Taiwan Series illustration via @CPBL_official on Instagram.
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Wei Chuan Dragons and Rakuten Monkeys will face off in the 2023 Taiwan Series starting Saturday, November 4.
The Dragons had the highest winning percentage of any Chinese Professional Baseball League team during the regular season and were awarded five games as the home team during the series.
Rakuten Monkeys (60-56-4)
The Rakuten Monkeys return to the Taiwan Series after being swept in four games by the CTBC Brothers in 2022. The Monkeys’ last title was in 2019 when they were known as the Lamigo Monkeys, located in Taoyuan City. They defeated the Chinatrust Brothers in five games and won game five convincingly, 20-3.
To reach the 2023 Taiwan Series, Rakuten defeated the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions three games to one. As the No. 2 seed, the Lions started the playoff series with a one-game advantage, but the Monkeys won three straight from October 28 to October 30.
Monkeys manager Zeng Hao-ju told reporters after game three of the playoff series that none of his players wanted to play in an elimination game. Zeng said the Monkeys played “as if there were no tomorrow.” Rakuten won the game 7-1 and received clutch hitting performances from catcher Yen Hung-chung and designated hitter Liao Chien-fu. Yen hit a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning, and Liao struck a pair of solo home runs in the second and third innings.
“The Monkeys just played better than us,” Lions manager Lin Yue-ping told Focus Taiwan. The Lions also dealt with an injury during the series. Starting pitcher Keyvius Sampson was drilled in the head with a line drive off the bat of Chen Hsiu-Chun in game one. Sampson had to exit the game but walked to the dugout under his own power.
If the Monkeys defeat the Wei Chuan Dragons in the Taiwan Series, it would be the teams’ first championship since moving to Rakuten in 2020. They will host games three and four at Rakuten Taoyuan Baseball Stadium from November 7-8. Both games are scheduled for 6:35 a.m. ET. Rakuten will have 12 pitchers, four catchers, nine infielders, and three outfielders on their 28-man Taiwan Series roster.
Wei Chuan Dragons (62-53-5)
The Wei Chuan Dragons were the champions in the second half of the season (32-26-2) and finished in second place behind the Lions in the first half.
It has been 24 years since the organization’s last Taiwan Series championship when they defeated the Koos Group Whales four games to one. However, it has only been three years since the club rejoined the CPBL as a major league team.
Manager Yeh Chang-Chun was a catcher on the 1999 championship team and enjoyed a 16-year playing career in the CPBL with the Dragons, Sinon Bulls, and Brother Elephants. During his four years with the Dragons, the club won three straight championships from 1997-99. Yeh is delighted to return to the Taiwan Series with his old team.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be back in the Taiwan Series, as a Dragon, and after twenty-some years,” Yeh told reporters in a postgame press conference after defeating the Lions in game three. “The old Dragons, with our threepeat, was an extraordinary memory for me.”
Yeh can become the first manager in CPBL history to lead two organizations to titles. He led the victorious EDA Rhinos, now known as the Fubon Guardians, in 2016.
The Dragons have some imposing sluggers on the team that could make it difficult on Rakutens’ pitching staff. Catcher Kungkuan Giljegiljaw is no exception. The 29-year-old played six seasons in the Cleveland Guardians organization from 2014-19 and has hit 48 home runs in his first three seasons in China. Gilijegilijaw’s teammate Lin Cheng-xiao does not hit nearly as many home runs, but the outfielder was caught stealing just six times in 27 attempts during the regular season.
The Wei Chuan Dragons will host games one, two, five, six, and seven of the Taiwan Series at Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium. They will have 13 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders, and four outfielders on their 28-man Taiwan Series roster.
2023 Taiwan Series Schedule
Game 1 – November 4 at 5:05 a.m. ET – Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium
Game 2 – November 5 at 5:05 a.m. ET – Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium
Game 3 – November 7 at 6:35 a.m. ET – Rakuten Taoyuan Baseball Stadium
Game 4 – November 8 at 6:35 a.m. ET – Rakuten Taoyuan Baseball Stadium
Game 5 – November 10 at 6:35 a.m. ET – Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium
Game 6 – November 11 at 5:05 a.m. ET – Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium
Game 7 – November 12 at 5:05 a.m. ET – Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium
All games of the 2023 Taiwan Series can be streamed on CPBL TV through the Hami Video website or via Twitch; both include a paid subscription.