Thursday, September 22, 2016
The Naranjeros will be without pitchers Jorge de la Rosa (Rockies), Jaime Garcia (Cardinals), Cesar Vargas (Padres) and Adrian Rodriguez (Reds) this winter. De la Rosa (pictured) has won 101 MLB games since his debut in late 2004, winning 16 contests for the Rockies in 2009 and 2013. He's pitched 134 innings for Colorado this season, including 24 starts, and has an 8-9 record. Garcia is 10-2 for St. Louis over 170 innings in 2016. The 24-year-old Vargas is 0-3 after seven starts for San Diego and has pitched a total of 46.2 innings this year. Rodriguez, who turned 20 last month, tossed 33.2 frames for the Reds' Rookie affiliate in Billings, with his last pitch coming against Great Falls on July 29.
Obregon will have to make do without three players: pitchers Dallas Martinez (Yankees) and Samuel Zazueta (Rangers) plus third baseman Christian Villanueva (Cubs). All three missed the 2016 season with injuries. The Yaquis will particularly miss Villanueva, who was BBM's Most Valuable Player last winter after hitting .322 with nine homers in 64 games and playing good defense at the hot corner.
Other players sitting out the winter will be Los Mochis pitchers Marco Estrada (Jays) and Luis Niebla (Yankees); Culiacan hurlers Rafael Ordaz (Yankees) and Carlos Torres (Brewers); and Jalisco reliever Roberto Osuna, who has had an outstanding year with AL East-leading Toronto and wasn't too fatigued to strike out all four Seattle batters he faced on 19 pitches Wednesday night.
While there was no assurance that the likes of de la Rosa, Villanueva or Osuna would've played ball in Mexico this winter, MLB has made that decision for them (something MLB never gets fatigued from doing).
Diablos, Oaxaca to field Mexican-only nines in 2017
The Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros have announced their intentions to play the 2017 Mexican League season with teams consisting entirely of Mexican players. The Puro Beisbol website has posted a press release from the Diablos stating that the two teams will be relying on homegrown talent next year, with a large number of players having spent time at the Alfredo Harp Helu Baseball Academy in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca.
The academy, named after the Diablos' billionaire owner and a longtime proponent of developing domestic baseball talent in Mexico, opened its doors on November 12, 2009. Since then, more than 600 prospects have attended the academy, with 38 of them now toiling with Major League Baseball organizations (including Toronto closer Roberto Osuna and Dodgers wunderkind pitcher Julio Cesar Urias, who was rated the #4 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the current season).
Mexico City currently has 77 graduates on their reserve list, with 13 who played at Estadio Fray Nano during the recently-concluded season. One, pitcher Alexandro Delgado, went 11-1 with a 2.83 ERA for the Red Devils while shortstop Juan Carlos Gamboa batted .321 with 9 homers. Oaxaca has a total of 36 ABAHH products in tow, including ten Guerreros in 2016. Nineteen-year-old pitcher Erick Casillas was 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA as a reliever last summer while 21-year-old Luis Medina played three infield positions and hit .259 for Oaxaca.
The change in team policies means that some foreign players would need to find new teams in Mexico next spring. Californian first baseman Cyle Hankerd, member of Mazatlan's Caribbean Series title team last winter, batted .322 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs for Mexico City this season while veteran Venezuelan catcher Eliezer Alfonso hit .342 with 14 homers in 69 contests for the Diablos.
This would not be the first time all-Mexican teams take the field in the LMB. For years, Tigres' owner Alejo Peralta, who played for Veracruz in the Thirties before going on to become one of the richest men in the country, took considerable pride in his team winning Liga pennants primarily using home-grown talent. Playing in Puebla, the Tigres celebrated their 50th anniversary season with an all-Mexican roster in 2005 and went on to win the franchise's ninth (of twelve) championship that year.
Summer BBM Awards next week, "Golden Greats" book taking shape
While Baseball Mexico has been taking a breather since last week's conclusion of the Mexican League season with Puebla's win over Tijuana in the Serie del Rey, things have been moving forward behind the scenes.
Our revived annual Summer Award winners will be announced next week. There were no Bammys given during BBM's hiatus from 2012 through 2015. For a trip down Memory Lane, here are the 2011 Summer Bammy winners:
Manager of the Year: Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz Rojos Aguilas
Newcomer of the Year: Doug Clark, Quintana Roo Tigres
Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Campos, Campeche Piratas
Most Valuable Player: Luis Terrero, Mexico City Diablos Rojos
Playoff MVP: Pablo Ortega, Quintana Roo Tigres
Also coming in October, there will be wraps for all Mexican summer leagues, from the Liga through the Academy League near Monterrey.
