With the first half of the season in the rearview mirror and all the hype about Manny Ramirez now behind us, the second half starts this evening with the EDA Rhinos visiting defending champions the Lamigo Monkeys in Taoyuan for the weekend and the Uni-President Lions playing the Brother Elephants in New Taipei City, before closing out the weekend series at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium on Sunday.
While the Rhinos were undoubtedly the biggest winners in the first half, their success has definitely lifted the level of play of the rest of the league, most evident in the recent surge of the Primates.
The defending champions did not have a good first half due to injuries that nearly sidelined the entire regular lineup at one point or another from the start of the season to the end of May.
Their early breakdown, coupled with the Rhinos’ surprising success, virtually dropped the Primates out of title contention as early as mid-May, but with the lineup regaining its old potent form of late and the pitching staff finally settling in, manager Hung Yi-chung should have a lot to look forward to as his troops get set to give the Rhinos a serious run for their money in the second half.
“With our veterans all coming back in good health and the younger guys having gained some quality experience filling in for them in the meantime, we have a very good squad that can finish the season strong,” Hung said in a recent interview.
They won several close games down the stretch with a revived team that believe in themselves. Last month they amassed a 13-6 record, with five-game and six-game winning streaks under their belts.
Now that they have a fresh start, Hung will certainly make the most of his second chance by putting out a lineup that includes super stars Lin Hung-yu, Lin Chih-sheng, Kuo Yen-wen and Chung “Yoyo Man” Cheng-yo.
Anchoring the pitching staff for the Primates are hired guns Brian Burres and Mike Loree, who went 4-2 in nine combined starts last month, and closer J.D. Durbin, who has converted five of his last seven save opportunities with one earned run charged against him.
Other than the Monkeys, the Uni-President Lions should also be very competitive in the second half after a much needed break in the past five days to help fine tune their game in the hope of breaking out of their current eight-game losing skid.
Prior to the eight-game slump, the Lions had won five in a row by averaging nearly seven runs per game over the same span, thanks to a lineup that features Chang “OEO” Tai-shan, Chen Yung-chi and Kuo Jung-yo, who had a three-homer game on Saturday.
Should the pitching improve for skipper Terushi Nakashima with the addition of former major leaguer Nelson Figueroa, the Lions will likely have a solid second half.