Sunday, January 22, 2017

Linares, Arballo sparkle as Mochis wins title set opener

J.C. Linares socked a two-run homer to stake Los Mochis starter Julian Arballo (pictured with a good reason to smile) a first-inning lead and the former Yankees prospect went on to toss six innings of shutout ball as the Caneros topped Mexicali, 3-1, Saturday in the opening game of the Mexican Pacific League championship series.  An SRO crowd of 11,132 jammed into the Caneros' venerable Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada, which opened in 1947 as Estadio Mochis.

LOS MOCHIS 3-4-0, Mexicali 1-9-0

After the visiting Aguilas were held scoreless in the top of the first, Mexicali starter Miguel Pena got the first two Mochis outs of the bottom of the frame before walking Lew Ford.  Pena was one strike away from retiring the side when Linares cracked a homer over the wall in left center to put the Caneros up, 2-0.  From that point, Arballo and Pena were locked in a pitcher's duel that lasted through the sixth with no more scoring from either side. A leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh by Ford off a Pena pitch brought the Mochis lead to three.  After Pena allowed a Linares single next, Mexicali skipper Roberto Vizcarra came to the mound and waved in Edgar Gomez from the bullpen.  Gomez finished the inning without further damage, but the only sign of life the Aguilas would show the rest of the night was a Ramon Rios solo homer in the eighth off Oliver Perez, a reinforcement pickup from Culiacan.  For all intent and purposes, the night belonged to Arballo and the Caneros bullpen as Sergio Romo recorded the final three Mexicali outs in the top of the ninth to end the game and earn the save.

Arballo allowed only six baserunners over his six innings, all on singles with only Xorge Carrillo reaching second base.  The Cal Baptist product struck out six in his 82-pitch outing as five Caneros pitchers combined to whiff ten Mexicali batsmen.  Despite allowing all three Mochis runs on two homers in six innings of work, Pena did not pitch badly.  The left-handed Texan, who spent four years in the Red Sox system, only allowed two other hits, walked one and struck out four.  All Pena was lacking over 78 pitches was luck as his Aguilas teammates actually outhit Mochis, 9-to-4.  Jason Bourgeois (a reinforcement from Hermosillo) and Yuniesky Betancourt each had two hits for Mexicali.  Linares, himself a former Bosox farmhand who was Pena's teammate at Portland in 2013, had two safeties for the Caneros, including the biggest one.

Game Two will be played Sunday night at 5PM MST (0000 UTC) in Los Mochis.  After Monday's travel day, the next three games of the title series are scheduled to be played in Mexicali, all at 7:30PM PST (0330 UTC) in the 17,000-seat Estadio B'Air, or La Nida (The Nest).  The Caneros are looking for their fourth pennant since their first season in 1947.  Their last championship came in 2002-03.  Mexicali has won three flags since their 1976 debut, most recently in 1998-99.  The 1985-86 Aguilas went on to win the Caribbean Series under Salon de la Fama manager Ben "Cananea" Reyes.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Column on Sergio Romo, discrimination causes stir in Mexico

A recent column in Proceso magazine of Mexico City detailing Sergio Romo's story of experiencing discrimination on both sides of the United States-Mexico border has raise more than a few eyeballs south of that border.  The piece, written by Beatriz Pereira and sprinkled liberally with quotes from the free agent pitcher, traces Romo's ancestral roots, his ascension from a player considered too small to succeed into an All-Star and three-time world champion with the San Francisco Giants.  Throughout, it details the racism he says he has felt both in the USA and Mexico.  At least one columnist on the Puro Beisbol site has flatly called Romo a liar, stating that the right-handed reliever was treated well as a member of the Jaosco Charros this winter.

The 2,500-word column, originally ran January 14 but appears to have been deleted from the Proceso website since.  However, a number of other Mexican media picked up the story and carried it.  The column is carried in its translated form below, with a link to its original Spanish version on the UniMexicali website.  As with any translation from one language to another, there may be disprepancies between the two versions, but every attempt at preserving the accuracy from its Spanish version has been made with alterations limited to shifting words around to create a better flow within the English version.  I apologize in advance for any errors I've made working from a Google translation (which sometimes need translating themselves).  I've done the best I could do to be as accurate as possible. 


