Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gastelum drives in three as Hermosillo ties series, Mochis wins as Romo earns save

The Hermosillo Naranjeros have bounced back from two thrashings in Mexicali to tie their series with the Aguilas after winning Game Four, 4-1, Monday night in Mexcan Pacific League semifinal action before 18,156 (mostly) hometown fans in Estadio Sonora. Jeremy Kehrt earned the victory with an effective start for the Orangemen, who got three RBIs from Carlos Gastelum. In the other MexPac semi matchup, Isaac Rodriguez' run-scoring double gave visiting Los Mochis a fifth-inning lead they would never relinquish as the Caneros went on to best Culiacan, 3-2, as 16,039 looked on at Estadio de los Tomateros. The win, which marked the first time a home team has lost in this series, gives Los Mochis a 3-games-to-2 lead in the set.

Game Five of the Aguilas-Naranjeros semi is scheduled for Tuesday night in Hermosillo.  The Caneros and Tomateros will take a travel day off before playing Game Six Wednesday night in Los Mochis.

HERMOSILLO 4-8-3, Mexicali 1-7-1

Neither team put a run on the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Hermosillo's Carlos Gastelum (pictured above in mid-air) sliced a bases-loaded double to left off last winter's LMP Pitcher of the Year, Javier Solano, that brought in Tim Torres and Sergio Burruel to give the Naranjeros a 2-0 lead.  That was more than enough cushion for Jeremy Kehrt to carry a lead into the seventh. Kehrt did allow a Mexicali score in the top of the fifth when Ramon Rios singled Luis Juarez across home plate, but the Dodgers farmhand all but took the bats out of the Aguilas' hands by allowing the lone run on four hits in 6.2 innings pitched.

Hermosillo posted another run in the sixth as Gastelum's single up the middle brought in Jorge Flores from second to open their lead to 3-1, followed by another run in the seventh when Jose Amador crushed a Yair Loaiza delivery over the center field wall to put the Orangemen up by three.  Jose Samoya and Rafael Martin held the Aguilas scoreless over the final two innings to close out the win, with Martin earning his fourth playoff save.

Kehrt kept the Mexicali batters off balance en route to his first playoff win.  Solano fell to 0-3 in January by giving up Hermosillo's first two runs in 3.2 innings on four hits and four walks as both starters battled occasional control issues.  Gastelum ended up going 2-for-5 with three ribbies while Amador added a pair of two-baggers to augment his longball for the Naranjeros.  C.J. Retherford had two singles for the Aguilas and Yuniesky Betancourt rapped an eighth-inning double. Mexicali has now scored a total of two runs in Hermosillo the past two nights after piling up 24 runs in two tilts back home to open the series.

Los Mochis 3-11-0, CULIACAN 2-6-0

Los Mochis wasted no time bothering the scorekeeper as Eugenio Velez belted a leadoff homer to left against Tomateros starter Patrick McCoy, but Culiacan responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the initial frame when Maxwell Leon and Ryan Lollis starting things off with consecutive doubles off Caneros opener Manny Barreda (who signed with Atlanta last month shortly after tossing the season's only no-hitter).

The score remained at 1-1 until the top of the fifth, when McCoy gave up doubles to Juan Carlos Gamboa and Isaac Rodriguez, the latter giving Mochis the lead back.  Culiacan skipper Che Reyes replaced McCoy with Hector Navarro, who threw two strikesas  to Lew Ford before Ford punched Navarro's third delivery past second base to plate Rodriguez with the Caneros' second run of the inning to put the visitors on top, 3-1.  Ramiro Pena brought the Tomateros one run closer in the bottom of the fifth by lashing a double to center off Barreda, scoring Leon all the way from first base. From that point on, Barreda and four Mochis relievers combined to hold the hosts to two singles the rest of the way, a good thing for the Caneros since their offense was likewise scoreless over the final four innings.

