The second-placed Uni-President Lions made up some ground in the standings with a 5-4 win over the top-ranked Chinatrust Brothers on Tuesday.
The victory not only kept the deficit between the two squads to 2.5 games as the race for the second-half title heats up, but also breathed new life into a Lions team who had lost four of their previous five, establishing some much-needed confidence among the players.
“It was a big win for us given our sub-par performance in the past two weeks, and now we must build on it,” Chang “OEO” Tai-shan said after the win.
Photo: Huang Chih-yuan, Taipei Times
The veteran slugger and expected future Hall-of-Famer has made the most of his return to the Lions starting lineup as a designated hitter after spending much of the summer in the minor leagues to tweak his swing, going 18-for-45 (.400) last month.
Chang will need to remain hot at the plate to spearhead a Lions offense who must rise to the occasion in the remaining 30 games of the regular season for them to secure a spot in the post-season because they still trail the Lamigo Monkeys in the cumulative record (42-2-45) by three games for the wild-card spot if the Primates fail to finish the second half on top.
“Finishing last in the first half really hurt us as far as our post-season chances are concerned, that is why we must win the second half out-right to secure a spot in the playoffs,” Lions skipper Chen Lien-hung was quoted as saying in Chinese-language reports before the game.
His troops have come a long way to improve from their 26-1-33 mark in the first half, posting 16-1-12 in the second half after the Tuesday result.
Other than Chang, the Cats will also need a strong finish from their pitching staff, who have a generous combined earned run average (ERA) of 5.43, second-worst in the league.
Starting trio Pan “Du Du” Wei-lun, Wang Ching-ming and newcomer Zack Segovia will have to bring their game up a notch to give the already-thin Lions bullpen some rest, not to mention taking some of the burden off the Lions offense.
How well Du Du fares will be critical to the Lions’ success, since he is unquestionably the offensive leader with 123 career victories under his belt. Even though his season mark of 6-6 is the worst in his 13 years in the league, his past three starts have been brilliant, with only one earned run in each over 21 combined innings of work to achieve a 1.29 ERA.
Starting today, the Brothers take on the EDA Rhinos in a three-game series, while the Lions and Monkeys face off in their own series.
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