Monday, August 31, 2009

MEXICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS 2009

DIVISION SEMIFINAL SERIES

North: SALTILLO vs. REYNOSA (Saltillo wins series, 4 games to 2)
Sat, Aug. 1 Reynosa 6, Saltillo 0 (R-Harold Eckert 6IP/0R/3H/5K)
Sun, Aug. 2 Saltillo 3, Reynosa 1 (S-Jose Mercedes 7IP/0R, Nelson Teilon HR)
Tue, Aug. 4 Reynosa 12. Saltillo 5 (R-Leonardo Heras 4-4/3R, Edgard Clemente 4RBI)
Wed, Aug. 5 Saltillo 9, Reynosa 5 (S-Jonathan Aceves and Jose Rodriguez HRs in 8th)
Thu, Aug. 6 Saltillo 5, Reynosa 4 (S-Refugio Cervantes 3-3/GWHR{6th}/2B/2R/2RBI)
Sat, Aug. 8 Saltillo 8, Reynosa 1 (S-Jose Mercedes 7IP/0R/3H, now has 14 scoreless IP in playoffs)

North: MEXICO CITY vs. LAGUNA (Laguna wins series, 4 games to 3)
Sat, Aug. 1 Mex City 7, Laguna 3 (MC-Mario Valenzuela GS, Roberto Ramirez 7.2IP/2R)
Sun, Aug. 2 Laguna 9, Mex City 7 (L-Ramon Ramirez 4H, Luis Terrero & Emmanuel Valdez 3H)
Tue, Aug. 4 Laguna 4, Mex City 1 (L-Victor Santos & Dario Veras 6-hit combo, Daniel Fornes HR)
Wed, Aug 5 Laguna 5, Mex City 4 (MC-Ed Arredondo RBI 2B T10, L-Terrero & Fornes RBI 1Bs B10)
Thu, Aug. 6 Mex City 6, Laguna 3 (MC-Roberto Ramirez 8+IP/2R, Mario Valenzuela 3-5/1R/1RBI)
Sat, Aug. 8 Mex City 12, Laguna 4 (MC-Ivan Terrazas 4-5, RP Yoel Hernandez 3IP/0R/1H/4K)
Sun, Aug. 9 Laguna 15, Mex City 2 (L-21 hits as team, Daniel Fornes 4-6/HR, Juan Delgadillo 6IP/2R)

South: QUINTANA ROO vs. CAMPECHE (Quintana Roo wins series, 4 games to 3)
Sat, Aug. 1 Q Roo 8, Campeche 3 (QR-Iker Franco & Carlos Sievers HRs)
Sun, Aug. 2 Campeche 4, Q Roo 2 (C-Abraham Valencia 2R HR in 8th, Francisco Campos 7IP/2R/7K)
Tue, Aug. 4 Campeche 9, Q Roo 8 (C-Jesse Gutierrez GWRBI 1B in 10th, HR in 4th)
Thu, Aug. 6 Q Roo 9, Campeche 1 (QR-Pablo Ortega 7IP/1R, Tigres 17H/4HR)
Sat, Aug. 8 Campeche 7, Q Roo 6 (C-Javier Robles 2-3/2RHR/3RBI), Manuel Lopez HR in 3R 7th)
Mon, Aug. 10 Q Roo 8, Campeche 1 (QR-Edgar Huerta 4.2IP/1R/3H, Derrick White 2RHR)
Tue, Aug. 11 Q Roo 9, Campeche 5 (QR-Albino Contreras GSHR bottom of 10th)

South: YUCATAN vs. PUEBLA (Puebla wins series, 4 games to 1)
Sat, Aug 1 Yucatan 4, Puebla 1 (Y-Oscar Rivera 7IP/5H def. Andres Meza, P-Willis Otanez HR)
Mon, Aug 3 Puebla 7, Yucatan 3 (P-Emil Kamar 6IP/2R/4H, Cesar Tapia 3R HR)
Wed, Aug 5 Puebla 7, Yucatan 5 (P-Rene Reyes 2R HR in 5th, Cesar Tapia 3-3/2R)
Thu, Aug. 6 Puebla 8, Yucatan 6 (P-Serafin Rodriguez 3-4/2RBI, Luis Suarez HR/3RBI, Y led 6-2 B3)
Fri, Aug. 7 Puebla 12, Yucatan 0 (P-Andres Meza CG/4H/0BB, Willis Otanez 3-4/2HR/3R)


DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

North: SALTILLO vs. LAGUNA (Saltillo wins series, 4 games to 0)
Tue, Aug. 11 Saltillo 15, Laguna 3 (S-Nelson Teilon 3-3/2B/4RBI, Mario Mendoza Jr. 7IP/2R/5H)
Wed, Aug. 12 Saltillo 9, Laguna 0 (S-Hector Rodriguez 5IP/4H/7K), Refugio Cervantes 2-3/HR/3RBI)
Fri, Aug. 14 Saltillo 5, Laguna 4 (S-Refugio Cervantes’ 8th inning HR broke 4-4 tie)
Sat, Aug. 15 Saltillo 9, Laguna 1 (S-Hernando Arredondo 2HRs/5RBIs, Jose Mercedes 7IP/1R)

