“This one will be for skipper Hsu,” EDA Rhinos captain Hu Chin-lung said at the pre-Taiwan Series press conference in Taipei yesterday afternoon as the team aim to claim a title that would be dedicated to former EDA Rhinos head coach Hsu Sheng-ming, whose legendary career and life came to an abrupt end in August when he suffered a heart attack.
With bragging rights up for grabs and a chance to send Hsu off on a high note, the Rhinos open this year’s Taiwan Series against the Uni-President Lions at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium this afternoon in a showdown between the first-half and second-half champions.
This year’s annual Fall Classic, the first ever for the Rhinos whose predecessors, the Sinon Bulls made it to the Taiwan Series on six previous occasions to amass a 2-4 record, and the 13th for the Lions, who have come away with eight titles in their previous 12 attempts, will feature two potent lineups that have humbled the opposing pitching over the course of the regular season.
Leading the Rhinos offense are home-run threats Lin Yi-chuan and Kao Gui-hui, whose 32 combined homers and 144 RBIs are second to none in an age where hitters have quietly surpassed the pitchers to win the hearts of most fans.
Even though the Lions may not have the top two punchers in the league offensively, slugger Chang “OEO” Tai-shan and his league-best 90 RBIs in the regular season still poses a serious enough threat against the opposing pitchers, not to mention the long-ball help that he will get from fellow sluggers Deng Chih-wei and Kao “Green Tank” Guo-ching, with 16 combined blasts, providing ample firepower for Lions head coach Chen Lien-hung.
“We are ready to give it our best shot with the amount of preparation we’ve put in,” Chen said.
“At this stage of the season, having a stronger mental game is more important than being technically sound,” Chen added, referring to his team’s superior post-season experience compared with that of the Rhinos.
While the scales may tip in favor of the Rhinos offensively, the Lions enjoy a decisive advantage on the mound with veteran righty Nelson Figueroa heading a starting rotation that is solid and deep.
The last time Figueroa pitched in the Taiwan Series for the Lions he was credited with three of the Lions’ four wins in their dramatic series against the La New Bears in 2007.
As for the Rhinos, head coach Tseng Chih-chan will need to rely heavily on Game 1 starter Matt Torra and probable Game 2 starter Nick Green to give him at least six good innings in order to keep the workload of the Rhinos bullpen at a manageable level.
“We are gonna need a lot of offense to pull it off because we know [the Lions] can definitely score a lot of runs on anyone,” Tseng said.
The Lions will be looking to win the all-important Game 1, because they have gone on to win all five of the Taiwan Series in which they started with a win.