The Lions lose, but seal the place of the series
DRAGONS TO THANK:
The Lions entered their game against the Guardians with a magic number of 1, but it was made academic with a big victory for the Dragons
By Jason Pan / Journalist
Despite losing, the Uni-President Lions won the CPBL title in the second half, with the Weichuan Dragons to thank after beating the CTBC Brothers in the other game last night.
In the ninth inning final in New Taipei City, Lions supporters at Sinjhuang Stadium threw orange ribbons to celebrate the title – though they believed the Dragons would keep their lead with a round to play in Kaohsiung – this which also secured the team a spot in the Taiwan series which kicks off this month.
Although the Lions lost to the Fubon Guardians 4-3, the deciding result was the Dragons’ 11-2 victory over the Brothers at Cheng Ching Lake Stadium.
Going into their game last night, the Lions had reduced their magic number to 1: they had to either beat the Guardians or have the Brothers lose to clinch the title before the final games of the regular season this weekend.
The season saw a two-month hiatus from mid-May to mid-July due to a COVID-19 alert.
The Lions (32-3-23) have the best record this half, while the Brothers (28-4-24) are 2.5 games behind, the Rakuten Monkeys (26-3-28) 5.5 games behind, the Dragons (26- 1-30) 6.5 games behind the leaders and the Guardians (24-3-31) last, eight games behind.
Fubon’s hitters each scored in the third through fifth frames to lead 3-0 against the Lions, with the teams exchanging points late.
Meanwhile, the booming Dragons’ sticks remained hot, scoring four runs in the third inning and 8-2 in the fifth quarter.
On Wednesday, a late charge from the Lions hitters, who collected five points in the ninth, blew up a 2-0 game to give them a 7-0 victory over the Guardians at Sinjhuang Stadium.
Lions starting pitcher Brock Dykxhoorn pocketed his 17th league-leading win of the season after eight clean innings.
The Canadian right-hander, who is in his second year with the Lions, allowed no walks and dispersed five hits among seven strikeouts to move to 17-4 with a 1.83 ERA, while hitting 200 Ks in Taiwanese baseball.
Dykxhoorn had plenty of help on defense to thwart opposition, especially in the fifth inning, when Fubon had Yang Chin-hao on second base with a double, and next batter Tai Pei-feng slapped a single for Yang run for the house.
However, Lions midfielder Chen Chieh-hsien charged up the ball, targeting wide receiver Lin Tai-an to take down Yang half a step at home.
Behind Lin in reinforcement, Dykxhoorn pumped his fist to celebrate the third out to end the inning and pointed to Chen for a superb pitch to keep the shutout offer alive.
In the start of the ninth, the Lions had the bases loaded on a walk and two defensive errors. Lin Ching-kai produced two runs on a single, and the next three hitters each had a hitting to stack on runs.
Two relievers came in late in the ninth to secure the last three strikeouts to seal the game and reduce the Lions’ magic number to 1.
Dykxhoorn said he had his fastball and used other pitches to chase Fubon hitters to the inside and outside corners.
“After every game I’m just getting ready for the next start and I haven’t thought about it too much,” he said. “Now we’re nearing the end and can look back now. See that I have 17 wins … It’s the best season of my career, and it’s been a pretty crazy year.
The last CPBL man to surpass the 17-win mark was also a Canadian pitcher, former Montreal Expos right-hander Mike Johnson of Edmonton, Alta., Who posted an impressive 20-2 record and an ERA of 2.45 for the New Bears in 2008.
The best precedent for the Lions was Dominican southpaw John Burgos in 2001 for his 18 wins and four losses, with a 2.03 ERA.
In Wednesday’s other game, the Monkeys were on fire for four points in the first and sixth frames en route to subdue the Dragons 9-3 at Cheng Ching Lake Stadium.
American pitcher Dylan Covey notched his third victory of the season behind 11 hits from his teammates.
He gave up two runs on five hits and was replaced after sixth frame by three relievers from Rakuten to mop up the final three innings.
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