The much-anticipated 2012 Taiwan Series will get under way at the Tainan Municipal Baseball Stadium this afternoon where the Uni-President Lions will host the Lamigo Monkeys in a showdown for the coveted title of the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
This year’s annual Fall Classic, a rematch from last year in which the Cats easily topped the Monkeys by a 4-1 margin, will feature a potent Monkeys attack that has humbled the opposing pitching, particularly in the final month of regular-season play in which it boasted a 14-6 record with nearly six runs per game over the same stretch, to top the league.
Leading the Monkeys attack are home-run threats Lin Chih-sheng and Kuo Yen-wen, whose 39 combined homers in the regular season led the league in total long balls by any bashing tandems from the same team, while RBI man Chung “Yoyo Man” Cheng-yo provides some additional run production with 72 RBIs for the year.
Showing their own version of power baseball will be the home team, who will have the services of career home-run leader Chang “OEO” Tai-shan, whose 272 career blasts are 110 more than the next-best player’s 162, and fellow slugger Kao “the Green Tank” Guo-ching, whose 30 combined homers this season will make the opposing hurlers think twice about throwing one down the pike against them. Current batting champ Pan “TAKE” Wu-hsiung, will also try to top off what has been an unbelievable season at the plate with a great series and perhaps his fifth championship ring in seven years.
While the scale may tip in favor of the Monkeys offensively, the Lions will enjoy a decisive advantage on the mound with a trio of foreign pitchers who can shut down any lineup on any given day and assure skipper Terushi Nakashima of at least six good innings in every game. Latecomer Eulogio De La Cruz of the Dominican Republic, who joined the Lions less than two months ago, has a 3-1 record with a 2.00 ERA in five starts, while US righty John Leicester and Japanese standout Yuya Kamada boast a stellar 28-12 mark between them that could mean bad news for the Lamigo offense.
As for the Monkeys, manager extraordinaire Hung Yi-chung will sorely miss strikeout leader Matt DeSalvo, who is off the Monkeys post-season roster to nurse a hand injury that he suffered last month. This means Hung will have to rely on late-comer Mike Loree of the US to lead a staff that is paper-thin even though Hung has performed well in similar situations before. Loree came to Taiwan in mid-August and went 4-1 last month with a 2.97 ERA to win the Pitcher of the Month distinction.
Home-field advantage will also play a major role in this series, as the Lions have beaten the Monkeys in 12 of the 16 meetings between the two clubs in Tainan, while the Monkeys took 13 of 20 in their head-to-head matches played in Taoyuan.