South: QUINTANA ROO vs. PUEBLA (Quintana Roo wins series, 4 games to 1)
Thu, Aug. 13 Q Roo 3, Puebla 1 (QR-Francisco Cordova 6IP/1R/5H), Derrick White 2 HR)
Fri, Aug. 14 Q Roo 12, Puebla 1 (QR-Ricardo Vazquez grand slam keys 7-run first inning)
Sun, Aug. 16 Puebla 10, Q Roo 9 (P-Luis Suarez 5-5/2HR, Cesar Tapia 3-4/4RBI)
Mon, Aug. 17 Q Roo 19, Puebla 15 (Tigres scored 9 runs in T9 to overcome 14-10 deficit)
Tue, Aug. 18 Q Roo 9, Puebla 5 (QR-Francisco Cordova 6.2IP/1R, Alex Sanchez 4-4/HR/2RBI)


LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

SALTILLO vs. QUINTANA ROO (Saltillo wins series, 4 games to 2)
Sat, Aug. 22 Saltillo 7, Q Roo 6 (S-Jesus Cota 3RHR in 5th, Fernando Villalobos 3.1IP/0R for relief W)
Sun, Aug. 23 Saltillo 6, Q Roo 3 (S-Jesus Cota 2-4/2RHR in 3rd, Rafael Diaz 6.2IP/3R/5K)
Tue, Aug. 25 Q Roo 8, Saltillo 3 (QR-Francisco Cordova 7IP/1R/3H/0BB, Albino Contreras 3R3B in B1)
Wed, Aug. 26 Q Roo 6, Saltillo 1 (QR-Jose Ramirez 4.2IP/1R/4H, S-Jesus Cota HR in 4th straight game)
Thu, Aug. 27 Saltillo 10, Q Roo 5 (S-Hernando Arredondo & Jonathan Aceves each hit grand slams)
Sat, Aug. 28 Saltillo 14, Q Roo 1 (S-Refugio Cervantes 2H/HR/4RBI, Rafael Diaz 9IP/1R/6K/1BB)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

SALTILLO CLOBBERS TIGRES, 14-1, TO COP LMB FLAG

SALTILLO –Saltillo scored at least one run every inning except the seventh as the Saraperos drubbed the Quintana Roo Tigres, 14-1, Saturday night to clinch the Mexican League pennant for 2009. The victory, in front of 14,002 fans in Saltillo’s Parque Francisco I. Madero, brought the Saraperos their second Liga title in the team’s 40-year history. Their only other championship came in 1980.

Nelson Teilon hit a homer in the bottom of the first inning to give Saltillo a 2-0 lead, but it was a six-run Saraperos downpour in the second that sent the Tigres running for cover (or some such metaphor). In that frame, Jonathan Aceves and Jose Munoz hit back-to-back RBI doubles to chase Quintana Roo starter Francisco Cordova (who had been very effective in the playoffs), but relievers Esteban Haro and Edgar Huerta fared no better. Jose Rodriguez greeted Haro with a third consecutive RBI double and, after Teilon singled to move Rodriguez to third, Tigres manager Matias Carrillo brought his hook to the mound with him and called in Huerta from the bullpen. That move proved disastrous, as the first batter Huerta faced, Refugio Cervantes, drilled an 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run homer to give the Saraperos an 8-0 lead. Huerta was able to get the final two outs of the inning, but the die was cast for the rest of the game.

The Saraperos then scored one run in the third, two in the fourth and one apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to stretch their lead to 13-0 before the Tigres plated their only run of the night in the top of the seventh on Alex Sanchez’ run-scoring single that brought in Sergio Contreras from second base. Not that Saltillo needed any more offense, but designated hitter Noe Munoz put an exclamation point on the game and season with a solo homer to left for the final score of the 2009 LMB season.

Saltillo starter Rafael Diaz let in one run and scattered eight hits over nine innings, striking out six Tigres while walking just one batsman to go to 3-1 in the postseason. Cordova (3-1) took the loss for QR.

Hernando Arredondo batted 4-for-5 with three RBIs for Saltillo, while Noe Munoz finished with three hits on the night. Cervantes drove in four runs with his two hits. For the Tigres, Sanchez had two hits to finish the playoffs with a .434 batting average, while Abel Martinez went 1-for-4 to end his injury-interrupted postseason at .472.