Barreda got the win to go to 3-0 in the playoffs.  It wasn't a smooth outing for the righty from Arizona, who allowed five hits and five walks in 5-2 innings but only allowed two runs as the primary beneficiary of the Tomateros going just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.  McCoy ended up allowing three runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings of work to take the loss.  MLB free agent Sergio Romo earned his fourth playoff save in his first appearance of the series.  Romo has caused a stir in Mexico this week after a writer quoted him talking about racial discrimination he's faced on both sides of the border as a Mexican-American.  That piece will run in translated form on BBM within the next few days.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Culiacan ties series, Hermosillo gets first semi win

Issmael Salas had two run-scoring singles and longtime MLBer Oliver Perez (pictured) retired all four batters he faced to earn the win in relief as Culiacan defeated Los Mochis, 4-1, Sunday in front of 16,675 aficionados at Estadio de los Tomateros, evening their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series with the Caneros at two games apiece.  In the other MexPac Final Four contest, Barry Enright gave up one run on six hits over eight innings to pitch Hermosillo to a 2-1 knucklebiter win over Mexicali at Estadio Sonora as 16,572 looked on.  The Naranjeros now trail Mexicali, 2 games to 1, after Saturday's game in Hermosillo was rained out.

Game Four between the Tomateros and Mochis is set for Monday night in Culiacan while Game Three of the Naranjeros-Aguilas matchup will be held in Hermosillo.

CULIACAN 4-11-0, Los Mochis 1-7-2

Tomateros starter Edgar Gonzalez gave manager Enrique "Che" Reyes a few anxious moments after retiring the first seven Caneros batters he faced. Gonzalez allowed a Sebastian Valle solo homer and a Juan Carlos Gamboa double in the third inning, then served up a leadoff two-bagger to former Twins outfielder Lew Ford in the fourth before issuing subsequent one-out walks to J.C. Linares and Saul Soto. That was enough for skipper Reyes to bring his hook to the mound, replacing the ex-Diamondbacks hurler with Dennys Reyes (no relation).  The latter, who pitched for eleven MLB teams from 1997 to 2011, has a ballpark named after him in his hometown of Higuera de Zaragoza, Sinaloa

After Reyes and Hector Navarro combined to stop the bleeding, Culiacan got the run back in the bottom of the fourth when Salas singled in Jose Manuel Rodriguez from third to tie things up at 1-1.  The score remained unchanged until the Tomateros took the lead in the seventh when Ramiro Pena poked a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Maxwell Leon from second.  Culiacan posted a pair of insurance runs in the eighth as Salas singled in Rodriguez off reliever Jon Sintes and Ali Solis lofted a Santiago Guerrero pitch to Linares in right field for a sac fly to plate Sebastian Elizalde from third, bringing the score to 4-1.  It was left to Derrick Loop to finish things up in the ninth, which he did to earn his third playoff save and even the series at 2 games to 2.

Oliver Perez came in for the Tomateros to get the final out of the sixth inning, then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to pick up the win.  The 34-year-old Culiacan native appeared in 64 MLB games for the Nationals last summer, going 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA in a middleman role.  After Gonzalez was lifted, six pitchers combined to hold Mochis scoreless on four hits from the fourth inning on.  Julian Arballo took the loss for the Caneros in a hard-luck outing.  The former Yankees minor leaguer pitched well enough to win, allowing two runs in seven innings, but it's hard to get the W when your teammates score only one run and go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

HERMOSILLO 2-6-1, Mexicali 1-6-1

After allowing 24 runs over two losses in Mexicali, the Naranjeros needed a good pitching performance to keep from falling behind 3-0 in their series with the Aguilas and Barry Enright provided the tonic.  The former D-backs and Dodgers hurler turned in a sparkling eight-inning start, letting in just one Mexicali run while scattering six hits and striking out five as Hermosillo pulled off a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

Enright and the Orangemen fell behind, 1-0, in the top of the fourth when Yuniesky Betancourt stroked a leadoff double, eventually moved to third when Hermosillo centerfielder Jason Bourgeois misplayed Efren Navarro's fly ball, and then scored the first run of the night when Agustin Murillo grounded out to Naranjeros shortstop Jorge Flores.  It looked like that one run might hold up, as Mexicali starter Kameron Loe pitched beautifully, retiring eleven batters in a row before giving up a Tim Torres double in the fifth.  The Naranjeros were able to load the bases with two out against Loe in the bottom of the sixth, but manager Lorenzo Bundy replaced Loe with Jose Meraz, who induced Dustin Martin to tap a comebacker to the mound for an inning-ending groundout.  The Naranjeros finally tied the game in the bottom of the eighth when Bourgeois hit a leadoff single up the middle off Fautino De Los Santos, stole second, took third on a Carlos Gastelum single and scored when Aguilas closer Jake Sanchez (who may be human after all) allowed an O'Koyea DIckson single.  Sanchez allowed another single to Jose Amador to score Gastelum, giving the Naranjeros a 2-1 advantage.  Rafael Martin, who spent some MLB time with Washington last year, was brought in and got the final three outs, as pinch-hitter Adan Munoz struck out swinging to end the game.

