Saturday's Game 4 in Cheng Ching Lake Stadium in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung featured good pitching, timely hitting and crisp defense from both sides. Yet, MLB once again held on at the end, using a sixth-inning two-run single from Nationals slugger Michael Morse to beat the Chinese Taipei national team, 3-2, before another boisterous crowd.
"It was a great game, really," MLB and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I thought it was the best game so far in the series. It could have gone either way, and they played very well and pitched well. It also was a great crowd. It was a lot of fun out there today."
MLB took a 4-0 lead in the five-game set heading into Sunday's finale, which also will be played in this ballpark and will air on MLB.TV and MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday night. The matchup will feature Washington Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang, the Taiwanese right-hander who was a two-time 19-game winner for the New York Yankees and is a national superstar. Wang will start for Chinese Taipei.
"I think it's going to be a huge day here," Bochy said.
"You have your local hero that has done a great job in the Major Leagues. He's got great stuff, and we expect that the fans are going to be behind him. We know we're going to be facing a very good pitcher and we're looking forward to it.
"We respect what he's done on the field and what he's done for your country. I expect tomorrow to be a close ballgame and a lot of fun."
On Saturday, MLB got five innings of one-run ball from Mets starter Dillon Gee. Chinese Taipei's left-hander, former Major Leaguer and current Detroit Tigers Triple-A pitcher Fu-Te Ni, matched him for 3 1/3 innings, giving up only one run on an Erick Aybar RBI triple in the third.
"It was great to come back here and pitch," said Ni, who was removed because he reached his prescribed pitch count. "I spent a lot of time playing in this stadium, and it's always nice to be back."
As for Gee, he gave up six base hits in his five innings, and he said the Chinese Taipei team impressed him with its tenacity.
"Early in the game, it seemed like I couldn't get anybody out," Gee said. "It was just base hit after base hit after base hit. They put up a good battle at the plate. Luckily, I kind of found a groove and was able to keep them off the bases."
The score remained deadlocked at 1 until the pivotal sixth. D-backs infielder Ryan Roberts worked a leadoff walk against Taiwanese reliever Yu-Hsun Chen, moved to third on a double by Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, which was followed by Morse delivering the game-deciding hit for the second night in a row and putting MLB up, 3-1.
Another key to MLB's victory on Saturday was the bullpen. Angels right-hander Trevor Bell tossed two innings after Gee departed. Bell escaped further damage by limiting Chinese Taipei to one run in the seventh after Wei-Ting Lin led off the inning with a triple and scored on a fielder's choice by Che-Hsuan Lin, a Boston Red Sox outfield prospect.
Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez pitched a perfect eighth, and Reds lefty reliever Bill Bray secured the win with a shutout ninth.
After the game, Lin said he was proud of how his team fought.
"I think it was a good game today," Lin said through an interpreter. "Both sides played real well. It was a close game. Unfortunately, we lost by one run, but I think we're playing better and better, especially the young guys on the team."
And that has been the real story of the series -- how quickly baseball is improving in Taiwan.
The Taiwanese hitters worked at-bats, put the ball in play, ran down fly balls with aplomb and didn't give in. Their grit and talent has been on display all week against the highest level of competition.
"They're getting better and better with each game," Cano said. "They're very emotional the way they play the game.
"They pitched very well today and they play the game the right way. That's what I really like. They don't take anything for granted and they do everything the right way."