BBM's planned "Golden Greats of Mexican Baseball" book commemorating fifty top players in the history of Mexican baseball is also coming together. The preliminary format for "Golden Greats" will include two pages devoted to each player, with two photos, career MLB and/or LMB stats (and hopefully LMP stats, too), biographical data and 500-word profiles. A draft list of fifty players has been put together to feature five players each at catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop, ten outfielders and fifteen pitchers. Up to ten more non-players will be featured, there'll be a history of Mexican baseball and a four-page chapter on Hector Espino, easily the nation's most beloved and respected ballplayer. The hope is that "Golden Greats" will be ready for release in time for Christmas. That's the HOPE.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Blackley, a former major league hurler from Australia, only allowed singles by Dustin Martin and Roberto Lopez while striking out six and walking two to post his third playoff win of 2016. He was named Playoff MVP by the Liga following the contest. This might not even be the highlight of the 33-year-old lefty's past year...Blackley married American model Jenna Cecil in the offseason, with no apparent deleterious effect on his stamina (football coaches, take note).
The game was a pitcher's duel from the onset, as Tijuana starter Barry Enright matched Blackley, zero for zero, until serving up a two-out homer to Puebla first baseman Daric Barton to center field in the top of the sixth inning. Enright lasted 6.2 innings, scattering seven hits and walking one while striking out five Pericos batsmen in absorbing a loss he really didn't deserve. After Jose Meraz replaced Enright (who'd thrown 103 pitches) to record the final out of the seventh, Juan Sandoval took the hill for the Toros and pitched a scoreless eighth.
Sandoval, a 35-year-old Dominican righty who pitched well for Tijuana after being released by Mexico City in late June, opened the top of the ninth by letting up a leadoff double to Sergio Perez, who lined a 1-1 pitch into left field. It looked like the Toros might escape their predicament when Alberto Carreon grounded out and Rudy Amador struck pout swinging, but Nyjer Morgan's sharp grounder up the middle into center scored pinch-runner Oscar Sanay from second to make it a 2-0 Puebla lead. The threat ended one pitch later when Morgan lit out to steal second but was nailed by a perfect throw from Toros catcher Juan Apodaca to second sacker Carlos Valencia for the third out.
It was then left to Gaudin, who pitched for nine MLB teams between 2003 and 2013, to close out the game and season for Puebla in the bottom of the ninth, but it didn't go as smoothly as Pericos manager Cory Snyder hoped. After Oscar Robles led off for Tijuana by lining out to Carreon at shortstop, Olmo Rosario legged out a bunt single down the third base line to keep the Toros' hopes alive. Gaudin then faced the dangerous Dustin Martin, who'd already had a pocketful of postseason plate heroics for Tijuana. After working the count to 3-2, Gaudin got Martin swinging for the second out. During the at-bat, Rosario broke for second to steal the bag, drawing a throw from Tapia. Umpire Jesus Lopez ruled Rosario safe, causing Pericos skipper Snyder to come out of the dugout to protest the decision, but the call was upheld. Gaudin then took matters into his own hands by whiffing Apodaca on five pitches to pick up his seventh playoff save and clinch the title for Puebla.
Ex-MLB outfielder Willy Taveras had an outstanding Serie del Rey for the Pericos, batting .458 over the six-game set, while Barton and Tapia each hit two homers for Puebla. This series was decided by pitching, however, as the Pericos staff held Tijuana to a .199 average.
Puebla 2-10-0, TIJUANA 0-3-1 (Puebla wins series, 4 games to 2)
W-Blackley. L-Enright. SV-Gaudin. HR-Barton (P). T-3:02. A-17,893.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Lopez (pictured) cracked a double and homer in the ninth inning to the plate for the Toros, driving in three runs and scoring twice as Tijuana shaved Puebla's series lead to 3-games-to-2. The Pericos had won the first two of three games played in Puebla, all before sellout crowds of 12,112.
Starting pitchers Horacio Ramirez of Tijuana and Orlando Lara of Puebla traded zeros until the top of the third inning, when Roberto Lopez crashed a solo homer to center off Lara to give the visitors a 1-0 nod. The score stood until the bottom of the fifth, when Willy Taveras slashed a triple off Ramirez and later came in on Daric Barton's two-out single up the middle to tie things up for the host team. The Pericos took the lead one frame later when Ruben Rivera led off the sixth with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Rudy Amador's seeing-eye single into center to give Puebla a 2-1 advantage.