It was a pitcher's night on both sides, with Gastelum collecting two singles for the only multiple-hit game for either team.  Enright ran his playoff record to 3-0 with the win and Martin earned his third save in the postseason.  Loe ended up going 5.2 innings and giving up just two hits and three walks.  Neither run Sanchez allowed was charged to him, keeping his season-long total of earned runs allowed at one (1), while throwing 10 of his 11 pitches for strikes.  For one night, though, the native of Brawley, Calfornia (as are Los Mochis' Julian Arballo and Sergio Romo, who has yet to pitch in the other semi) couldn't seal the deal.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Culiacan posts first semi win, rainout in Hermosillo

Number nine batter Jose Guadalupe Chavez (pictured) had a three-run homer and an RBI double to help power the Culiacan Tomateros to a 7-3 win over Los Mochis Saturday for a Game Three win in their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  The Caneros lead the set, 2 games to 1.

Meanwhile, Saturday's Game Three between Mexicali and Hermosillo at Estadio Sonora was rained out and rescheduled for Sunday, as is Game Four of the Tomateros-Caneros series in Culiacan.

CULIACAN 7-9-1, Los Mochis 3-6-1

Chavez' home run was the high point of a Tomateros four-run seventh inning that broke a 3-3 tie and sent the home team to their first win of their semifinal soiree against Mochis.  The Guaymas native, a former Indians prospect who turned 32 on January 2, hit .241 with just 9 RBIs in 37 games for Culiacan during the regular season, making him an unlikely offensive hero in a lineup featuring more notable batters like Ronnier Mustelier, Jose Manuel "Manny" Rodriguez, Ramiro Pena and Joey Meneses.

The Tomateros manufactured a run in a hit-free bottom of the first when leadoff hitter Maxwell Leon got on base after Mochis first sacker Saul Soto misplayed his grounder, beat a fielder's choice relay to second on Ryan Lollis' ground to Caneros third baseman Juan Carlos Gamboa, took third on a Pena sacrifice bunt and came in to score on Meneses' sacrifice fly to center.  Culiacan took a 3-0 lead in the second when Chavez doubled in Ali Solis and Leon singled in Chavez from second. The score stood until Los Mochis pushed three tallies across in the top of the fifth to tie the contest as Soto, Sebastian Valle and Gamboa each had run-scoring singles in a tough inning for Tomateros starter Hector Daniel Rodriguez.  The Tomateros put the final three runs of the night on the board in the seventh when veteran Oscar Robles plated Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly, followed by Chavez' three-run bomb off reliever Isaac Rodriguez (a Phoenix-born rookie not to be confused with the Mochis second baseman of the same name, who hails from Hermosillo).

Hector Daniel Rodriguez took the pitching win to go to 3-0 for Culiacan in the playoffs after turning in a rather pedestrian 4-6 record with a 3.50 ERA during the regular season.  The hometown product went seven innings, allowing those three fifth-inning runs and six hits overall, striking out three and issuing no walks.  Roy Merritt was tagged with the loss for the Caneros after pitching 5.1 frames until being pulled by Mochis manager Luis Sojo.  Merritt was charged with five earned runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out one. The Houston native, who spent five years in the Mets system, was 6-6 for the Caneros prior to the postseason. Chavez, Mustelier and Manny Rodriguez each had two hits for Culiacan as 16,530 looked on at Estadio de los Tomateros, the site of next month's Caribbean Series. Nobody for Los Mochis had more than one hit.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mexican League split: Is a "two-state solution" best?

The ongoing battle among Mexican League owners over the number of Mexican-American players, considered "domestic" (and thus protecting them from the six-man limit on foreigners) by LMB policy, took another twist Wednesday when league president Plinio Escalante walked out of a Board of Governors meeting and told the media he'd resigned. Some sources back up Escalante's version, but others say he was more or less invited to leave.  Escalante did tell gathered media at the Mexico City meeting that he'd be consulting his attorney over compensation for the remainder of his contract, not the usual action of someone who left his job voluntarily.  Whatever led to his exit, the Mexican League now effectively has no sitting president.