Mexico City (Beatriz Pereira / Revista Proceso) January 14 .- Sergio Romo has gone from jail to stardom in the U.S. as a consequence of racism.  One of the best players to have represented Mexico Romo was born in the United States but has never denied his origins. However, both countries have rejected him.  He was systematically beaten at the University of Alabama for his skin color, and discriminated to the south of the Rio Bravo as a "pocho" and "Chicano".
Only after winning three times the World Series was summoned to the Mexican national team.  "I had to achieve everything so that they turned to see me," he recalls.
Mexican pitcher Sergio Romo was invited to open the game that spring Friday, a privilege reserved for the best pitcher of the rotation for the University of North Alabama Lions.  The 2004 season was expiring. Romo climbed the hill knowing he needed seven strikeouts to tie the all-time school record.
When the second out of the fourth inning fell, the announcer of the stadium warned that the Mexican had already tied the mark.  With the next punch, Romo would have a place in history.  In all the games that he’d pitched that campaign, he had not tossed less than seven innings.  For a few moments, the 21-year-old considered the idea of ​​continuing to pitch and raise the bar to hard-to-reach heights.
But the shout from Mike Lane, the coach of the team, brought him back to reality.  Lane asked for time out and headed for the mound. Romo's smile faded when he heard, "Give me the ball."  The Mexican looked at his fellow players around him.  All with their heads down.
"No Mexican is going to break any record in my team because he does not deserve it," he said while holding out his right hand to wait for the ball.
"He turned to the dugout, called a pítcher who hadn’t warmed up and put him in.  I threw the ball over my head and left.  He disrespected me.  He went straight to where I was and tried to hit me.  If my teammates didn’t defend me, we would have fought there," says the player.
Romo is a Mexican-American right-handed pitcher who played eight seasons with the San Francisco Giants, the team that won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.  He has three Major League championship rings, a feat no other Mexican has achieved.
In the second title, he was the key factor of the triumph with the three saves he obtained against the Tigers of Detroit.  In the fourth and final game, Romo retired the Tigers in order in the ninth inning with three strikeouts, the last one to Venezuelan slugger Miguel Cabrera.  In that World Series, he threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts.
That sporting success allowed him, for the first time, to be called to the Mexican National Team.  At the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Romo wore the green jersey of Mexico.  He fulfilled a longed-for dream: to be considered Mexican, just like any other, and represent the country where his parents and grandparents were born before moving to California to work in lettuce fields in the 1960s.
Evaristo Romo, Sergio's grandfather, was born in the Jalostotitlán municipality of the Altos Sur region of Jalisco. There he married Francisca, who was from Ameca, from the Valles region.
Evaristo was born with the stamp of a player.  He was a natural pitcher who threw a poisonous sinker in the dirt fields. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos discovered his talent and wanted to sign him.  But his father refused.  The warning was simple: In baseball there is nothing safe, get to work. Evaristo traded the baseballs for lettuce.
When the money from the crops was insufficient, Evaristo and Francisca gathered their six children and crossed the border through Mexicali. They settled in a mere 25 miles north in Brawley, California and the Imperial Valley, a region of hope for Mexicans. Among the splendid green fields crowned with lettuce, the six kids were helping their parents.
Francisco, Sergio's father, was barely 12 years old but he was already picking and chopping onions and alfalfa. In the summers, the Romos spent the school holidays in Salinas, California, very close to San Francisco, harvesting watermelons. There Francisco learned that there was a team dressed in black and orange called the Giants who played in an almost-new stadium, Candlestick Park.
If the lettuce helped him fill the belly, baseball fed the soul to Romo. The payoff of curling his spine six days a week was playing baseball on Sundays. It took him 20 minutes by car to cross that border.
The fields in Mexicali were waiting for them, Dad and Mom, boys and girls, all with bats and balls in a dusty diamond.  There nested the dreams of Francisco Romo of being a professional player.  He imagined going to college, then being selected in a draft and making his major league debut.
"He wasn’t given a chance to play, either.  My grandfather did not let him go.  He was taught that you have to choose safety, not to 'hope that a team gives me a chance.'  You have to earn enough to support the family.  My dad went to the Navy, and was there about five years; It taught him to work and he returned to Brawley," says the player.
On March 4, 1983, Sergio Francisco Romo was born, and 25 years later would make his debut in the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants.  Evaristo and Francisca ( "my nana Pancha," Sergio says) were his baptism godparents.
Sergito learned to walk. And his grandfather Romo put a baseball glove on his left hand, the Mexican brand Vázquez Hermanos, and filled his baseball ears. He explained the game.  He taught him to throw, as he said, the opposite. He raised his arm to learn the sinker. He attended all his games.
Sergio Romo's life was baseball. On his bike, he rode the streets of Brawley to school with his backpack on his back, a bag for baseball equipment. Balls, gloves and spikes were mixed among notebooks and pencils.
His 5’7” height and 139-pound weight were held against him. No one was betting on him. "You're little, you're a little chap.” You don’t throw hard, you don’t have speed. "  He grew tired of listening to it.
Romo says he always knew he could play baseball at a great level. At age 11, he promised his dad that he would go to college and get to the big leagues. He assured him that he would materialize his dreams. That promise was the engine that carried him.
Sergio Romo left the Imperial Valley with the desire to succeed, wearing a medal of the Sacred Heart that his nana Pancha removed from her neck after 30 years. In his head resounded the voices of those who told him that he would fail and return soon, as had all those who had gone before.
Brawley is a wild neighborhood and most of Romo's friends are no longer alive.  The drugs killed them.  Prior to his departure from Brawley Union High School, only two outstanding players had left: Sid Monge and Rudy Seanez, also of Latino origin.
