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11/01/2004 Archived Entry: "Taiwan Baseball News: Sinon Bulls edge out Elephants for CPBL second-half title"
Taiwan Baseball News: Sinon Bulls edge out Elephants for CPBL second-half title
2004-11-01 / Taiwan News, Contributing Writer / By Jason Pan
Battling demons and ghosts from this and other years past, the Sinon Bulls clinched the 2nd-half season title of Taiwan's pro baseball league with a nervous 9-8 victory over the Macoto Cobras in the season finale game at Taipei City's Tienmu Stadium yesterday.
The Taichung-based Sinon Bulls closed out the regular season with a 27 win, 21 loss, and 2 draw record, just edging out the defending champion Brother Elephants (28 win, 22 loss, 0 draws) by a few percentage points.
Earning the right to one of the two finalist spots for post-season playoff, the Bulls now get ready to challenge first-half title holder, the President Lions, in the "Taiwan Series" for the overall CPBL 2004 championship.
While it was a treat for the Bulls, it was a bitterly disappointing result for the Brother club, winners of the CPBL championship series for the last three seasons. However, the Elephants only had themselves to blame, as they wasted plenty of scoring opportunities in the 2-1 loss to the La New Bears on Saturday, thereby handing the title-clincher game to the Sinon Bulls on the final day of the season.
Appropriately for the Halloween eve atmosphere yesterday, the Sinon team survived a frightening roller-coaster ride by charging out with a bullish run for a big 9-1 lead by the 5th inning, to the delight of the standing-room only 11,000 capacity crowd with Bulls supporters in the vast majority at the noisy Tienmu ballpark.
It looked like an easy win, however the game took on a ghoulish turn in the late innings for the Bulls, with the Cobras mounting an improbable comeback in the bottom of the 5th frame with 2 runs, and adding one and 4 more in the 9th to narrowed the gap to within one for the dramatic finish.
In their own version of the "Running of the Bulls," the Sinon top of order headed up a cattle stampede with leadoff man Chang Chien-ming ripping 3 doubles and scoring 3 runs, followed by right-fielder Chang Jia-hao who reached base 4 consecutive times at the plate and also came home 3 times for the 1-2 batting order combination to account for 6 of the team's 9 scoring tally. The 3-4-5 Sinon batters did their job with a total of 6 RBI's to 9-1 by the middle of the 5th inning.
Sinon pitcher Osvaldo Martinez had a good outing in shutting down the Cobras offense from the start, as the 8-year veteran from the Dominican Republic cruised most of the way through the first 4 innings, giving up only a run on a solo homer by Macoto left-fielder Chen Yuan-jia in the 2nd frame.
However, the Sinon team then were made to suffer a hellish baptism by fire and had to hang on for dear life in the final innings. It was as if mischievous baseball gremlins and goblins came out for the Halloween party to chip away at the lead and assist the Cobra players in nearly overturning the score with the winning run in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th inning.
It was left up to Sinon's sophomore right-hander Yang (A-Fu) Chien-fu to sew up the game against the final Cobras batter on a called third strike for the third out, in a bases loaded situation, to seize the title in a tight nail-biting finish.
The Bulls celebrated their 4th half-season title in the CPBL, but they have failed to capture the Taiwan pro baseball championship in their previous 3 attempts in 1998, 2000, and 2003.
Savouring the victory during the festive champagne-pouring celebration after the game, Bulls manager Liu told reporters, "We thought our team was on the way for an easy win with our big lead. But the Cobras did not quit and they came back strong.... It got quite nervous for us for a while, because they kept on scoring and came within one run....
"This is a sweet victory for us because we worked very hard to win it..... Our team now has the momentum going into the championship series. We have a good team and the players can do one better and go on to win the championship series," said Liu.
Later yesterday, the Elephants managed a 9-2 win over the La New Bears, but by that time, the result had become irrelevant.