The Yucatan native had been president of the Liga since 2007 and previously planned to step down at the end of the 2016 season, perhaps to return to the Yucatan Leones front office in his hometown of Merida.  Instead, league owners convinced Escalante to agree to a two-year contract extension last winter (only Quintana Roo voted against the offer), presumably with an accompanying salary increase.  He may now be regretting not sticking to his initial decision. Escalante couldn't bring together the two warring factions of owners, one advocating the continuation of a limit of nine Mexican-Americans per team while the others wanted no limit on Mexican-American players, claiming they can't afford to develop their own domestic talent.  The rift has grown into a full-blown schism that threatens to either split into two separate eight-team leagues or even end with a total shutdown for the 2017 season and beyond until the issue is finally resolved, something nowhere near happening at present.

A summer without baseball?  I think of baseball fans across Mexico facing that prospect.  A stevedore in Veracruz...an artisan in Oaxaca...a schoolkid in Monterrey...  What happens to them?  And how about homegrown thirtysomething veterans like Carlos Valencia, Mauricio Lara or Cesar Tapia; players too old to be considered MLB prospects but good enough to be productive in the top level of baseball at home? How will they make a living from March until Mexican Pacific League training camps open in September?  Clearly, shutting down is the worst possible scenario; both sides will have lost the first major battle in their not-always-civil war.  Thus the other option, a "two-state solution" of sorts in which the LMB splits into two divisions (or even leagues) with schedules independent of each other, becomes worthy of a long look.

As I write this, the Mexican League is a sometimes-unwieldy league with 16 teams stretching from Tijuana to Cancun.  According to Puro Beisbol editor and columnist Fernando Ballasteros (perhaps Mexican baseball's best cronista today), the coalition of owners wanting no limit on Mexican-Americans is led by Tijuana's Alberto Uribe, Puebla Pericos owner Gerardo Benavides (the LMB's 2016 Executive of the Year) and brothers Juan Jose and Erick Arellano, who own both the Yucatan Leones and now the Laguna Vaqueros.  They're joined by Monclova, Veracruz, Aguascalientes and maybe Leon to represent a so-called "new breed" of owner butting heads with the establishment.  The more entrenched likes of Quintana Roo owner Carlos Peralta, Monterrey's Jose Maiz and Alfredo Harp Helu, owner in both Mexico City and Oaxaca, are joined by their counterparts in Saltillo, Campeche, Tabasco and maybe Durango who prefer less reliance on players from outside Mexico.  That appears to be a clean enough split for two separate LMB divisions playing their own internal schedule (and wouldn't a Mexico Series in September between the two champions be interesting?), but things rarely get settled easily in the Mexican League and this would be no exception, based on those aforementioned "maybes," Leon and Durango.

Both came into existence last November after the Reynosa Broncos and Carmen Delfines, respectively, morphed into the Leon Bravos and Durango Generales for 2017.  Both are also on very shaky ground due to ballparks that have fallen into disrepair with no work being done and the clock ticking as the April openers (if there ARE openers) approach.  Bravos owner Mauricio Martinez, who moved the Broncos to Leon with Liga approval, was strangely not allowed to represent his franchise at Tuesday's meeting, giving the upper hand in votes to the Old Guard.  Villareal is said to already want out of Leon and its substandard 3,000-seat ballpark, moving the franchise instead to Nuevo Laredo, where a 12,000-seater built in 2007 as part of a sports complex outside the border city limits, a point of contention among local fans.

Things aren't much better in Durango, where Estadio Francisco Villa (yes, a ballpark is named after Pancho Villa, a Durango native who was a hero of the Mexican Revolution) does hold 8,000 fans but also needs upgradeing. LMB Operations Manager Nestor Alva Brito and Umpire Supervisor Luis Alberto Ramirez toured the park last month and said it would need extensions to both dugouts and dressing rooms for players and umpires, bathroom upgrades, new mesh screens around home plate, parking for team buses and improved lighting.  Rumors have included both teams dropping out this year and the 14 remaining franchises moving forward, which could create a scheduling nightmare if a split resulted in two seven-team loops.  That all of this is happening on the heels of a 2016 season that saw declining attendance figures in many Liga cities last season does not help solve that problem either.