SALTILLO SARAPEROS 14-18-1, QUINTANA ROO TIGRES 1-9-0
W-Rafael Diaz (3-1). L-Francisco Cordova (3-1).
HR-Nelson Teilon (SAL), Refugio Cervantes (SAL), Noe Munoz (SAL).
T-3:24. A-14,002.

Friday, August 28, 2009

SALTILLO ONE GAME AWAY FROM MEXICAN LEAGUE PENNANT

The Saltillo Saraperos are just one win away from copping only their second Mexican League pennant since joining the Liga in 1970. Saltillo’s lone title came in 1980, when all-time greats Andres Mora and Juan Navarette anchored the team.
Heading into the weekend, the Saraperos held a 3 games to 2 lead over the Quintana Roo Tigres in the best-of-seven LMB Championship Series.

GAME 1: Saltillo 7, Quintana Roo 6 (Saturday, August 22 in Saltillo)
The Saraperos opened the series with a 7-6 win at home last Saturday as Saltillo came back from a 6-2 deficit with five runs in the fifth inning, featuring a two-run Nelson Teilon single and a three-run homer by Jesus Cota. Reliever Fernando Villalobos got the win after pitching 3.1 scoreless innings. Tigres starter Pablo Ortega absorbed the loss.

GAME 2: Saltillo 6, Quintana Roo 3 (Sunday, August 23 in Saltillo)
Saltillo made it a 2-0 series with a 6-3 win Sunday night. Cota clobbered his second homer of the finals and Saraperos starter Rafael Diaz went 6.2 strong innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. The game was tied at 3-3 before Cota poked a two-run homer in the bottom of the third inning. The left fielder added an insurance run in the eighth on a wild pitch.

GAME 3: Quintana Roo 8, Saltillo 3 (Tuesday, August 25 in Cancun)
The series shifted to Cancun for Game 3 Tuesday night, and the Tigres took an 8-3 win thanks in no small part to a six-run first inning, three tallies coming on Albino Contreras’ bases-loaded triple. Quintana Roo starter Francisco Cordova let in one run on yet another Cota homer, but finished after seven innings with just three hits allowed and no walks.

GAME 4: Quintana Roo 6, Saltillo 1 (Wednesday, August 26 in Cancun)
The Tigres evened the series at two games apiece Wednesday night with a solid 6-1 win over the Saraperos. Contreras followed up his solid Game 3 performance with a two-run homer in the second, and nailing Saltillo’s Refugio Cervantes trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth with a strong throw from left field. Cota homered foe the fourth game in a row.

GAME 5: Saltillo 10, Quintana Roo 5 (Thursday, August 27 in Cancun)
Saltillo became the first road team to win in the series Thursday night, bopping the Tigres, 10-5. This was decided fairly early as Hernando Arredondo crashed a grand slam homer in the second inning and Jonathan Aceves belted a grand slam of his own in the fourth. Saraperos starting pitcher Mario Mendoza, Jr. got the win with six decent innings of work.

Game 6 was set for Saturday night in Saltillo, with Game 7 (if needed) slated on Sunday night. The Saraperos drew 31,793 for the first two games of the series, while 24,778 fans clicked the turnstiles for the three midweek contests in Cancun.

GUAYMAS WINS 1-0 THRILLER TO CLINCH NORTE PENNANT

Although Guaymas team officials were able to hold off fans outside the ballpark who wanted to watch the sold-out game going on inside, there was nothing that could hold off Rafael “El Toro” Flores and his Ostioneros from defeating Agua Prieta, 1-0, last Sunday to close out their Mexican Northern League championship series in five games.
Flores drove in Julian Laurean with the game’s only run by drilling a pitch off the wall in the bottom of the first, and then went on to toss a shutout in his fifth complete game of the postseason to cinch the pennant for Guaymas, who ended the Vaqueros’ three-year run for the Norte championship.
Over 5,000 fans jammed Guaymas’ Estadio Abelardo L. Rodriguez for the game.

REYNOSA REACHES LITTLE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL TITLE GAME

Starter Raymundo Berrones allowed no hits through 4.2 innings on the mound and Raul Lopez fanned the final three batters in relief after earlier cracking a two-run homer to lead Reynosa to a one-hit 6-0 shutout of Japan in their International Division semifinal game Wednesday at the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania. Leadoff hitter Oscar Noguera opened the bottom of the first inning with a single to right, followed by Rojas’ two-run bomb. By the end of the frame, Mexico had sent its entire batting order to the plate and had a 5-0 lead that held up the rest of the way.
Reynosa went through their Group D pool schedule undefeated. They defeated Canada, 2-1, in seven innings in the opener for both countries when, with two runners on base, Mario Cardenas topped a dribbler in front of the plate that Canadian pitcher Anthony Cusati picked up and threw to first base, which was unoccupied because first baseman Katie Reyes also charged the ball on the play and left her station open, allowing the winning run to score. After a 13-0 plastering of the European champions from Germany halted after four innings, Mexico got solo homers from Berrones, Luis Trevino and Luis Perez to beat Taiwan, 3-2, in another one-hitter. Mexican pitchers have combined for three one-hitters and gave up just seven hits over four games.
Reynosa was set to face Taiwan for the International title Saturday, with the winner facing the USA champions Sunday for the World Series championship.

