Monday, August 29, 2016

Puebla takes 2-0 lead in LMB South finals; Guadalajara lands WBC Pool D games

The Puebla Pericos won their second straight road game Sunday in the Mexican League's South Division Championship Series, shutting out the Yucatan Leones, 4-0, at Parque Kukulkan in Merida.  Mauricio Lara pitched seven innings of the shutout and got the win while onetime Yankees outfielder Ruben Rivera (pictured) cracked a two-run homer for Puebla.

While the Pericos were taking a 2-games-to-0 lead in their series, the Tijuana Toros and Monterrey Sultanes saw their Game Two at Estadio Monterrey suspended by rain with the home team leading 1-0 in the top of the third inning. That contest is scheduled to resume Monday afternoon.

Puebla 4-13-1, YUCATAN 0-5-2 (Puebla leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-M. Lara. L-Negrin. HR-Rivera (P). T-2:41. A-11,000.
The Pericos benefited from seven innings of strong pitching by starter Mauricio Lara, who scattered four hits and walked two batters to post his second win of the postseason.  Lara has now allowed one earned run in 13.1 innings pitched as his playoff ERA dropped to 0.68.  The Pericos took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second innings when Issmael Salas and Rudy Amador lofted back-to-back, two-out RBI singles to centerfield off Leones starter Yoanner Negrin, who suffered only his second loss of the entire season.  Ex-MLB outfielder Ruben Rivera, who turns 43 in November, launched a two-run homer with two out in the eighth to seal the win for Puebla, who'll host Game Three Tuesday.

Monterrey 1, Tijuana 0 (Game suspended by rain in third inning)
Rain halted play in Monterrey for the second time in the postseason Sunday.  The Sultanes had taken a 1-0 lead over visiting Tijuana in the bottom of the second inning when Zoilo Almonte, Chris Roberson and Agustin Murillo all singled to lead off the frame, followed by a one-out walk issued to Luis Flores by Toros starter Miguel Pena to bring Almonte home.  Monterrey pitcher Javier Solano struck out Edson Garcia to open the third inning and was preparing to pitch to Jose Guadalupe Chavez when the game was called. Game Two will be resumed Monday at 2PM Eastern time.


Guadalajara awarded 2017 WBC first round games

Major League Baseball has awarded Guadalajara, Jalisco with four days of Pool D first round games in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  The games will be played at Estadio Charros de Jalisco on March 9-12.  Other cities awarded first round play are Tokyo, Seoul and Miami.  Tokyo and San Diego will host second round action while Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles will be the site of the championship round.

Landing the WBC is another feather in the cap of Jalisco Charros owner Armando Navarro, who bought the Guasave Algodoneros in 2014 and moved the Mexican Pacific League franchise to Guadalajara.  There was some risk involved, as baseball had never really gained traction locally in previous forays in the summer Mexican League despite two LMB pennants.  One obstacle has been the phenomenal popularity of the CD Guadalajara soccer team, commonly known as Chivas.  Chivas is Mexico's most popular sports franchise, with 44 percent of the country surveyed counting themselves as supporters.  In addition, baseball facilities in Guadalajara had previously been lacking, to say the least.

However, Navarro has thrown himself into rebuilding baseball's image since bringing the LMP to town.  He purchased Estadio Telmex de Atletismo (an 8,000-seat ballpark built for US$28 million to host the 2011 Pan American Games) from the City, renamed it and expanded it twice to its current 13,000 capacity.  Unlike previous incarnations of the Charros, this edition has proven quite popular among local sports fans.  The team drew an average of 8,543 spectators during the MexPac regular season last winter.  Navarro has also looked into bringing the Caribbean Series to the Jalisco capital, but he'll certainly settle for the plum that is the WBC.

Mexico will be the host team for Pool D after qualifying for the WBC earlier this year in Mexicali.  The Verdes Grande have played in every WBC since its 2006 inception, but had to play qualifiers after finishing last during the 2013 WBC first round in Phoenix.  Despite holding home field advantage in the opening stage, manager Edgar Gonzalez' team won't have a cakewalk in Pool D, where they'll be joined by Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Italy.  Venezuela is currently ranked seventh in the world by the World Baseball & Softball Confederation, Mexico is eighth, Italy rates ninth and Puerto Rico holds the eleventh position.


LMP finalizing return of All-Star Game in November

Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales and LMP team owners met in Hermosillo to discuss, among other issues, the return of the MexPac All-Star Game this winter after an absence of nearly two decades.

The All-Star Game will be held Sunday, November 27 at Obregon's new 16,500-seat ballpark, which is being built at a cost of approximately US$28 million to replace Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan, which was built in 1971 but has become obsolete in recent seasons.  The new ballpark should open in time for the Obregon Yaquis' October 12 season opener against rival Hermosillo.

The All-Star format will include North and South teams, with the North squad consisting of players from Mexicali, Navojoa, Hermosillo and Obregon and the South lineup coming from among Mazatlan, Culiacan, Jalisco and Los Mochis.  Prior to the All-Star Game, a celebrity softball game will be held.  The LMP says invitations will be extended to past MexPac greats such as Adrian Gonzalez, Fernando Valenzuela, Teddy Higuera, Erubiel Durazo and Karim Garcia along with well-known Mexican entertainment figures.  Following the softball game, a Home Run Derby featuring players from the North and South teams will take place prior to batting practice and the All-Star Game itself.