Both factions have merit to their arguments.  The free-market guy in me agrees that sports teams owe it to themselves and their fan base to bring in the best players they can find and put them on the field.  It's called "competition" and that's not a bad thing.  In any business, not just sports, owners who don't continually seek to improve their product risk being passed by competitors. On the other hand, even though BBM might gain a few clicks with stories on exploits south of the border of former big leaguers like Yuniesky Betancourt, Kyle Farnsworth, Ruben Rivera and Travis Blackley, I ultimately want to see overall improvement among Mexican players as a result of experience gained playing in both the LMB and LMP, and they can't gain that experience if more players from outside the country take up roster spots.  I'm very happy that Mexico has risen to sixth in the world in the latest WBSC rankings and would love to see even better things but to achieve that, Mexican players gotta play.

If the Mexican League schism can't be resolved (and without a leader, resolution becomes more difficult), I'd rather see a fractured two-league setup than no baseball at all.  Baseball has survived far worse because the game is bigger than any owner, but I think about players like Carlos Valencia and Mauricio Lara, guys I've written about for years who might lose their livelihoods if the LMB goes dark, and I also think about fans of all ages in places like Monterrey, Veracruz and Oaxaca.  As a gringo observer on the outside looking in, I don't deserve better from the Mexican League, but those players and fans sure do.

Opinions expressed above do, in fact, reflect those of staff and management at Baseball Mexico because I AM the staff and management of Baseball Mexico...it keeps the payroll down.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mexicali, Mochis win romps, both go up 2 games to 0

The Mexicali Aguilas chased Hermosillo starter Travis Blackley to the showers with an eight-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning en route to a 16-6 manhandling of the Naranjeros at Estadio B'Air Thursday night in their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  In the other MexPac Final Four matchup in Los Mochis, a three-run homer from Saul Soto (pictured) served as the centerpiece of the Caneros' seven-run seventh in their 14-2 blowout of Culiacan in Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada.

Both the Aguilas and Caneros now lead their series, 2 games to 0, heading into Friday's Game Three contests in Hermosillo and Culiacan, respectively.

LOS MOCHIS 14-17-1, Culiacan 2-10-2

Soto's homer was one of four Los Mochis longballs served up by three different Tomateros pitchers in the fateful seventh as the Caneros broke open what had been a competitive game.  Mochis scored the first run of the contest on a wild play that began when Phillies farmhand Leandro Castro bunted down the third base line, drawing a hurried throw from Culiacan's Issmael Salas that sailed into right field foul territory, allowing Castro to streak all the way to second.  He kept on going after rightfielder Sebastian Elizalde made a poor relay throw back toward the infield, scampering around third and coming in to score on a play even Ty Cobb would've smiled at in approval.

The Caneros scored twice more in the third to go ahead, 3-0.  Tomateros starter Zack Dodson intentionally walked Isaac Rodriguez to load the bases so he could face MLB vet Lew Ford, who poked a grounder into left field to score Sebastian Valle from third.  Culiacan ended Mochis' shutout bid in the top of the seventh, when reliever Fabian Williamson gave up a Salas homer to left, bringing the visitors to within two runs.  Then came the bottom of the seventh, when Juan Carlos Gamboa (solo), Eugenio Velez (solo), Soto (three-run) and Yosmany Guerra (solo) all homered as the Caneros bashed their way to a 10-1 advantage and the rout was on.  Culiacan did score a run in the eighth when Joey Meneses doubled and came in on Ramiro Pena's single, but Los Mochis put another four on the board to put the Tomateros away.  J.C. Linares stroked a bases-loaded triple to deliver the coup de grace.

The Caneros' 17-hit attack in front of another SRO home crowd of 11,372 should not obsure the standout work of Mochis starter Luis Niebla, who went to 2-0 in the postseason by tossing six innings of shutout ball, scattering five hits and a pair of walks.  Dodson took the loss for Culiacan to fall to 0-2 in the playoffs.  The former Pirates prospect didn't pitch badly (two earned runs in five entradas of work) and was spared from what came next.  The Caneros outscored Culiacan, 19-2, over two games in Los Mochis.

MEXICALI 16-21-0, Hermosillo 6-13-0

Mexicali sent eleven men to the plate in the third inning and put eight runs on the board to take a 9-0 lead and the hits just kept on coming the rest of the game as the Aguilas bombed Hermosillo, 16-6.

