Held to three scanty singles against stingy Japanese pitching, Taiwan proved no match for their neighbors from the north in a 1-0 shutout loss in the final game of the Japan Taiwan Baseball Challenge at the Taipei Municipal Baseball Stadium in Tianmu last night.
The loss not only gave Japan a clean sweep of the Taiwan national squad, but also exposed the sizable gap in the level of play between the two nations in the sport that both would readily claim as the national sport.
With their backs against the wall following back-to-back losses to Japan in the first two contests, Taiwan sent Kuo Chun-lin to the mound in search of an elusive win and the righty out of the Taiwan National University of Physical Education and Sport more than did his bit by keeping the potent Japan offense to a lone run on five hits over six innings, before being relieved at the start of the seventh.
Unfortunately for Kuo, it was one run too many as Taiwan’s batting lineup fell victims to an even more spectacular effort by the Japanese pitchers, who frustrated the hosts’ batters all night by holding them to a stunning none-for-10 with runners on base to keep the shutout intact.
After two scoreless innings in which Taiwan failed to cash in on three early walks and a single by Japanese starter Kazuki Mishima, the opportunistic Japan offense managed to plate a run off Kuo when Ryosuke Kikuchi singled with two outs and reached third after stealing second. He scored on an RBI single by Takero Okajima.
The 1-0 lead would be sufficient to deliver the victory as Mishima quickly regained his composure to shut down the Taiwan attack before three able relievers out of the visitors’ bullpen combined for five scoreless innings of one-hit ball to blank the hosts.
Taiwan had their best scoring chance after the second inning in the seventh, when Yang Dai-kang reached first on an error by the Japanese shortstop and took second on a sacrifice bunt on the ensuing play.
However, Lin Han and Chen Chun-hsiu came up empty against Japanese reliever Takahiro Matsuba to strand the runner and end the inning.
Matsuba was credited with the win for his three innings of hitless relief, while Kuo was charged with the loss, despite a solid outing on the mound.