The last LMP All-Star Game was played on November 24, 1997 in Navojoa.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monterrey, Puebla win Liga DCS opening games

The Monterrey Sultanes and Puebla Pericos have drawn first blood in their respective Mexican League Division Championship Series, winning opening games of their best-of-7 sets on Saturday.

Edgar Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings in Monterrey's 3-0 blanking of Tijuana in the Northern Division DCS while a 13th inning homer by Willy Taveras (pictured) was the difference in Puebla's 2-1 win at Yucatan.

All four teams will be back at it Sunday for Game Two.

MONTERREY 3-5-0, Tijuana 0-5-0 (Monterrey leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-E. Gonzalez. L-Enright. HR-Murillo (M). T-2:22. A-21,214.
The Sultanes rode the strong pitching of Edgar Gonzalez to a 3-0 victory over Tijuana before 21,214 onlookers at Estadio Monterrey.  The former Diamondbacks hurler tossed seven innings of four-hit ball, striking out eight Toros batsmen.  He had to be sharp to counter Tijuana starter Barry Enright, who went seven innings and allowed just five hits himself.  However, two of those hits were a Chris Roberson RBI single in the bottom of the second frame to put Monterrey on the board and a two-run Agustin Murillo homer with two out in the fourth that gave the Sultanes their final margin of victory.

Puebla 2-9-0, YUCATAN 1-6-0 (13) (Puebla leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Barradas. L-Barraza. HR-Taveras (P). T-4:02. A-12,000.
In another pitcher's duel, it took a homer by former Astros and Rockies outfielder Willy Taveras in the top of the 13th inning to put Puebla ahead and a 1-2-3 performance by Pericos closer Chad Gaudin to give the visitors a 2-1 win over Yucatan in Merida Saturday night.  Hector Gimenez put Yucatan ahead with an RBI single off Puebla starter Orlando Lara in the second, but a Taveras double served up by Jonathan Castellanos scored Nyjer Morgan all the way from first to tie things up.  The two teams then traded zeros for six innings before Taveras' late heroics.

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

Friday, August 26, 2016

LMB division title sets to open Saturday

After making short work of their respective Mexican League Division Semifinals playoff series (going a collective 16-2 with three sweeps), the Liga's Final Four gets underway Saturday. The LMB North Division Championship Series opener will feature Tijuana at Monterrey while the South finals will begin in Merida, where the Yucatan Leones will host Puebla in Game One of that series.  Game Two for both sets will be played Sunday, followed by a Monday travel day and three more games scheduled between Tuesday and Thursday in Tijuana and Puebla. Games Six and Seven (if needed) are back in Monterrey and Yucatan next weekend.

The Toros won their season series against Monterrey, 5 games to 4, but six of the nine games were in Tijuana as LMB teams did not play balanced schedules.  All three Tijuana-Monterrey sets saw the home team win two of three games. Yucatan likewise won 5 of 9 games against Puebla this summer, but the dynamics of that rivalry were different.  After the Pericos won two of three games over the Leones at home the first time the two sides met, Puebla later went on the road and took three straight from Yucatan in Merida.  Two months passed before the third trifecta was played in Yucatan, with the Leones sweeping all three games from the Pericos at Kukulkan Park, site of Saturday's opener.

Yucatan won the LMB South regular season crown with a Liga-best 77-33 record, four games ahead of the 74-39 Pericos in second.  The Leones beat Campeche in six games while the Pericos swept defending champion Quintana Roo in the first round.  Monterrey topped the North standings at 72-39 while Tijuana was third with a 64-48 mark (trailing 69-43 Monclova by five games).  The Sultanes swept Laguna in the Division Semifinals and the Toros did the same against the Acereros.


2016 LMB Division Championship Series schedule

SATURDAY, August 27
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm ET
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 8:05pm ET

SUNDAY, August 28
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

TUESDAY, August 30
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermandos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

WEDNESDAY, August 31
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermanos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

THURSDAY, September 1
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermanos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

SATURDAY, September 3
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 8:05pm EDT

SUNDAY, September 4
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals result, highlights for Tuesday, August 23

YUCATAN 7-10-0, Campeche 1-6-0 (Yucatan wins series, 4 games to 2)
W-T. Solis (2-0). L-Campos (0-2). HR-none. T-2:54. A-12,000.
Tomas Solis allowed 1 run in 7 innings; Jesus Valdez was 3-5 with 1 run, 1 RBI for Leones


Division Championship Series
North: Monterrey Sultanes (1) vs. Tijuana Toros (3)
South: Yucatan Leones (1) vs. Puebla Pericos (2)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monterrey, Tijuana, Puebla complete sweeps; Leones up 3-2 vs. Campeche

The first round of the 2016 Mexican League playoffs were smooth sailing for three team who've punched tickets to the two Division Championship Series.  Puebla, Monterrey and Tijuana all completed sweeps of their four-game Division Semifinals against Quintana Roo, Laguna and Monclova, respectively, last weekend. Yucatan leads Campeche, 3 games to 2, in the remaining quarterfinal set.