Naranjeros starter Travis Blackley was touched for a C.J. Retherford homer run in the bottom of the second as Mexicali took a 1-0 lead.  Blackley was chased in the third after allowing three runs on four hits in the third, including a two-out, two-run single from Xorge Carrrillo off the last pitch the ex-MLBer threw for the night.  Reliever Hector Galvan fared no better, eventually giving up a three-run double to Ramon Rios, who then came in on a Chris Roberson double for the final run of the inning. The toll?  Eight Mexicali runs on six hits, one walk, one hit bastman and two wild pitches.  From that point on, it was only a matter of time.

Mexicali put up three more runs in both the fourth (keyed by a Carrillo two-run double) and fifth (keyed by a Yordanys Linares two-run double) to go up 15-0 before Hermosillo showed their only sign of life by plating six runs in the sixth as Dodgers minor leaguer Julian Leon contributed a pinch-hit two-run homer, but it was academic by that point.  Linares went 4-for-6 for Mexicali while Carrillo had three hits and four RBIs.  Hector Velazquez got the win in his first start for the Aguilas, tossing five shutout innings before being roughed up for five runs in the Hermosillo sixth.  Maybe with a 15-run lead, he let up a little.  Blackley took the loss for his third defeat in as many playoff starts for the Naranjeros this winter.  A sellout crowd of 17,000 witness the onslaught in Mexicali.

In a circuit that historically has been known as a pitcher-friendly league, Thursday night's MexPac semis featured a combined 38 runs on 61 hits.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Barreda, Caneros blank Culiacan, 5-0, in semifinal opener; huge comeback propels Mexicali win

Manny Barreda gave up two singles and struck out ten Culiacan batters over eight innings to lead Los Mochis to a 5-0 shutout at home over the Tomateros Wednesday night in the opener of their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  In the other MexPac semi, the Mexicali Aguilas overcame a late 7-2 deficit with a six-run eighth inning in pulling off a come-from-behind 8-7 win at home over Hermosillo.

Game Two for the respective series will be played Thursday night at Los Mochis and Mexicali.

LOS MOCHIS 5-9-0, Culiacan 0-3-1

The Caneros' Manny Barreda gave up singles to Ali Solis in the third inning and Maxwell Leon in the sixth while retiring the side in order five times during his eight-frame stint.  He needed to be sharp early on as Barreda and Culiacan starter Patrick McCoy both tossed nothing but zeros until the bottom of the fourth, when Isaac Rodriguez put Los Mochis on the board by whacking a leadoff double, moving to third on a Lew Ford groundout to first and scoring on Leandro Castro's sacrifice fly to right.

Mochis added to their 1-0 lead with three more in the bottom of the sixth, chasing McCoy in the process.  Saul Soto sliced a single up the middle off Victor Marte to plate both Ford and J.C. Linares and make it a 3-0 score.  Ex-MLB hurler Dennis Reyes relieved Marte, but immediately gave up a single to Yosmany Guerra that brought Castro in from third along with an early exit for Reyes.  Castro then put an exclamation point on the procedings by homering to left center off Hector Navarro in the eighth to conclude the scoring in the Caneros' 5-0 triumph.

Castro ended up going 3-for-3 with two runs, two RBIs and a homer while Soto picked up a pair of hits.  An overflow crowd of 11,110 at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada in Los Mochis watched a masterful pitching performance as neither Barreda nor reliever Santiago Gutierrez allowed a Tomateros baserunner to reach second base all night. The Caneros are seeking their first MexPac pennant since 2002-03 while Culiacan copped their last flag two winters ago.

MEXICALI 8-15-1, Hermosillo 7-13-2

Unlike the Los Mochis-Culiacan game, pitching had little to do with this one as the two combatants combined for 15 runs on 28 hits at Mexicali's Estadio B'Air in front of 14,232 spectators.

Jason Bourgeois led off the game with a double for the Naranjeros and later scored from third when Mexicali shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt misplayed O'Koyea Dickson's grounder to put the visitors up early. C.J. Retherford came in on a Agustin Murillo sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second to tie it up, but Jorge Flores' line single to left in the fourth drove in Jose Amador and Tim Torres to put the Orangemen back on top, 3-1.  The Aguilas got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Chris Roberson scored on Retherford's sacrifice fly to center, but the Naranjeros padded their lead with two more runs in both the seventh and eighth frames (the latter featuring a two-run homer from Dustin Martin) to make it a 7-2 Hermosillo lead with six Eagles outs needed to nail down the win.

