Foreign pitchers from the KBO got the job done in the Taiwan Series. Former KIA Tigers right-hander Drew Gagnon (33) picked up the win and former Kiwoom Heroes pitcher Jake Brigham (35) picked up the save in Game 7 to lead the Weichuan Dragons to the title.
Gagnon started the final Game 7 of the Taiwan 2023 Series at Tien Mu Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday (Feb. 12) and threw six innings of five-hit ball, striking out five and allowing three runs (two earned) in a quality start against the Rakuten Monkeys to lead Weiquan to a 6-3 victory.
Gagnon struggled in Game 3, giving up four runs on five hits in five innings with two walks and six strikeouts, but rebounded to win the all-important Game 7. Brigham, who came on in the bottom of the ninth with a 6-3 lead, pitched one scoreless inning to earn the save.
Weiquan, coached by Ye Zunzhang, dropped games two and three after winning game one. They took game four to level the series at 2-2, but then dropped game five 0-11. However, after winning the sixth game 2-0, he took the seventh game to win the series 4-3.
It was Weiqian’s fifth Taiwan Series title in 24 years, following the 1990, 1997, 1998 and 1999 titles. The team was at its peak in 1997-1999 when it won three consecutive titles, but was later disbanded due to the financial difficulties of its parent company.
However, the team decided to rebuild in 2019, and after playing in the second team in 2020, they rejoined the first team as a new team in 2021. The team finished fifth in the league in 2021, but made the playoffs last year and won the Taiwan Series this year, marking a return to form in its third season.
At the center of their success are players from the KBO. Gagnon, who was not re-signed by KIA in 2020 after going 11-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 28 games (159⅔ innings), has been with Weichuan for three years since 2021. This year, he went 13-7 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 games (183 innings), leading the team in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He also ranks third in ERA.
Pitcher Brigham, who spent five seasons with the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO from 2017-2021, compiling a career record of 50-26 with a 3.63 ERA in 114 games (669⅓ innings), is also a key contributor to the 2021 Weiqian rebuild. He left for South Korea during the 2021 season to join Kiwoom, but returned to Weichuan last year and served as a starter for two straight seasons until this year. Despite a two-and-a-half-month layoff after suffering a fractured foot in early May, he went 10-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 22 games (129 innings). 1st in ERA.
Brigham pitched eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball in Game 2 of the Taiwan series, striking out six and walking none, but was left without a win, and took the loss in Game 5 after giving up seven runs (one earned) on seven hits in 3⅔ innings, walking one and striking out six. However, in the final game, Game 7, he gave up two hits in the ninth inning with a 6-3 lead, but struck out two to earn the save.
Wei-quan is not the only KBO player to have played in the league. Left-handed pitcher Wang Wei-zhong, 31, who was the first Taiwanese foreign player in the KBO and went 7-10 with a 4.26 ERA in 25 games (141⅔ innings) for the NC Dinos in 2018, is also in his third year with Weichuan. In all 45 games (49⅔ innings) this year, Wang has pitched in relief, posting a 3-2 record, one save and 18 holds with a 3.62 ERA. In the Taiwan Series, he took one loss in two games, giving up seven runs in two innings with a 31.50 ERA.
Meanwhile, right-handed fastball pitcher Xu Ruoxi was named the MVP of the Taiwan Series. At 23 years and 11 days old, he is the second-youngest MVP in the history of the series. He pitched four innings of four-hit ball in Game 1, striking out four and walking one to set the stage for the win, and then pulled his team back from the brink in Game 6 with seven innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven and walking none. He earned MVP honors with a 1-0 record and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched in the two-game series. 토토사이트