In the Northern Division Semifinals, Monterrey seemingly had a tougher time with the weather than they did Laguna, as last Tuesday's opening home game against the Vaqueros was suspended by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.  Umpires halted play shortly after the Sultanes overcame a 1-0 deficit by plating five runs in the bottom of the frame.  Monterrey finished the win Wednesday afternoon and went on to cop the next three contests, the final two in Torreon last Friday and Saturday.

The Sultanes will face Tijuana in the LMB North Championship Series.  The Toros had to fight Monclova all four games.  The tone in that series was set last Tuesday when the Acereros stretched Tijuana before the Toros won, 5-4.  The following night in Monclova, it took TJ eleven innings before finally vanquishing the Steelers, 4-2.  Things didn't get much easier when the series shifted to the border city, as the Toros battled to 6-4 and 2-1 triumphs to send the Acereros to the golf course.  Monclova had defeated Tijuana six of nine games during the regular season.

In the LMB South semis, Puebla dispatched the defending champion Tigres with surprising ease, sailing to 9-0 and 6-1 wins over Quintana Roo at home before working a little harder to score 4-2 and 7-5 victories in Cancun to close things out.  The Pericos kept up the solid batting they had during the regular season by scoring 26 runs over the four games, but it was Puebla's pitchers who really stepped up by allowing just two runs per game after posting a 4.38 ERA during the season.  Quintana Roo had won the season series between the two teams, 5 games to 4.

The Pericos will face the winner of the Yucatan-Campeche quarterfinal.  The Leones finished the season with the best record in the LMB at 77-33, but the Piratas have given them all they can handle in the postseason.  Yucatan took the first two contests in Merida, 4-0 and 3-1, and looked like they might wrap things up when the series shifted to Campeche.  However, the Piratas are no pushovers and while their 57-51 record was the weakest of the eight Liga playoffs teams, they won five of nine games from Puebla heading into the postseason.  The Piratas won Games Three and Four, 3-1 and 11-7, to knot the series up at two games apiece.  Yucatan snuck away with a 6-5 road win Sunday to take a 3 games to 2 series lead.

Games Six and Seven (if needed) will be back in Merida, where the Leones were 42-16 this year. Game Six will be Tuesday night.  Should Campeche prevail, Game Seven is set for Wednesday at Parque Kukulkan.

Monday, August 22, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals results, highlights for Sunday, August 21

SOUTHERN DIVISION SEMIFINALS

Yucatan 6-10-0, CAMPECHE 5-15-2 (Yucatan leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Negrin (2-0). L-J. Castillo (0-2). HR-E. Beltre (C), Gurerra (C). T-4:05. A-5,811.
Jose Aguilar led Leones with 2 singles, 1 run, 1 RBI; Luis Alfonso Garcia had RBI double for Yucatan


NORTHERN DIVISION SEMIFINALS

Monterrey 2-7-0, LAGUNA 0-5-0 (Monterrey wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Carrillo (1-0). L-S. Valdez (0-1). HR-none. T-2:28. A-7,367.
Sultanes' Cesar Carrillo scattered 5 hits over 6.1 IP; Ramon Rios, Alex Valdez had RBI singles in 6th


MONDAY'S SCHEDULE
No games

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE
Campeche at Yucatan in Merida

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE
Campeche at Yucatan in Merida (if necessary)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals results, highlights for Saturday, August 20

SOUTHERN DIVISION SEMIFINALS

CAMPECHE 11-13-4, Yucatan 7-7-1 (Series tied at 2 games apiece)
W-Yan (1-0). L-J. Gutierrez (0-1). HR-Retherford 2 (C), M. Leon (C), H. Rodriguez (C), E. Beltre (C), Sosa (Y). T-3:33. A-5,893.
C.J. Retherford cracked 2 homers; Engel Beltre and Henry Rodriguez each hit 2-run homers for Piratas in 8th to break 7-7 tie

Puebla 7-10-0, QUINTANA ROO 5-9-1 (Puebla wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Bustamante (1-0). L-Judy (0-1). HR-Barton (P). T-3:15. A-6,490.
Nyjer Morgan's bases-loaded walk in 4-run 8th pushed across Pericos' game-winning run


NORTHERN DIVISION SEMIFINALS

TIJUANA 2-5-0, Monclova 1-7-0 (Tijuana wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Sanabia (1-0). L-Caldera (0-1). HR-A. Romero (T), Marques (M). T-2:26. A-15,989.
Alex Romero's 2-run homer in 6th was enough for Toros to complete sweep of Acereros

Monterrey 9-14-1, LAGUNA 4-12-1 (Monterrey leads series, 3 games to 0)
W-M. Gonzalez (1-0). L-Silva (0-1). HR-J. Pena (L), A. Rodriguez (M). T-2:56. A-9,185.
Arturo Rodriquez' 3-run homer keyed 7-run 4th inning in Sultanes win


SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE
Yucatan at Campeche
Monterrey at Laguna in Torreon