Instead, Mexicali roared back with six runs in the bottom of the eighth to take their first lead of the night.  Luis Suarez cracked a three-run homer off Nathanael Santiago to start the scoring binge and Betancourt's two-out single to right brought in Missael German with the go-ahead tally.  The ex-MLB shortstop singled twice in the eighth as eleven batsmen came to the plate for the home team.   It was then left to Aguilas closer Jake Sanchez, who has allowed one earned run all season, to pick up his fourth postseason save.  It took a double-play comebacker to the mound to end the game, but Sanchez got the save in a most improbable Mexicali win.

Seven Mexicali players had two hits each in the Aguilas' 15-hit attack, but Juarez' homer was the only extra-base knock of the game.  Bourgeois and 5'5" shortstop Luis Flores each had three of Hermosillo's 13 safeties.  Edgar Gomez recorded one out in the top of the eighth to get credit for the Mexicali win while Heriberto Ruelas gave up Betancourt's late RBI single to take the loss for the Naranjeros.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reinforcement draft held for MexPac semis; important Liga meeting in Mexico City

On Tuesday, the Mexican Pacific League's four remaining playoff teams held a two-round draft of reinforcement players, mostly from the two clubs eliminated after the first round, the Mazatlan Venados and Navojoa Mayos.  Left handed pitcher Arturo Lopez was picked by his hometown Culiacan Tomateros from the Obregon roster after being passed over in the first reinforcement draft at the conclusion of the regular season.  Five of the eight selected were pitchers. LMP wins and ERA champion Hector Velazquez of Navojoa (pictured) was chosen first overall by Mexicali.

Here are the results of the reinforcement draft, in order of selection:

1. Mexicali, RHP Hector Velazquez (Navojoa)
2. Hermosillo, RHP Jeremy Kehrt (Mazatlan)
3. Culiacan, LHP Zach Dodson (Navojoa)
4. Los Mochis, 2B Yosmany Guerra (Navojoa)

5. Los Mochis, 3B Brian Hernandez (Mazatlan)
6. Culiacan, LHP Arturo Lopez (Obregon)
7. Hermosillo, RHP Esteban Haro (Navojoa)
8. Mexicali, 3B Jesus Castillo (Navojoa)

The semifinals get underway Wednesday night when Culiacan sends Pat McCoy to the mound in Los Mochis to face Manny Barreda of the Caneros, while Hermosillo (Pablo Ortega) visits Mexicali (Efren Delgado).

Meanwhile, a critical meeting of Mexican League team governors was slated to begin Wednesday in Mexico City.  The Liga is facing numerous issues this offseason, including ballparks in Durango and Leon, Guanajuato.  November's transfers of the Carmen Delfines to Durango, where they're now known as the Generales, and the Reynosa Broncos to Leon, where they've adopted the Bravos nickname used by a previous local entry in the LMB, were contingent on improvements being made to existing ballparks in both cities.  However, it appears that neither are on track to be remotely "ready" for the 2017 season.  Leon's Estadio Domingo Santana seats just 3,000 spectators while Durango's Estadio Francisco Villa holds 8,000 fans.  Speculation is that one of the teams may move again, this time to Nuevo Laredo, while another theory is that both may be contracted, leaving the Mexican League with 14 teams for the coming season.

Even more important is the still-simmering schism regarding the use of players of Mexican descent born in the USA in 2017.  In a year during which "fake news" became a catchphrase in the American presidential campaign, the LMB itself apparently approved a story stating that it had been agreed that each team could carry up to nine Mexican-American players in addition to six other imports (or extraneros) on their roster.  It has since been learned that no such agreement had been arrived at by the full board of governors and that the issue remains unresolved.  Some teams are opposed to allowing large numbers of foreign players at the expense of domestic talent, others say they need more extraneros to be competitive on the field because they can't afford to develop Mexican prospects.  One possible outcome if calmer heads don't prevail in the debate may be that the LMB splits into two leagues, each comprising the separate schools of thought, while a more drastic scenario has the Liga suspending operations for 2017 to reorganize for the 2018 season.

Whatever the result (if any), it will be arrived at without Plinio Escalante.  The LMP president walked out of the meeting and told media representatives that he was quitting his post, and that any decisions made thereafter would be invalid.  Escalante, who has headed the Liga for a decade, says he will be talking to his attorney regarding compensation.  Later, a representative of the league governors told the media that Escalante had been let go by the owners.  Other than that, things are going great.