The score held until the crazy top of the ninth, during which the visitors sent twelve batters to the plate and put those eight runs on the scoreboard. Dustin Martin, who's having a Playoff MVP-worthy finals for Tijuana, led off the inning against Puebla closer Chad Gaudin with a triple past a diving Nyjer Morgan in left field Martin scored on third baseman Amador's throwing error on a Carlos Valencia grounder to knot the game at 2-2 and the Toros eventually filled the bases for Lopez, whose two-run double broke the deadlock for good. Gaudin registered his first out of the inning when the sixth batter faced, Miguel Torrero, grounded out to second. After Gaudin got Jose Guadalupe Chavez to ground into a fielder's choice out as Puebla shortstop Alberto Carreon threw Alex Romero out at the plate for the second out, the bottom really fell out for the eleven-year MLB vet.
Throwing to pinch-hitter Emmanuel Valdez, Gaudin uncorked a wild pitch that brought Lopez rumbling in from third to make it a 5-2 Toros lead, then let up a Valdez double to center that scored Chavez. Puebla skipper Cory Snyder deduced that Gaudin maybe just didn't have it after eight batsmen and four runs and brought in Benny Suarez. It only took nine pitches and consecutive walks to Olmo Rosario and Martin for Snyder to figure that Suarez might not have it either, calling in Julio Felix from the bullpen to face Edson Garcia, who'd pinch-run earlier and stayed in the game defensively in center field. While working on Garcia, Felix unleashed a wild pitch of his own to move Valdez in from third to bring the score to 7-2. Garcia then drilled a liner into right to bring in Rosario and Martin, making it a 9-2 TJ lead before Valencia mercifully ended the onslaught by grounding out to second. It was then left to Toros closer Jason Urquidez to post a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth against the shell-shocked Puebla batsmen to end the game and send the Serie del Rey back to Estadio Gasmart.
Urquidez pitched the last 2.1 innings, allowing no hits and whiffing three Pericos for the win. Gaudin was tagged with both a blown save and the loss for Puebla. Both teams put up eleven hits on the night, with Chavez and Lopez each contributing two hits for Tijuana while Taveras and Amador split six hits for Puebla, five of them singles. Lara scattered seven hits but let in just one run over 6.2 innings for the Pericos; Ramirez lasted into the sixth and had a tougher time, coughing up all 11 hits and both Puebla runs but five relievers (including Urquidez) allowed no hits or runs the rest of the way. The game was delayed by rain for over an hour, stretching the contest past 12:30am local time.
After a travel day Tuesday, the two teams will convene Wednesday night in Tijuana at 10:30pm ET. Game Seven, if needed, would be played Thursday, after which many players won't have time to either celebrate or drown their sorrows. Training camps in the Mexican Pacific League are already opening for the coming winterball season...another reason to love baseball in Mexico.
Tijuana 9-11-1, PUEBLA 2-11-2 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Urquidez (1-0). L-Gaudin (0-1). HR-Lopez (R). T-3:30. A-12,112.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Toros took a 1-0 lead in a crazy top of the first inning. After walking leadoff batter Jose Guadalupe Chavez and inducing Alex Romero to foul out to Pericos left fielder Nyjer Morgan, things started getting weird when Olmo Rosario stepped up to the plate for Tijuana. Galvan threw a wild pitch to Rosario that allowed Chavez to scamper to second, then a delivery that eluded catcher Cesar Tapia gave Chavez the green light to advance to third. It was left to Rosario to loft a fly ball that fell to earth in front of center fielder Willy Taveras for a single, bringing in Chavez with what turned out to be the Toros' only run. Dustin Martin and Carlos Valencia also singled to load the bases before Oscar Robles grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Pericos knotted the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Jose Rodriguez' grounder found its way to left field to bring Morgan in from third, but it was the fourth inning that effectively put the game away for Puebla. Rodriguez opened the inning by being plunked Tijuana starter Miguel Pena, moved to third on a Daric Barton double and (after Pena walked Tapia to load the bases) came in on an infield single by Ruben Rivera. Alberto Carreon then stroked a two-run double to give Puebla a 4-1 lead. Rudy Amador grounded out on a comebacker to Pena on the mound with no more runs coming in, but that was enough for Tijuana manager Pedro Mere. Mark Serrano was brought in to face Oscar Sanay, who nubbed an infield single to third that brought Rivera in from third before Morgan ended the inning by lining to first sacker Roberto Lopez for an unassisted double play to end the inning and (in effect) the game, as nobody scored the rest of the way.
