of the league’s top five home run hitters — Lin Hong-yu (22), Lin Chih-sheng (18) and Chung Cheng-yo (15) — whose homers have ranked them among the most feared long-ball trio in league history.
Facing the unforgiving Monkeys lineup is a Lions rotation anchored by US right-hander Dan Reichert, Pan “Du Du” Wei-luen and Wang Jing-ming, who will likely start the first three games for skipper Lu Wen-sheng.
The Big Cats have not been able to consistently use their other two foreign pitchers, Ryan Glynn and Seth Etherton, because of injuries. That means they might need to go to their bullpen earlier than Lu would like, which could be a problem since Wang, who is more comfortable at mid-inning relief, will likely be the No. 3 starter, leaving Hsu Yu-wei and Chen Yi-cheng to take up the slack before they can get to setup man Kao Jien-san in the eighth and ace closer Lin Yueh-ping in the ninth to put the game away.
Compared with the Lions, the Monkeys have the advantage in pitching, with all three of their foreign hurlers available, starting with staff ace Ken Ray who went the distance against the Brother Elephants for manager Hung Yi-chung in their season finale a week ago to clinch the second-half title.
Newcomers Brian Corey and Shane Youman will follow Ray’s lead to start the second and third games, although Hung has not decided who will go first.
While the Primates might enjoy the advantage in starting pitching, their regular closer Hsu Ming-jeh has not been reliable after setting a new mark for most saves in the first half of the season, picking up only one save in his past three games with a loss charged against him over the same span. His success as the last line of defense could be the difference late in the game or late in the series should they stretch it to six or seven games.
Offensively for the Lions, home run threat Kao Guo-ching’s season-long race against the Monkeys’ Lin Hong-yu that ended on a 22-all tie, carries into the postseason as they lead their respective offense in total run production.
The Lions will also need Chang “OEO” Tai-shan to have a good series at the plate to provide some protection for Kao.
The all-important Game 1 sees the home Monkeys send Ray to the mound to take on the Lions’ Seth Etherton, whose starting assignment was announced in a press conference in Taipei yesterday afternoon.
The opening pitch is scheduled for 5pm this afternoon.
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