MEXICO FINISHES THIRD IN WORLD 16U TOURNEY


Manuel Paez’ two-out single to right field and a subsequent error on the play by Venezuela’s Rainiero Coa led to Fernando Perez scoring the game-winning run all the way from first base in the bottom of the ninth inning as Mexico’s 16-Under National Team defeated Venezuela, 11-10, last Sunday in Taiwan to cop third place in the IBAF AA World Youth Baseball Championship tournament.
Paez batted 3-for-4 for the game, driving in four runs along the way. He also came in from shortstop to pitch 2.1 innings of relief, but it was Alexandro Delgado who closed the game with two scoreless entradas to earn the win out of the bullpen. Paez finished the tournament with a .517 batting average over seven games, second on the team to Adolfo Lopez’ .577 average (which was third among all players). Ivan Rivera led Mexico’s pitchers with two of the team’s four wins, Delgado’s 3.86 ERA was the best among four starters, and Paez picked up two saves in relief.
Mexico fell to the United States, 9-5, last Saturday in the semifinals. The USA then beat Cuba, 7-6, in the title game.


HISTORIA MEXICANA 5: The 20th Century and Modern-day Mexico

Following the assassination of Francisco Madero and general Victoriano Huerta’s declaration of himself as president in 1913, Mexico’s final revolution continued for several more years as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata (who had once been comrades in arms of Huerta) turned their forces against him. American president Woodrow Wilson pulled his support of Huerta off the table after Madero’s assassination and began backing Villa and Zapata, as well as Sonora governor Alvaro Obregon and Coahuila governor Venustiano Carranza. Now boxed in, Huerta fled the country in 1914. However, the four revolutionaries broke into separate camps of Constitutionalists and Conventionists, the latter of which were unified in their desire to keep Carranza from taking over the country. Vicious fighting took place for the next several years in which thousands of people perished and the likes of Villa, Zapata, Carranza and Obregon all met the wrong end of a gun. It wasn’t until the mid-1930’s (after several years in which Plutarco Elias Calles controlled many events from inside and outside the government) that some semblance of stability was achieved…just in time for the Great Depression.
The Thirties can be remembered when what is now the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, first began a decades-long political rule of Mexico, initially under Calles. The PRI was founded in 1929, and eventually came to dominate Mexican politics for the rest of the 20th Century. Ironically, Calles was exiled in 1936 (two years after Lazaro Cardenas became president) in a move that took the army out of direct political power. Cardenas went on to nationalize Mexico’s oil and electric industries, created the National Polytechnic Institute, and began a series of land reforms and distributed free textbooks to schoolchildren across the country. Cardenas stepped down from office in 1940, and is said to be the only president from the PRI’s 70-year dynasty who did not use the office to make himself wealthy.
Although his successor, Manuel Avila, undid the land reforms instituted by Cardenas while further entrenching the PRI machine, Mexico continued a 40-year period of growth that is called the Milagro Mexicano (or “Mexican Miracle”) despite a number of economic difficulties along the way that led to the nationalization of banks and two devaluations of the peso. A third devaluation of the peso in 1994 plunged the economy into the country’s worst recession in half a century. That year also marked the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in which Mexico joined the United States and Canada in an economic bloc based on liberalized trade rules between the three countries.
Over this period, though, the PRI was steadily losing its grip on power, and finally lost the presidency after seven decades when Vicente Fox of the Partido Accion Nacional defeated PRI incumbent Ernesto Zedillo in 2000. To his credit, Zedillo conceded defeat on national radio the night of the election, thereby quashing potential PRI disputes of the result. After six years, Fox stepped down and was replaced in 2006 by fellow PAN member Felipe Calderon, who won a hotly-contested election against Party of Democratic Revolution candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador. The conservative Calderon has capped salaries of public officials while stepping up the government’s battle against the drug cartels that have paralyzed Mexico’s northern border.
Modern-day Mexico covers nearly 2 million square kilometers, or about three times the size of the state of Texas. It is a nation of over 100 million people (including 20 million residents in Mexico City), third most-populous in the Western hemisphere. Mexico’s gross domestic product of US$1.35 trillion is the 12th largest in the world. The country’s per capita income of US$12,800 is third-highest in Latin America and has been growing steadily, but there is still a great deal of poverty within its borders. Mexico has a 92 percent literacy rate, with compulsory education for children between 6 and 15 years of age.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SARAPEROS SLAM TIGRES, 10-5; BACK IN LMB DRIVER’S SEAT

CANCUN – Hernando Arredondo and Jonathan Aceves blasted grand slam homers two innings apart as the Saltillo Saraperos pounded the Quintana Roo Tigres 10-5 Thursday night Estadio Beto Avila in Cancun. The win put the Saraperos back in the lead of the Mexican League Championship Series, 3 games to 2.