Taveras went 3-for-5 to lead the Pericos' nine-hit effort while Carreon recorded his third straight two-hit game to raise his playoff batting average to .360. Rosario collected two of Tijuana's six hits. Galvan ended up allowing the Toros' lone run on five hits over his five innings of work to take the win, scattering five safeties. Pena absorbed the defeat to fall to 0-2 in the playoffs, giving up six hits, hitting two batters and walking another in 3.1 frames. He was charged with all five Puebla runs. One day after the two teams combined for six homers in Game Three, neither side hit one out Sunday.
The Pericos will try to clinch Puebla's first Liga pennant since 1986 and fourth since 1925 on Monday while the Toros try to keep the Serie de Rey alive and send the proceedings back to Tijuana for Games Six and Seven. Lefty Horacio Ramirez will be on the hill for the Toros while fellow portsider Orlando Lara will start for Puebla. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:00pm ET.
PUEBLA 5-9-0, Tijuana 1-6-0 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 1)
W-Galvan. L-M. Pena. T-2:46. A-12,112.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Lara actually fell behind briefly in the top of the third inning, allowing one TJ run on back-to-back doubles by Isaac Rodriguez and Jose Guadalupe Chavez. The Pericos came back with two of their own in the bottom of the frame, courtesy of solo homers off Toros starter Alex Sanabia by Daric Barton and Ruben Rivera, with Rivera's circuit clout to left putting the Pericos ahead for good. Puebla rang up two more runs in the fourth (keyed by a Jose Rodriguez RBI double), two in the fifth on Rudy Amador's two-run single and one more tally in the sixth when Rodriguez socked a homer off reliever Manny Bareda. Lara pitched a scoreless seventh before leaving the game with a 7-1 lead and a seeming lock for his third postseason triumph.
To their credit, Tijuana refused to lay down and die by ringing up four runs in the top of the eighth against Pericos relievers Jaime Lugo and Benny Suarez, three of them coming off a Dustin Martin homer to straightaway center field, his third bomb in as many Serie del Rey contests and fifth overall in the playoffs. Suarez replaced Lugo after Martin's blast and, after getting one out, served up a solo shot to Carlos Valencia to narrow the Pericos' lead to two runs before recording the final two outs of the entrada.
Puebla got one run back in the bottom of the eighth when Cesar Tapia went deep off Gerardo Sanchez (the Toros' sixth pitcher of the night) and it was left to Pericos closer Chad Gaudin to record a 1-2-3 ninth, getting Alex Romero swinging for the final out of the game and his sixth playoff save to seal the 8-5 win.
Rodriguez, Amador and Alberto Carreon each had two of Puebla's 11 hits while Martin contributed three hits for the Toros, who put 16 batters on base via hit, walk or error but were only 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position while hitting into five Puebla double plays. With the win, Lara goes to 3-0 in the playoffs while the 37-year-old Hermosillo native lowered his postseason ERA to 1.32. Sanabia suffered his first playoff loss for Tijuana, and it's a testament to how dominant he'd been in the first two rounds to note that even after coughing up five Pericos runs in 4.1 innings, his postseason ERA only went up to 1.96.
Game Four of the best-of-seven series is slated for Sunday afternoon in Puebla at 2:00pm Eastern Time. Miguel Pena (0-1, 5.40) is the likely Tijuana starter while Hector Galvan (0-0, 9.64) is expected to throw the first pitch for Puebla. Galvan went 9-3 during the regular season for manager Cory Snyder's Pericos, but has only made one postseason appearance with a forgettable August 20 first-round start against Quintana Roo (his only outing in over a month).
PUEBLA 8-11-2, Tijuana 5-11-1 (Puebla leads series, 2 games to 1)
W-M. Lara. L-Sanabia. SV-Gaudin. HR-Valencia (T), D. Martin (T), R. Rivera (P), Barton (P), Tapia (P), J. Rodriguez (P). T-3:07. A-12,112.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Puebla got on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning when LMB batting champ Cesar Tapia, who's had a fairly quiet postseason, jolted a full-count delivery from Toros starter Barry Enright over the left field wall for a solo homer. The 1-0 score held until the top of the fourth, when the Pericos plated three runs. Daric Barton led the frame off with a triple, with Tapia singling him in. Subsequently, Alberto Carreon singled and Nyjer Morgan walked to load the bases with two out, bringing up Willy Taveras. After Enright got him to whiff on the first pitch, Taveras lined the Pepperdine product's next offering to center field to bring in both Tapia and Carreon to make it a 4-0 lead for the Pericos.
