Baseball in China took a huge step toward credibility, as the team managed by former Orix Buffaloes skipper Terry Collins shocked Taiwan 4-1 in a WBC elimination game on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
U.S.-born Ray Chang went 3-for-3 with a double, a homer and two RBIs, and starter Lu Jiangang, the winning pitcher against Taiwan at the Beijing Olympics, set the tone by allowing just one run over 5-1/3 innings to lead the way.
China has now beaten the Taiwanese back-to-back in international play. It won 8-7 in 12 innings at the Beijing Games last summer.
The loss also made Taiwan, which fell to South Korea 9-0 on Friday night, the first team to be bounced from the WBC, taking it out of Group A play with two defeats in less than 24 hours.
China, meanwhile, takes on South Korea at the Dome today at 6:30 p.m, with the winner facing Japan on Monday.
Taiwan, the silver medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Games, was missing key players, but the loss represents a power shift.
"From the start of the tournament I was worried about our hitting," said Taiwan manager Yeh Chih-hsien. "Today the pitchers did well, but the hitters didn't. We've also got to accept that the Chinese have raised their level of play."
For China and Collins, who earned his first win as the club's manager, the victory is expected to fuel growth.
"When I walked off the field and into the clubhouse and saw the Chinese officials as excited and happy as they were, I think it means a lot to baseball in China," said Collins, who took over from Jim Lefebvre in December.