The first two years of university studies for Sergio Romo were at Orange Coast College and Arizona Western College.  By the third year, his skills guaranteed him a scholarship at the University of North Alabama.  That great lift helped him to resist the loneliness and the distance from his family. The Romos who did everything and took care of him were far away.
Sergio learned to take care of himself. Despite his stature and weight and the speed of his pitches being below average, he had become an exceptional player. But outside the field, the mere fact of being Mexican made him an outcast.
"In Brawley, I didn’t know the dangers of the world.  I didn’t know they would treat me badly for being Mexican. Alabama was a place of white purity. They discriminated against me a lot. My teammates did talk to me, they gave me the opportunity to show that their perception of the Mexicans was wrong, but with the people where I was going to play I did not do well. They insulted me. They told me the worst things.
"I learned something that I didn’t know existed. I had never known racism or discrimination. Times came when I said 'I can’t do this,’' but I had to honor my word and I endured."
Sergio liked to go out with his classmates at parties and have fun. But he always ended up on the ground with blows raining on him. The whites did not like having a Mexican among them. Romo would greet or look at a girl, enough to be pushed and rushed, amid insults.
Romo says he was silent, sticking against the wall and raising his arms as a sign of not seeking trouble. When the first blows fell on him he defended himself, at least to run, but he almost always ended up lying in a pool of blood. He did not even dare go to a hospital for relief. He was afraid he would not be served because he was Mexican.
He remembers one game day, when the players were formed along the stripes of lime, with caps on the chest singing the national anthem. One of the opposing team's players shouted at him, "Hey, you're not from here. Sit down, this is not your national anthem, go home."
"He said it in very ugly words. And I saw who it was, thinking: 'It's number 35, it's number 35', and how I would start the game and hit him when he came up, to defend myself. I heard someone laughing and it was my coach.  After the anthem was over, the coach went to the mound and said, 'If you hit him, if you give back what he did to you, I'll take you out of the game.'  I asked him why he gave me a scholarship if he did not want me.  He took me for my ability, because he needed me, although he did not like me being Mexican. They don’t care if you're good, they just look at your skin. "
The player prefers to tot mention the coach's name. But in the record books at the University of North Alabama appears Mike Lane as the coach who has given the greatest success to that school. He is admired and respected.  The baseball field has carried his name since he retired in 2008 after a 25-year career. Among his greatest achievements are the five players who passed through before arriving in the majors. One of them, the last one, is Sergio Romo.
But he took the scholarship away after the incident that Romo had with Lane when he didn’t allow him to set the team's strikeout record. It didn’t matter that Romo obtained excellent grades in school or that he was an all-American player, that is, one of the best at his position in the nation.  "I went to my apartment and grabbed all my things. I had a Ford Thunderbird where I dumped everything, it was the old family car. I returned in 31 hours driving to Brawley myself. "
Romo caught up with one of his best friends, one with whom he had played in a summer league in Arizona the previous two years. He was part of the Mesa State College team and Romo asked him to ask the coach if he would give him a chance to play. Coach Chris Hanks contacted him.
"'I saw your numbers and I can not believe you have nowhere to play,” said Hanks. “What happened?”  Romo recalls, “I told him everything, the fights, one that got me two nights in jail because I fought at a fraternity party and police were called because 'the Mexican was to blame'. I told him what I did, good and bad. He said, 'Let me think about it.' He called me again, offered me a scholarship of 80% and said he would be happy to have me on his team.
"I broke six school records that season and four of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a league that’s over a hundred years old.  I didn’t believe what was happening to me.  I started 15 games and finished 14-1. Each time I pitched, I imagined I was facing North Alabama. The bad things that happened made me better, gave me more strength.  When I won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the coach (Lane) sent me letters telling me he was proud of me.  With that he made me understand that he knows how he treated me, and he was telling me that he knows what he did to me. "
Next March, Sergio Romo will again wear the Mexican National Team uniform during the World Baseball Classic, whose group will play the first phase in Guadalajara at Estadio Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican Pacific League. The Charros hired Romo for the last month of the regular season that recently concluded. As they did not qualify for the playoffs, the pitcher is now reinforcing the Los Mochis Cañeros. Playing in Jalisco was the initiative of Romo himself.  In a video recorded in Japan, where he played a couple of friendly matches with the national team, Romo expressed his interest to play in the land of his grandparents, to return to where his roots are.
For years he has been questioned because he is not Mexican, because he was born in California. This offends him because he feels like a non-citizen. Although born in the United States, Americans do not consider him one of their own. And since he was not born in the national territory, he says that Mexicans do not end up accepting him.
"I've already paid for what it means to be Mexican. When I'm in the United States, I defend myself against them because they do not look at me as white, they look at me as Mexican and treat me the same. My roots, my traditions, my customs, are Mexican. I would like you not to call me pocho because it lowers morale, it takes away the pride of being who I am. I am no less Mexican because of dual nationality."
With the arrival of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, the player predicts that the condition of Mexicans, born or not in that country, will be complicated. But it also hurts that his own nationals marginalize him.
In Mexicali, "if they had to choose between a child born in Mexico and me, they always took the other.  I waited 20 years to say yes to the Mexican National Team.  I had to accomplish everything, to win my World Series rings so that they would turn me to see.  When I was a child, I did not understand it and it hurt a lot because I always heard them saying Pocho or Chicano."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Los Mochis, Mexicali win classic Game Sevens, will play for LMP pennant