Arredondo’s one-out bomb to left field came off Tigres starter Pablo Ortega in the second inning, giving Saltillo a 4-0 lead. After Kevin Flores ripped a line drive homer off Saraperos starter Mario Mendoza, Jr. in the bottom of the third, Ortega was victimized again in the top of the fourth as Aceves sent the gopher deep to left-center to make it an 8-1 game. Tigres manager Matias Carrillo mercifully replaced Ortega with Eder Llamas at that point, but it was essentially the point of no return for Quintana Roo by then.

The Tigres did score three in the bottom of the fifth. Flavio Romero led off the inning with a double and scored one out later on Alex Sanchez’ single. Following a Carlos Gastelum groundout, Carlos Sievers belted a two-run homer to left off Mendoza to close the gap to 8-4. Saltillo answered back in the seventh when Jose Munoz scored from second on a Nelson Teilon single, and Teilon came in on a Christian Presichi double as five pitchers took the mound for the Tigres in the frame. Sanchez cranked a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh for Quintana Roo to bring the score to 10-5.

Mendoza went six innings for the win, letting in four runs on seven hits. Ortega took the loss the for Tigres by allowing eight runs on 3.1 innings of work. Sanchez turned in his second straight three-hit game for the Tigres to bring his playoff batting average up to .420. Jesus Cota and Noe Munoz each singled twice for Saltillo. Cota’s postseason average is now .404.

The teams will take Friday off to travel back to Saltillo, where the Saraperos won the first two games of the series. Game 6 is slated for Saturday night at 7:30 Central. If a Game 7 is needed, it’ll be played Sunday night at 7:30 in Parque Francisco I. Madero.

SALTILLO SARAPEROS 10-10-0, QUINTANA ROO TIGRES 5-9-0
W-Mario Mendoza, Jr. (2-0). L-Pablo Ortega (2-3).
HR-Hernando Arredondo (SAL), Jonathan Aceves (SAL), Kevin Flores (QR), Carlos Sievers (QR), Alex Sanchez (QR).
T-3:15. A-8,947.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TIGRES BEAT SALTILLO, 6-1; EVEN LMB TITLE SERIES

CANCUN – Albino Contreras whacked a two-run homer and threw out a baserunner from left field to lead the Quintana Roo Tigres to a 6-1 win over the Saltillo Saraperos Wednesday night at Estadio Beto Avila. The win evened the Mexican League Championship Series at two games apiece.

Quintana Roo opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Alex Sanchez hit a leadoff double, stole third base and came in to score on Carlos Gastelum’s sacrifice fly to center field. The Tigres put two more runs on the board in the second in a more direct fashion when Contreras poked a two-run homer to left after Carlos Sievers opened the inning with a walk.

Saltillo scored their first run when (who else?) Jesus Cota cracked a two-out homer off Tigres starter Jose Ramirez in the top of the fourth. Cota has now homered in all four LMB finals games. The stocky (5’7” and 200 pounds) Ramirez left the game with two out in the fifth after a strong showing, giving up one run on four hits.

The Tigres padded their lead with three more runs in the seventh, two coming on a bases-loaded infield single by catcher Iker Franco that drew an errant throw by Saltillo shortstop Nelson Teilon. Quintana’s Roo bullpen held the rest of the way as Felipe Arredondo picked up the win in relief as Ramirez didn’t qualify for the victory.

Sanchez had three hits and stole three bases for the Tigres, Contreras was as solid with his glove as his bat, throwing out Refugio Cervantes at second from left field as Cervantes tried stretching a single into a double. It was a critical play, as Cota homered two batters later. Cervantes finished with two singles, but also committed two errors in the field.

The two teams will meet again in Game 5 Thursday night at 7:30 local time in Cancun. After a travel day Friday, the series will conclude this weekend in Saltillo.

QUINTANA ROO TIGRES 6-7-0, SALTILLO SARAPEROS 1-6-3
W-Felipe Arredondo (2-0). L-Hector Rodriguez (2-1).
HR-Albino Contreras (QR), Jesus Cota (SAL).
T-3:49. A-7,331.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CORDOVA SHARP AS TIGRES WIN GAME 3, 8-3

CANCUN – A six-run first inning was more than starter Francisco Cordova needed to protect as the Quintana Roo Tigres pounded the Saltillo Saraperos, 8-3, Tuesday night in the Mexican League Championship Series at Estadio Beto Avila in Cancun. With the loss, Saltillo saw their lead in the best-of-7 set cut to 2 games to 1.

