Weichuan Dragons win CPBL Taiwan Series for first time in 24 years

Weichuan Dragons win CPBL Taiwan Series for first time in 24 years
The Dragons, one of the most storied franchises in CPBL history, defeated the Rakuten Monkeys 6-3 in the crucial Game Seven of the Taiwan Series 2023, to win their first title in 24 years, and their fifth in franchise history in front of 10,000 passionate fans at Tianmu Baseball Stadium. Dragons’ young ace Jo-Hsi Hsu who started Game One and Six was named Series MVP.

TAIPEI, Taiwan | After 8,769 days since clinching their third championship title in as many years and fourth overall, the Weichuan Dragons once again claimed the highest honour of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) by defeating the Rakuten Monkeys in the seven-game series, four games to three, winning their first Taiwan Series title in 24 years.

The Dragons won the deciding game on Sunday 6-3 in front of a packed home crowd at Tianmu Baseball Stadium numbering 10,000 fans, who celebrated with the traditional throwing of red ribbons into the air.

One of the four founding franchises of CPBL when the league was inaugurated in 1990, the Dragons became the first championship winner in CPBL history the same year when they defeated the Mercuries Tigers in six games.

As one of the most popular and competitive clubs in the league, the Dragons then won the titles three years in a row from 1997 to 1999, their last win coming just over 24 years ago, on 9 November, 1999.

The decision for the Dragons to withdraw from the league about a month after the club achieved their three-peat stunned the baseball world and triggered the fans to organize a rally in an attempt to save their team. However, with both Dragons and Tigers announced to withdraw from the league in the same postseason, CPBL returned to their founding scale of four teams until 2003.

The Dragons made their comeback in 2019 as an expansion team and returned to the field of play on the minor league level in 2020 before being admitted to the major league level in 2021. Managed by one of the most established catchers-turned-manager of all time Chun-Chang Yeh, who was the starting catcher of the Dragons when they won their last title in 1999, the team made it to the post-season in their second season on their return and made it to the Taiwan Series in just their third.

Nicknamed “Big Red Derby” as this year’s Taiwan Series are played by two teams both sporting red as their representing colour, the two teams played back-to-back extra-inning games with a total of 25 innings to open the series. Dragons’ first overall pick in 2019, Chi-Hung Liu, blasted the walk-off homerun in the 14th inning in game one to take the first Taiwan Series victory for the Dragons in 24 years.

Taiwan Series 2023 Results

Weichuan Dragons 3-2 Rakuten Monkeys (14 innings)

Rakuten Monkeys 4-0 Weichuan Dragons (11 innings)

Rakuten Monkeys 7-4 Weichuan Dragons

Weichuan Dragons 4-1 Rakuten Monkeys

Rakuten Monkeys 11-0 Weichuan Dragons

Weichuan Dragons 2-0 Rakuten Monkeys

Weichuan Dragons 6-3 Rakuten Monkeys

The Dragons and the Monkeys split the first two games before heading to the Monkeys' home field in Taoyuan. With the Monkeys winning Game Three, the Dragons rallied in Game Four behind their starting pitcher Bryan Woodall, who gave up only one run over seven innings en route to split the series again at 2-2.

The series returned to the Dragons' home field for Game Five and Six. Monkeys’ starter Pedro Fernandez blanked the Dragons as he went eight innings, giving up only six hits while fanning 13, tying the CPBL Taiwan Series record. The Monkeys also returned to their season-form as they scored 11 runs to take the third win of the series.

Facing elimination and the end of the season, the Dragons sent their young ace Jo-Hsi Hsu to the mound to start Game Six. Hsu’s career-best performance of seven-innings, one-hit game with seven strikeouts pushed the “Big Red Derby” to Game Seven for the ultimate showdown between the Dragons and the Monkeys.

The Monkeys wasted no time to quickly score one run in the top of the first inning in Game Seven, but the Dragons responded with five runs in the same inning to retire Monkeys starter Jake Dahlberg and set the tone for the remaining of the game. Dragons’ starter Drew Gagnon went six innings while giving up three runs before Woodall relieved two scoreless innings and Jake Brigham shut the door to earn the save and the ring of Taiwan Series 2023.

Dragons’ manager Chun-Chang Yeh became the first manager in CPBL history to win the Taiwan Series with two different teams (EDA Rhinos, 2016).

Yeh recalled the winning moment: “My mind was totally blank, and I felt really hungry, too. All I remember was someone was shouting for the catcher to catch the final out.”

Dragons’ catcher Shao-Hung Chiang caught the final out, and the full-house Dragons fans threw the red ribbons into the air as per the tradition of the CPBL title clinching celebrations.

In addition to Hsu being named the MVP of the Series, Woodall of the Dragons and Yu-Hsien Chu of the Monkeys were named Outstanding Players of the Series.