Sebastian Valle's two-run double was the key blow in a three-run seventh inning as Los Mochis punched their ticket to the Mexican Pacific League championship series Thursday night with a 3-1 home win over Culiacan.  The Caneros will face Mexicali, who reached the title series thanks to a Herculean performance from closer Jake Sanchez (pictured), who pitched 7.2 innings of scoreless relief as the Aguilas outlasted Hermosillo, 4-3, in 16 innings.

LOS MOCHIS 3-6-1, Culiacan 1-8-2

This one was a pitcher's duel all the way, as Caneros starter Roy Merritt locked horns with his Culiacan counterpart, Zack Dodson as the two Texans traded zeros on the scoreboard through five innings. Tomateros rightfielder Joey Meneses led off the third with the game's first hit on a single, but died there as Merritt retired the next three batters in order.  Culiacan finally broke through with the first score of the night in the top of the sixth.  Veteran Jose Manuel "Manny" Rodriguez started things off with a one-out single, then moved to third when Ramiro Pena lashed a double to third.  After intentionally walking Eugenio Velez to load the bases, Merritt was replaced by Isaac Rodriguez, who plunked Issmael Salas with his first pitch to give Rodriguez an easy stroll home to put the Tomateros ahead, 1-0.  That was all it took for Mochis manager Luis Sojo to yank Salas and bring in Santiago Gutierrez.  After Gutierrrez got Oscar Robles to pop out in foul territory, Sojo then waved Jon Sintes in from the bullpen to end the inning on a Meneses fly out.

