CPBL: Shaky Elephants gaining renewed vigor with wins

By Paul Huang  /  Contributing reporter

Fri, Jun 07, 2013 - Page 20

Clutch hitting coupled with decent pitching have breathed new life into the once-struggling Brother Elephants as they have quietly won five straight close games to leave the cellar in the standings for good.

After a horrendous start over the first two months of the season in which the men in the golden uniforms posted a 7-18 record, dead last in the league, they have quietly amassed a 16-6 mark since last month with an uncanny ability to win close games with clutch hitting and stingy pitching.

“The difference is in the close games; we used to lose them and now we are getting it done,” former skipper and current scouting director Chen Rei-chen told the Taipei Times about his team’s recent success.

The Elephants have won their last five by a combined margin of eight runs, not too different from their eight-game win streak earlier last month in which five of the wins were decided by two runs or less.

Anchoring the injury-plagued rotation for the Elephants is pitching trio Tseng Song-wei. Chen Hung-wen and newcomer Miguel Mejia, who have won all but three of their last dozen starts by keeping their team in the game long enough for the offense to eventually come through with the clutch runs for the close wins.

Leading the attack for the Elephants are Peng “Chia Chia” Cheng-min and Chien Fu-chih, whose seven-game and four-game hitting streak have provided just enough offense to get the job done.

“We don’t have the big bats like the other teams have these days, so we must produce when we have the opportunities,” Elephants manager Hsieh Chang-hen was quoted as saying by Chinese-language press earlier this week.

His team has moved from last place in the standings to one win shy of a .500 record; a marked improvement that has Hsieh as the front-runner for the Coach of the Year honor.

The Elephants will also have more than their hands full this weekend with a three-game series scheduled against the top-ranked EDA Rhinos at the Sinjhuang Baseball Stadium in New Taipei City.

With the second-place Uni-President Lions’ lead over them currently at 2.5 games (as of yesterday morning), the Elephants could overtake the No. 2 spot in the standings with a clean sweep of the Rhinos and three losses by the Lions to the Lamigo Monkeys in their weekend series in southern Taiwan.