Up to that point, Puebla starter Travis Blackley (pictured) was sailing along and the Aussie carried a one-hitter into the bottom of the fifth, when he walked Oscar Robles, wild-pitched Robles to second and then let up a run-scoring, ground-rule double to Carlos Valencia, who bounced a liner past Morgan and over the left field fence to ruin Blackley's shutout bid. Things got a little warmer for Blackley and the Pericos in the sixth, when Martin followed up an Alex Romero single with his fourth homer of the playoffs to close the gap to 4-3.
That was as close as TJ would get, however, as Morgan singled in Tapia with a Puebla run in the top of the eighth off reliever Juan Sandoval and Barton touched Jason Urquidez with an RBI single in the ninth, driving in Jose Rodriguez with the final score of the game to clinch the win for the Parrots. It was the first postseason run allowed by Urquidez in eight appearances after the Arizonan had saved 26 regular season games in 27 opportunities for the Toros. The former Diamondbacks minor leaguer also pitched a scoreless inning for the victorious North in June's LMB All-Star Game at Estadio Monterrey.
Blackley got the win, allowing three runs over 5.2 innings on four hits and three walks, while Chad Gaudin picked up his fifth postseason save. Enright took the loss, his second defeat in three playoff decisions, after giving up four runs on eight hits in 3.2 frames. Tapia had three of Puebla's 13 hits, scoring three times and driving in two runs. Tijuana collected just four hits on the night and now have just seven safeties over the first two games of the title tilt.
The two combatants will have the day off Friday before resuming the Serie el Rey with three games at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Puebla is seeking its fifth Liga pennant since first fielding an LMB team in 1942 and their first since 1986. Former big leaguer Cory Snyder has managed the Pericos since the All-Star Break, when the team shockingly fired Matias Carrillo even though the team had the best record in the league at the time. Carrillo is now a member of the Toros coaching staff under skipper Pedro Mere, who himself assumed the reins July 4 after Luis Sojo was canned. This is the first time Tijuana has played for a Mexican League title.
Puebla 6-13-0, TIJUANA 3-4-0 (Series tied at 1 game each)
W-Blackley. L-Enright. SV-Gaudin. HR-Martin (T). T-2:46. A-17,399.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
The 6'2" Texan was 0-for-3 when he led off the bottom of the ninth inning for Tijuana, who were deadlocked in a 0-0 tie with Puebla. With the count at 1-1, Martin launched a Carlos Bustamante pitch over the wall in left-center field for a walkoff homer to hand the Toros a 1-0 win over the Pericos in front of 17,399 delirious spectators at Tijuana's Estadio Gasmart.
As befits the score, the game was a pitcher's duel between Puebla starter Orlando Lara and Tijuana's Horacio Ramirez for six innings before Ramirez was replaced by Gerardo Sanchez after the ex-MLBer held Puebla scoreless on four hits. Lara, whose playoff ERA was lowered to 0.67, sparkled over eight innings and let up just two singles and walked five until Bustamante came on to pitch to Martin in the fateful ninth frame. Juan Sandoval pitched the final two innings in relief to earn the win for the Toros.
It's already been quite a year for Martin, who began 2015 with Sugar Land of the independent Atlantic League before landing in Tijuana for the last month of the Liga season, hitting .375 with 7 homers for the Toros in 26 games. He then played winterball with Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League, turning in a .301 average for the Yaquis and playing a key postseason role in their ascension to the LMP title series against eventual champion Mazatlan.
This summer went even better for the former Mets/Twins/D-backs farmhand as he reached career highs in several offensive categories, including batting (.325), homers (19), RBI's (88) and even stolen bases (32) during the regular season. That production has carried over into the playoffs, where he's hitting .302 with three homers and several key hits, including a go-ahead longball in Monday's LMB North Championship-clinching game at Monterrey. And now this.
The two teams will lock horns for Game Two at 7:35pm local time Thursday night in the border city before the Serie el Rey moves to Puebla for Game Three on Saturday.
TIJUANA 1-3-0, Puebla 0-5-0 (Tijuana leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Sandoval. L-Bustamante. HR-Martin. T-2:46. A-17,399.