The Saraperos took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Jose Rodriguez’ solo homer to left field, but the Tigres came storming back in the bottom of the frame to chase Saltillo pitcher Jose Mercedes and give Cordova a big cushion to work with. Mercedes had allowed just one run while posting three wins over the first two rounds of the Liga playoffs, but the 38-year-old righty was rocked for six runs on as many hits before Saltillo manager Orlando Sanchez mercifully pulled him with only one out recorded. The key blow was Albino Contreras’ bases-loaded triple past Saraperos right fielder Christian Presichi. Cecilio Garibaldi stopped the bleeding, but for all intent and purposes, the game was decided. The Tigres added two runs in the fourth.

Cordova cruised through seven innings for Quintana Roo, shutting down Saltillo after Rodriguez’ homer. The 6’3” righty allowed the lone run on just three hits and no walks. Reliever Jorge De Paula gave up an RBI double to Rodriguez in the eighth to make it 8-2, but Quintana Roo closer Scott Chiasson (who led the LMB with 34 saves in the regular season) came on in the ninth and finished up the win for the Tigres despite allowing a homer to Jesus Cota, who has now gone deep in all three finals games for Saltillo after hitting two homers over the first two playoff rounds.

Derrick White went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI for Quintana Roo, while Contreras finished 2-for-3, scoring once and driving in four runs. For Saltillo, Rodriguez ended with a homer and double to drive in two runs.

The two teams will meet Wednesday night in Cancun.

QUINTANA ROO TIGRES 8-12-1, SALTILLO SARAPEROS 3-6-1
W-Rafael Diaz (2-1). L-Arturo Barradas (2-2).
HR-Jose Rodriguez, SAL (2); Jesus Cota, SAL (5).
T-3:30. A-8,500.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SARAPEROS TOP TIGRES, 6-3; TAKE TWO-GAME FINALS LEAD

SALTILLO – Jesus Cota whacked his second homer in as many games and Rafael Diaz pitched 6.2 solid innings as the Saltillo Saraperos doubled up on the Quintana Roo Tigres, 6-3, Sunday night before 15,949 fans at Parque Francisco I. Madero. The victory gives Saltillo a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Mexican League Championship Series as the Saraperos won their ninth straight playoff contest.

Noe Munoz stroked an RBI double in a two-run first inning for Saltillo, but the Tigres came back in the second to tie the game at 2-2 on Albino Contreras’ two-run homer to left. Saltillo went up 3-2 in the bottom of the second on Hernando Arredondo’s run-scoring single, but Quintana Roo knotted the contest back up at 3-3 in the third when Carlos Sievers scored on a Nelson Teilon error at shortstop. The Tigres had the bases loaded with one out, but Abel Martinez hit into a double play to end the threat.

Saltillo went ahead for good with two counters in the bottom of the third when Cota poked his two-run blast to make the score 5-3. The Saraperos added an insurance run in the eighth when Cota scored from third on a Scott Chiasson wild pitch.

Cota went 2-for-4 for Saltillo, as did Christian Presichi. Alex Sanchez led the Tigres with a double and two singles as Quintana Roo outhit the Saraperos by a 10-8 margin. Diaz settled down after letting in three runs in the first three innings, and finished with those three tallies allowed on nine hits and five strikeouts before being replaced by Rafael Martin with two out in the seventh. Arturo Barradas took the loss for the Tigres, letting in five runs on six hits in 2.2 innings. Five relievers actually did alright for Quintana Roo (Chiasson’s wild pitch notwithstanding), giving up just two hits after the fourth inning, but the damage had already been done.

The two teams will take Monday off to travel to Cancun for Game 3 of the series Tuesday night.

SALTILLO SARAPEROS 6-8-1, QUINTANA ROO TIGRES 3-10-2
W-Rafael Diaz (2-1). L-Arturo Barradas (2-2).
HR-Albino Contreras, QR (2); Jesus Cota, SAL (4).
T-3:12. A-15,949.

SARAPEROS DRAW FIRST BLOOD WITH 7-6 WIN OVER TIGRES

SALTILLO - The Saltillo Saraperos overcame a 6-2 deficit by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on for a 7-6 victory over the Quintana Roo Tigres in the opening game of the Mexican League Championship Series Saturday, August 22 before 15,844 fans in Saltillo.

The Tigres opened the scoring in the top of the first when leadoff batter Alex Sanchez tripled and came in to score on Carlos Gastelum’s single. The Saraperos replied with a run in the bottom of the first on Refugio Cervantes’ RBI single.

Quintana Roo posted two more tallies in the second when Albino Contreras tripled in Abel Martinez with two out and subsequently scored on a Sanchez bunt single to give the Tigres a 3-1 lead. Saltillo closed the gap to one run on Nelson Teilon’s RBI double in the bottom of the third, but the Tigres put three counters on the board in the top of the fourth to make it a 6-2 game. Contreras drove in Martinez with a single to left, but Saltillo starter Mario Mendoza, Jr. was able to register two outs and it looked like the worst was over. However, Carlos Sievers drilled a line drive single to right to bring in Flavio Romero from third and Contreras from second. At that point, Mendoza was replaced by Fernando Villalobos, who struck out Iker Franco to stop the bleeding.

