Make-up week will continue over the next two weeks with the Uni-President Lions and the Brother Elephants, tied for the second place in the standings, making a big push for the second-half title behind the top-ranked Lamigo Monkeys.
In what is set to go down as one of the most heated second-half title races yet, with a lone game separating the three teams in the standings as of yesterday afternoon, players will give their all on the field as they look to help their teams finish strong in the seven or eight remaining games in the regular season.
Making the biggest push for the top spot are the Lions, who have won nine of their past dozen games up to yesterday afternoon, with a resurging offense that has averaged 5.9 runs per contest backing up a stingy pitching staff that have allowed just 2.9 runs per game over the same span.
Also picking up key wins over the past two weeks have been the Elephants, who have won five of their past seven to remain in contention for the title. Yet, rather than blowing out their opponents like the Lions have done, the Elephants are winning games with finesse, with three of their past five wins decided by three runs or less. Their inability to score runs, coupled with a starting rotation that is at least two starters short of skipper Hsieh Chang-hen’s ideal number, may have cuffed their hands down the stretch as they face tough battles ahead.
Chen Hung-wen’s dominant 3-0 shutout win over the Monkeys on Tuesday and Miguel Mejia’s quality start on Wednesday gave Hsieh some much-needed assurance as he looks to rest an overworked bullpen that saw setup man Hiroki Sanada sitting out just two games in the past two weeks.
As tough as the Lions and the Elephants have been, the second-half title is still within reach for the Monkeys, who manager Hung Yi-chung has done an excellent job of turning around from a disappointing team in the first half — in which they came last — to title contenders.
In addition to a solid performance last month from starter Mike Loree, who was 2-1 with four quality starts in the month, the Primates have gotten key wins from Lin Bo-yo and Cheng Chen-hao to account for the demotion of Tseng Jau-hao to the minors with a 1-2 record last month.
Offensively for the league-leaders, the bulk of the run production has come from the trio of Kuo Yen-wen, Sandy Madera and Lin Hung-yu, who have driven in 11 runs in their past five games to humble the opposing side.
Regardless of how each of the three teams finish the season, the final two weeks of play promise to be an exciting ending to an eventful season that featured the arrival and departure of former major leaguer Manny Ramirez in a well-noted revival of the league, which boasted record-high attendance.