Taiwan yesterday began their Premier 12 Group B campaign on a high by defeating Puerto Rico 6-1, scoring three runs in a pivotal fifth inning to open up a close contest at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
Second baseman Lin Li blasted a two-run homer in his first at-bat, then in the fifth laid down a bunt that drove in two runs on a fielding error to account for the winning margin.
Taiwan head coach Hong Yi-chung elected to start with Chiang Shao-ching, a 25-year-old right-hander who spent last season in the US with the Columbus Clippers, a Cleveland Indians triple-A team.
Photo: Liao Yao-tung, Taipei Times
Puerto Rico head coach Juan Gonzalez gave the starting assignment to 29-year-old right-hander Fernando Cruz, who has been playing for a Chicago Cubs triple-A team.
Cruz got into trouble in the first inning when Taiwan’s leadoff batter, Wang Wei-cheng, reached first base on a high throw by Puerto Rico second baseman Jesmuel Valentin.
Lin was up next and he unloaded on a 1-1 count, the ball sailing over the right-field wall for a two-run homer, handing the hosts an early 2-0 lead.
Chiang did well to mix up his repertoire and shut down the visitors through the early going, striking out five batters through four scoreless innings.
In the fifth, Puerto Rico had two straight hits against Chiang, a double by first baseman Jeffrey Dominguez and an RBI single by Valentin as the visitors pulled it back to 2-1.
Lin then laid down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom half of the fifth with two men on the bases after a walk and a single. It caused havoc for the Puerto Rico infield, with the throw to first base hitting Lin on the arm and the ball rebounding into the outfield as the two runners raced home.
Su Chih-chieh then hit a sacrifice fly to send Lin to the home plate from third base as the hosts took a 5-1 lead.
The hosts claimed their final run in the next at-bat, going 6-1 ahead at the end of the sixth inning.
Chiang took the win after striking out five, yielding only three hits and giving up only one run for a fine performance.
He gave way after the sixth inning for relief pitchers Chen Kuan-yu and Chen Yu-hsun, before Chen Hong-wen claimed the final two outs in the ninth.
In yesterday’s other Group B match in Taoyuan, Venezuela rallied with three runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead over Japan, but then succumbed to a late fightback as Japan exploded for six runs in the eighth to claim an 8-4 victory.
Japan next face Puerto Rico in Taoyuan at 6pm today, while Taiwan take on Venezuela in Taichung at 6:30pm.
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