The score stood at 6-2 until the fateful fifth inning. Up until then, Quintana Roo starter Pablo Ortega had been pitching comfortably, giving up two runs on four hits through the first four innings, but the veteran righty was touched up for three hits and two walks in the fifth. A two-run single by Teilon with one brought Saltillo close, but the key blow was struck by Jesus Cota, who clouted a three-run homer to right that gave the Saraperos a 7-6 advantage. Ortega struck out Christian Presichi swinging, but the damage was done, as was Ortega.

From that point, both teams’ bullpens took over to toss zeros the rest of the way as five Tigres relievers combined to allow just two Saltillo singles over three innings and the Saraperos got scoreless innings from three pitchers. Quintana Roo gave the Saltillo fans a scare in the top of the seventh when Franco tried to score from second on a Sergio Contreras single to right, but Presichi threw a perfect strike to catcher Jonathan Aceves to gun down Franco at the plate to end the inning. That was the last real threat the Tigres put up before Saltillo closer Miguel Saladin induced Franco into a 6-3 groundout to end the contest in the top of the ninth.

Villalobos got the win in relief for Saltillo as the 5’9” right-hander pitched 3.1 frames of scoreless ball in relief of Mendoza, while Saladin registered his fourth save of the postseason. Ortega absorbed the loss for Quintana Roo. The two teams will play again Sunday in Saltillo before the teams head to Cancun for Game 3 on Tuesday.

TIGRES, SARAPEROS TO MEET FOR LIGA TITLE

The Saltillo Saraperos and Quintana Roo Tigres are opening the Mexican League Championship Series this weekend with two games in Saltillo.

Saltillo enters the LMB Finals with a seven-game playoff winning streak after losing two of their first three games against the Reynosa Broncos in the Northern Zone semifinals. The Saraperos won the final three games of their opening round series before sweeping away the surprising Laguna Vaqueros in four games in the North final.
Among Saraperos batters, Refugio Cervantes has come up with some big games. Cervantes went 3-for-3 with a game-winning homer in Saltillo’s 5-4 win over Reynosa on August 6. He also doubled, scored two runs and drove in two more in that contest. Then, during the LMB North finals, Cervantes was 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs in the Saraperos’ 9-0 shutout of Laguna on August 12, and followed that two nights later by breaking a 4-all tie with an eighth-inning homer as Saltillo slipped past the Vaqueros, 5-4, in Game 3.
Pitching-wise, it would be hard to top the job starter Jose Mercedes has done for Saltillo in the postseason. Mercedes won two games in the opening round against Reynosa, including the series clincher on August 8, tossing 14 shutout innings in the process. He then came back to win the fourth game of the Saraperos’ sweep of Laguna on August 15, letting in one run in seven innings of a 9-1 rout in Torreon.

Quintana Roo has had a tougher time in the Mexican League South, being stretched to seven games before finally eliminating Campeche, 4 games to 3, in the first round before needing five games to dispatch Puebla in the LMB South finals.
While Saltillo has gotten it done with pitching in the postseason, posting a 2.57 ERA during their seven-game winning streak, the Tigres have bludgeoned their opponents at the plate. After scoring 50 runs in their seven-game set with Campeche, Quintana Roo racked up 52 more tallies in five games against Puebla to enter the finals averaging 8.5 runs over 12 playoff games. Derrick White has had a pair of two-homer games, while Albino Contreras and Ricardo Vasquez have hit grand slams.
Quintana Roo is not just about piling up runs, however. Francisco Cordova won two games in the LMB South finals by letting in just two Pericos runs in 12.2 innings on the mound, while veteran Pablo Ortega is one of Mexico’s craftiest pitchers.

Since the Mexican League’s 16 teams only played games within their respective eight-team divisions, this will be the first time Saltillo and Quintana Roo have met in 2009. The Tigres have won nine Liga pennants in 14 championship series since 1955, while Saltillo’s one pennant in seven finals appearances came in 1980.

GUAYMAS TAKES ON AGUA PRIETA FOR NORTE FLAG

The Guaymas Ostioneros are playing the Agua Prieta Vaqueros in the Class A Northern League championship series in Sonora.
Guaymas swept the San Luis Algodoneros in four straight games to win their Norte semifinal series, thereby punching a ticket to the league finals. For their part, Agua Prieta reached the title set by topping the Magdalena Membrilleras in five games.
The Vaqueros won last Tuesday night’s title set opener, 3-1, in Agua Prieta behind catcher Manuel Del Campo’s three-run homer in the fourth inning. Starter Leo Figueroa won his third playoff game for Agua Prieta, tossing six innings of one-run ball while scattering nine hits. Rafael Flores turned in his fourth complete game of the postseason for Guaymas in a losing effort.

