Taiwan took a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning and held off several scoring threats by Cuba with a stellar defense to earn a 2-1 win in the opener of the Thunder Series at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium last night.
With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first in the top of the ninth, centerfielder Kao Kuo-hui ran down a fly ball to the right-center gap to take away a potential extra-base hit for the second out of the inning. He then fired the ball back to second to beat the runner for the game-ending double play that preserved the victory.
Kao’s double play was not the only defensive highlight for the home side. The Taiwanese defense came up huge again with another double play to end the top of the eighth when Kao Chih-kang gunned down the runner from second at third on a base stealing attempt after reliever Cheng Kai-wen struck out the batter at the plate to end the Cuban scoring threat.
“It was a big win for us because it gave us a lot of confidence against the top team in the world,” Taiwan defensive leader Chen Yong-chi said after the game.
He also drove in the first of Taiwan’s two runs on the night on an RBI single off Cuban starter Yadier Pedroso in the top of the second.
Trailing by a pair, Cuba managed to get one of the runs back in the top of the fourth when Alfredo Despaigne led off the inning with a double off Taiwanese reliever Lin Yen-fong and scored two batters later on a groundout to third by Ariel Pestano that made it 2-1.
After that the pitchers dominating the hitters the rest of the way.
Next up for the visitors are the Chinese Professional Baseball Team all-stars at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium in Game 2 of the three-game series.
By Paul Huang
Japan’s Yomiuri Giants maintained their winning form as they blanked South Korea’s Lotte Giants 5-0 on the third day of this year’s Asia Series at the Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan, South Korea yesterday. The victory set up a title showdown with Taiwan’s Lamigo Monkeys today.
Starter Hirokazu Sawamura scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings of play to give his offense plenty of chances to score, making the eventual shutout win a foregone conclusion.
Samsung Lions 9, China All-Stars 0
South Korea’s Samsung Lions vented their frustration after losing to the Monkeys the night before and thus missing the chance to reach the title game by trouncing the Chinese Baseball League All-Stars 9-0 last night to earn a third-place finish this year.