Dodson carried the lead into the bottom of the seventh, when the game turned.  After giving up a leadoff single to Leandro Castro on his 87th pitch of the night, Dodson was pulled by Cuiliacan skipper Che Reyes in favor of middleman David Goforth.  The Brewers righty was able to get Saul Soto to foul out to leftfielder Ryan Lollis but then walked Yosmany Guerra on five pitches to put two men on with Valle coming up.  The newly-acquired Mariners farmhand drilled a 2-and-1 Goforth offering into right field for a two-bagger to bring in Castro and Guerra, giving the Caneros the lead, with Valle advancing to third on a Rodriguez throwing error.  That was enough for manager Reyes, who called in MLB vet Oliver Perez to face pinch-hitter Sergio Garcia.  The Nationals right-hander struck out Garcia for the second out but was then tagged for a triple to right by Velez, with Valle crossing the plate to make it a 3-1 Mochis lead and that was all she wrote for the visitors.  Sergio Romo tossed two scoreless innings for his fifth playoff save to end the game and close the series for the Caneros.

Sintes was credited with the win for his perfect one-and-a-third innings of pitching, but the table was more than set by Merritt's 5.1 opening innings of work.  The seven-year Mets minor leaguer let up six hits with one runner scoring in a solid performance.  As good as the 31-year-old lefty was, Dodson may have been a little better as the one-time Pirates fourth-rounder allowed just two hits and two walks in six frames, allowing one run and striking out four.  Goforth took the loss for the Tomateros as another sellout crowd of 11,132 at Estadio Emilio Ibarra celebrated the Caneros moving one step closer to their first pennant since 2002-03.

MEXICALI 4-18-1, Hermosillo 3-12-1

The "other" semifinal was likewise a pitching-dominated matchup as Hermosillo and Mexicali took their fight into double overtime before the Aguilas finally shook off the Narajeros, 44-3, in 16 innings.  The contest looked like it might turn into a slugfest as both teams scored twice in the first inning.  Hermosillo  got on the board when O'Koyea Dickson singled in Jason Bourgeois and Carlos Gastelum came in on a Jose Amador safety, both off Aguilas starter Kameron Loe.  The Aguilas punched back when Chris Roberson led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on a Yuniesky Betancourt double one out later.  Betancourt subsequently moved to third on a C.J. Retherford single and scored when Luis Juarez hit a sacrifice fly to right.

The 2-2 score held until the top of the fifth, when Dickson lofted his third homer in two nights into the left field bleachers off a Barry Enright serving, but the hosts came back in the seventh on Yordanys Linares' two-out single to left that plated Ramon Rios.  Linares tried taking second on the hit but was thrown out by Dickson in left. After that, it was nothing but goose eggs on the board inning after inning as the game ended at 2:33AM local time.  The contest finally concluded in the bottom of the 16th, beginning with Roberson's leadoff single off Hector Galvan.  The ex-Phil then advanced to second on a Jon Del Campo sacrifice bunt, took third when Betacourt singled and eventually scored the semi-winning run when LMP bat champ Luis Suarez poked a bases-loaded single to right off Hermosillo reliever Wilmer Rios.

Loe was touched for five hits and two runs in the first, only getting one batter out.  One-time Braves prospect Edgar Osuna pitched 3.1 innings of one-hit shutout ball after relieving Loe, but it was closer Jake Sanchez who reached back for Mexicali with an outing that legends are made of.  The 2013 Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year entered the contest in the top of the eighth and pitched into the 15th, blanking the Orangemen over 7.2 frames on two hits and two walks while racking up eleven K's in a 116-pitch performance.  Javier Solano took over for Sanchez and was credited with the win, but the mound belonged to the Cal Baptist product Thursday night as 13,110 fans were in the stands at Estadio B'Air when the game began.

