Seven second-inning runs gave Taiwan an early 7-1 lead against the US and they held off a late-game rally by the Americans to escape with a 9-7 win in the opener of this year’s World Baseball Challenge at the Citizen Field in Prince George, Canada yesterday morning.
Lin Han had a big game at the plate with five RBIs on a 2-for-5 night to account for the bulk of Taiwan’s offense. The veteran Taiwan Cooperative Bank slugger, who has been a regular in the national squad since 2007, drove an offering from US reliever Matt Cooper to deep-left for a bases-clearing three-run double that sparked a seven-run second. He followed that with a two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth to give his team a pair of insurance runs that proved to be the margin of victory.
Also starring for Taiwan was starter Kuo Chun-lin who held a potent American lineup to four runs on 10 hits over 6-2/3 innings while fanning nine and walking one to pocket the victory.
The right-hander for the National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sports did not have his best stuff as far as keeping the American hitters off the bases was concerned, but he was able to keep the damage to a minimum by pitching himself out of trouble at critical junctures to prevent any big innings from the opposition.
After Taiwan went 7-1 up in the second against starter Skye Adams, the momentum of the game quickly swung in favor of the US who pulled to within three of Taiwan with a run each in the third, fourth and fifth inning against Kuo.
Kuo was able to stop the rot with a perfect sixth before being relieved by Chen Yu-hsun two outs into the seventh to keep the lead at three.
Trailing 9-4 heading into the top of the ninth, the US made things interesting again by plating three runs off Chen on a pair of singles and a walk, and a clutch double off Chen’s successor Chang Hsien-chih.
That was as close as the US got as Chang calmly retired the final batter on a grounder to second with the tying run on to seal the victory.
Next up for Taiwan today will be a tough Cuba team who should be well rested after getting a day off.
A win by Taiwan would put them on the fast track to finish in the top three of the five-team tournament.