After starting off the second half of the Chinese Professional Baseball League season with a 3-2 loss to the Sinon Bulls, the Brother Elephants have quietly won seven straight games to take sole position of the lead in the standings.
All but two of the seven wins have been decided by two runs or less, thanks to the clutch hitting by Chen "the Golden Warrior" Chih-yuan (
The 26-year-old power slugger added seven RBI's to his team-high total of 42, surpassing fellow teammate Peng "Chia-Chia" Cheng-ming's (
In addition to Chen's timely hitting, the league's defending champions exhibited a scrappy style of play, stretching a late-game single into a double, while showing defensive savvy by picking off runners at critical moments.
Even though three of the one-run wins during the seven-game skid have come at the expense of three blown saves by closer Jonathan Hurst, the nation's most popular team continues to gain momentum despite encountering some adversity.
"I know these are not pretty wins, but at this point I am willing to take them any way or shape they come," Hurst said.
Part of being a winner is finding ways to win no matter what" Elephant manager Lin Yi-tseng (林易增) said.
Like the gusty winds of Typhoon Mindulle, the Elephants stormed into the week with a pair of one-run victories against the La New Bears.
Tuesday's series opener had the Elephants leading 3-2 heading into the ninth until closer Hurst allowed a leadoff double to Bears second baseman Shih Chih-wei (
Two innings later, with a runner on second and the Bears outfield drawn in, Chen Chih-yuan won it on a line-drive single that sailed over the Bears right fielder.
Game 2 of the series in Hsinchu had the Bears drawing first blood on cleanup man Lin Chih-sheng's solo shot to deep left field off Elephants starter Chuang Pei-chuan (
Reliever Hsiao Ren-wen (蕭任汶), who entered the game in the top of the second inning with minimal warm up following the ejection of Chuang for striking a hitter in the head with a pitch, kept the Bears lineup hitless for nearly six frames en route to his first win of the season.
Hsiao, the unanimous choice for the game-MVP honor, fanned five while walking two in his best outing of the season by far.
The Elephants and Bears will play two more games this weekend -- one in Hsinchuang and the other Tienmu -- and all eyes will be on Peng Cheng-ming's performance at the plate.
Peng has kept his batting average above .400 (currently at .407) since the beginning of the season, but he is now on the brink of having it fall below the .400 mark if he does not put a stop to a recent slump.
The Lions will open a three-game home stand in Tainan against the Chinatrust Whales, where Lions closer Michael Garcia is set to reach the 20-save plateau.
The right-hander from southern California has not allowed a run in the past 32 innings and should attract a full house to Tainan Stadium.
The Macoto Cobras, amid a six-game losing streak, are set to take on the Bulls in a three-game series. It will be the first game in over a week for the Bulls following a pair of rained out games.
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