Deng Chih-wei’s three-run blast off Hsu Wen-cheng capped an eight-run seventh that broke a two-all tie wide open as the Uni-President Lions went up by eight runs and held off a ninth-inning rally by the EDA Rhinos to finish 10-7 in Game One of the Taiwan Series at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium last night.
With the win, the Lions now take a 1-0 lead in this year’s Fall Classic.
The showdown between the first-half and second-half champs was supposed to be a slugfest, with both offenses having demonstrated their ability to light up the scoreboard during the regular season. However, the game proved to be anything but that as the two squads produced a two-all draw after six frames against the stellar pitching of Rhinos starter Matt Torra and his Lions counterpart, Nelson Figueroa.
Yet things would take a nasty turn south for the Rhinos in the decisive seventh after Torra was relieved by Lin Ying-jeh, who gave up consecutive singles to the Lions and was called for a balk to set up Lin Chih-shiang’s sacrifice fly, which gave the Lions a 3-2 lead.
The night got worse for Lin Ying-jeh, who served up a one-run double to the Lions’ Kuo Dai-chi to make it 4-2 before Chang “OEO” Tai-shan and Chen Yung-chi teed off against the Rhinos bullpen with back-to-back scoring swings to set the stage for Deng’s three-run shot.
Fortunately for the Cats, they would need every one of the three runs tacked on by Deng’s long ball as the diehard Rhinos showed exceptional resilience by plating a run in the eighth on the strength of a bases-loaded walk and exploded for four more runs in the top of the ninth that included a solo homer by Hu Chin-lung to make it a three-run game.
However, with the tying run at the plate and two on, and two outs in the top of the ninth, Lion closer Luis Vizcaino induced a grounder to second for the game-ending out that sealed the victory for the Lions.
Picking up the win was Figueroa, who pitched into and out of trouble early in the game with the help of two crucial double plays by the Lion defense before settling in to finish the seventh.
He allowed two runs on 11 hits to up his post-season record to a perfect 4-0.
Taking the loss for the Rhinos was Lin Ying-jeh, who failed to hold off the Lions despite his success against them during the regular season. He allowed three runs on as many hits in just 2/3 innings of play.
“I sent in Lin Ying-jeh in the seventh [to relieve Torra] because he has the best record against the Lions on our staff, but I guess that didn’t work out well for us,” Rhinos manager Tseng Chih-chan said after the game.
Lions outfielder Kuo Dai-chi also had a big game on both sides of the ball on the night, as he drove in a run on two hits and made a diving catch on defense that took away a potential RBI double from Hu in the top of the seventh.
“Dai-chi’s diving catch was one of the biggest plays in the game for us,” Lions skipper Chen Lien-hung said at the postgame press conference.