Enright had a fair start for Hermosillo, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with no walks.  Six relievers combined to held the Aguilas scoreless until the end.  Galvan suffered the loss despite 3.1 otherside good innings in which he let up only two hits and struck out two.  Betancourt and Juarez each had four of the Aguilas' 18 hits while Amador finished with four hits of his own.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Culiacan, Hermosillo win; Game Seven semis set for Thursday

Both Culiacan and Hermsosillo had to win road games Wednesday to stay alive in their respective Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  The Tomateros and Naranjeros responded to the "Win-or-go-home" challenges by copping victories to extend each set to a seventh and deciding game Thursday night.  Ramiro Pena's three-run homer highlighted a six-run outburst in the sixth inning, propelling Culiacan to a 9-2 triumph in Los Mochis as a standing-room crowd of 11,192 watched at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada.  Hermosillo likewise won big, 7-2, in Mexicali as Dodgers farmhand O'Koyea Dickson (pictured) walloped two homers in front of a full house of 17,000 at the Aguilas' Estadio B'Air.

Thursday's Game Sevens in Los Mochis and Mexicali will both get underway at 7:30PM Mountain Time.

Culiacan 9-13-1, LOS MOCHIS 2-5-0

As seems his wont, Hector Daniel Rodriguez has brought his "A" game to the postseason for Culiacan.  The Tomateros' homegrown lefty went 4-6 with a 3.50 ERA in 13 starts during the regular season, a subpar winter for him.  Since the playoffs began, however, the 32-year-old lefty has kicked into overdrive and the result is a 4-0 record with a 2.52 ERA, including Wednesday's 9-2 win at Los Mochis.  Rodriguez allowed one run while scattering five hits in six innings for the Tomateros, striking out nine Caneros batsmen and walking two.  Sixty of his 93 pitches went for strikes before leaving the game with a 6-1 lead.  Rodriguez has earned a reputation as a big game pitcher, winning the MVP award at last winter's Caribbean Series as a reinforcement pickup of the champion Mazatlan Venados.

The contest was competitive for the first few innings.  Culiacan drew first blood by scoring a run on a Joey Meneses sacrifice fly to center in the top of the second that brought in Ronnier Mustelier.  Mochis tied it up at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth when vet Saul Soto doubled in Leandro Castro from first.  One of the ageless wonders of Mexican baseball, the 38-year-old Soto is hitting .343 in the playoffs while, like Rodriguez, playing for his hometown team.  Culiacan broke the tie with two runs in the fifth as Caneros starter Luis Niebla self-destructed by giving up two hits, walking two more batters and hitting a batter before he was mercifully lifted for Isaaac Jimenez, who got Issmael Salas to fly out with the bases loaded to keep the floodgates from opening.  That happened in the sixth, when six more Culiacan runners crossed the plate to make it 8-1.  Pena's three-run bomb was the deepest cut as eleven Tomateros strode to the plate against four Mochis pitchers.  From that point it was acamedic, although the Caneros did score one final run in the seventh.

Mustelier finished the night with three hits, two runs scored and one driven in for Culiacan, who also got two hits each from longtimers Jose Manuel Rodriguez and Oscar Robles.  Niebla took the loss for Mochis, although special mention should be given to reliever Lenix Osuna, who faced five batters and allowed four runs (including Pena's blasted) without retiring a batter.  Onetime Red Sox minor leaguer J.C. Linares had two of the Caneros' five hits, including a double, while throwing out Culiacan's Ryan Lollis at the plate from center field to end the third inning.

Hermosillo 7-12-0, MEXICALI 2-12-2

Dickson had a huge game at the plate for the Naranjeros, going 3-for-4 with two homers, four RBIs and a pair of runs to pace Hermosillo's must-win 7-2 road triumph at La Nida in Mexicali.  It was a forgettable night for both starting pitchers, with Travis Blackley of Hermosillo and Mexicali's Hector Velazquez combining to cough up 15 hits and six runs over eight innings between them.  It was left to unsung Jose Samayoa to relieve Blackley and hold the fort until the Orangemen offense found its bearings.

The Naranjeros got on the board in the top of the first via a two-out Dickson solo homer off Velazquez to left. Xorge Carrillo scored on a force out in the second to pull Mexicali even.  Hermosillo responded by adding a run in the third when Jason Bourgeois came in on a Dickson groundout, but the Eagles came back again to knot the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the third as Luis Juarez doubled off Blackley and then scored on an Agustin Murrillo single up the middle.  Hermosillo effectively put the game away with two runs in the fifth on Dickson's second homer (with Carlos Gasteul on base) and two more in the sixth when a Bourgeois single and an error by Naranjeros centerfielder Chris Roberson plated Sergio Burruel and Jorge Flores to make it a 6-2 tilt.  Hermosillo added a final run in the ninth, but it was superfluous by then.

Blackley struggled into the fourth frame, when he was relieved by Samayoa with two on and one out.  It took two pitches for Samayoa to get Ramon Rios to ground to third for a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.  Samayoa, a Hermosillo product who spent time in the Rangers system, got the win after throwing four innings of shutout ball, giving up three hits and two walks while striking out two.  Velazaquez took the loss for the Aguilas as the Pitcher of the Year candidate's playoff miseries continued, giving up four runs on seven hits and two free passes to see his postseason ERA rise to 8.38.  Rafael Martin got his fifth save in January for the Naranjeros.  Besides Dickson, the Hermosillo bats were also led by Gastelum's two hits and two runs plus Bourgeois' two hits, a run and RBI. Yordanys Linares (no relation to Mochis' J.C., although both are Cubans) went 4-for-4 for Mexicali, but neither scored nor drove in a run.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pena, Aguilas top Hermosillo, 6-1, to take LMP semifinal series lead

Mexicali 6-11-1, HERMOSILLO 1-6-2

The Mexicali Aguilas knocked Hermosillo starter Juan Pablo Oramas out of the game in the second inning and went on to beat the Naranjeros, 6-1, Tuesday to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  A near-sellout crowd of 15,932 watched the contest at Hermosillo's Estadio Sonora as Mexicali pitcher Miguel Pena (pictured) turned in a strong 6.1 innings of work on the mound, throwing 67 of his 88 pitches for strikes.

The Aguilas staked Pena an early 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the top of the first inning.  Chris Roberson and Ramon Rios led the game off with back-to-back singles off Oramas, with Robo moving to third on Rios' safety.  After Oramas struck out Yuniesky Betancourt and got C.J. Retherford to pop out to first, MexPac batting champ Luis Juarez singled up the middle to bring Roberson in from third.  Agustin Murillo then lifted a fly ball to center that dropped in for a single to plate Rios from second, giving Pena a cushion before ever taking the hill.

Pena, a Texan who spent four years in the Red Sox system, recorded a 1-2-3 bottom of the first before his teammates provided him an added pillow by scoring twice more in the second.  Yordanys Linares led off with a bunt toward the mound and was able to reach second when Oramas threw the ball past first sacker Efren Navarro. After Pena walked Roberson with one out, Naranjeros manager Lorenzo Bundy replaced him with Pablo Ortega, a 40-year-old veteran who was the Mexican League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 with Quintana Roo.  Rios greeted Ortega by lining a first-pitch single to left that brought Linares in and moved Roberson to second.  After a Betancourt single loaded the bases, Retherford sent a sacrifice fly to right that allowed Roberson to score from third, giving the Aguilas a 4-0 advantage.  O'Koyea Dickson led off the bottom of the second with a homer to right that put the Naranjeros on the scoreboard, but that was the only mistake Pena would make all night.

Hermosillo's Tim Torres made things interesting in the bottom of the fifth by protesting a called third strike, which earned him an early shower courtesy of home plate umpire Jaime Gutierrez, but that proved to be the last time the Orangemen would be heard from.  Mexicali scored insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, including a Retherford homer to straightaway center, but they weren't really needed as Pena and three relievers combined to scatter six Hermosillo hits, walking none and registering a combined seven strikeouts.  Aguilas closer Jake Sanchez whiffed Dustin Martin swinging to end the tilt and give the visitors the lead in the series, which now shifts back to Mexicali for Game Six.

Pena earned his second win of the playoffs (and first of the series) while Oramas, who just missed winning the regular season ERA title, was tagged with the loss as his postseason ERA ballooned to 9.64.  Ortega settled down to put in 6.2 innings for Hermosillo, allowing no earned runs on five hits while striking out six. Betancourt finished with three hits for the Aguilas while Roberson and Rios each chipped in with two.  Hermosillo had two-hit nights from Jose Amador and Sergio Burruel.

Since the series had been pushed back one day due to Saturday's rainout in Hermosillo, there will be no travel day break as the two teams play tonight in Mexicali.  Los Mochis hosts Culiacan for Game Six of their Final Four series with Culiacan Wednesday, with the Caneros holding a 3-games-to-2 edge in that set.

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.