MEXICO REACHES SEMIFINALS IN WORLD 16U TOURNEY

Mexico’s 16-Under National Team fell to the United States, 9-5, Saturday in the semifinals of the IBAF AA World Youth Tournament in Taiwan. The USA led 5-0 before Mexico scored two runs in the sixth on Fernando Perez’ sacrifice fly and a Manuel Paez single. The Americans made it 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth before Mexico scored their final three runs in the seventh on a passed ball, a single by pinch-hitter Alexander Delgado and a sacrifice fly by Javier Ruiz.
Mexico defeated Japan, 5-4, Friday to qualify for the semifinals. Mexico trailed Japan, 4-3, in the top of the eighth inning until a bases-loaded double by Ruiz plated Juan Leal and Carlos Islava with the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively.
Mexico lost their first game of Pool B play August 15 to South Korea, 5-4, despite a two-run triple in the fourth by Paez. The Verde Grande came back in a big way one day later with a 20-3 pounding of Hong Kong as Adolfo Lopez collected four hits whole Yousamot Cota drove in four runs with a triple and double. The hit parade continued Monday in Mexico’s 13-2 drubbing of the Czech Republic, with Ruiz recording two triples to support starter Carlos Rodriguez’ six-inning stint for the win. Mexico was thumped by the USA, 16-6, Wednesday, but clinched a quarterfinals berth Friday with an 8-6 win over the Dutch as Paez and Lopez each had three hits.
Mexico outlasted Venezuela, 11-10, to take third place in the tourney on Sunday. Paez led the way with a 3-for-5 day and 4 RBIs.

PELLOW, PEREZ SIGN WITH INDY TEAMS

A pair of big league veterans who played in the Mexican League this summer have signed contracts to finish 2009 with independent teams in Canada and the USA.
36-year-old Kit Pellow, who hit .290 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs for Saltillo and Monterrey, is heading to Calgary of the Golden Baseball League. Pellow played for Kansas City and Colorado in the majors. And in 2008 became the seventh player in Mexican League history to win the Triple Crown for Saltillo, hitting .385 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs.
The 34-year-old Perez is heading to the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League after hitting .323 for Veracruz with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 77 games. Perez played for the 2000 National League champion New York Mets and the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox. Perez was the Class AAA All-Star Game MVP in 2007 playing for Detroit’s International League affiliate Toledo.

HISTORIA MEXICANA 4: Texas, Porfirio Diaz and a final revolution

After declaring independence from Spain in 1821 without resistance from the Spanish (who had their own troubles at home), Mexico underwent a period of instability that lasted much of the 19th Century as 30 presidents ruled over its first 50 years as a nation. The dominant figure in early Mexican politics was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who parlayed shifting alliances between the church, army and landowners to become president no less than 11 times.
Mexico’s original northern border spanned from California to Texas. However, in 1836, Texas broke away from Mexico and declared independence. Santa Anna responded with troops and though he scored a big victory at the Alamo, Mexican troops were defeated at San Jacinto and Texas was independent. When Texas decided to join the United States, the move sparked an American invasion into Mexico in 1848, and the disorganized Mexican army was not able to hold off the invaders. The resulting Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo resulted in the loss of nearly half of Mexico to the Americans, all of which are now states in the USA.
Losing to the Americans was essentially the end of Santa Anna politically. In the 1850’s, an Indian lawyer named Benito Juarez led the way to a new constitution in which church and state were separated, church and corporate owned lands were sold, and all citizens were made equal before the law. The church and army resisted this, but a four-year War of the Reform gave liberals behind the constitution victory…for a time.
One of the things Juarez, who by now was president, did was suspend payments of foreign debts because Mexico itself was in debt. That brought on another invasion, this time by joint forces from Spain, France and England in 1861. Although Mexico won the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1861 (now celebrated as CInco de Mayo), the invaders prevailed and installed Maximilian of Hapsburg as emperor of Mexico. Maximilian, a liberal at heart, knew nothing of Mexico’s internal problems, and his refusal to repeal Juarez’ reforms lost him what few conservative allies he’d had. Eventually, a threat from the USA to intervene on the behalf of Juarez’ resistance helped push the invaders back to Europe, and Maximilian ended up getting shot by a firing squad in 1867.
Juarez resumed power after Maximilian’s death, but died in office in 1872. After another period of instability, a former general under Juarez, Porfirio Diaz, took over the presidency, a position he held with an iron fist for 34 years. A dictator in every sense of the word, Diaz was no humanitarian. Although his modernization policy led to great gains in transportation, communication and industry, much of this was accomplished through brutal repression and by handing over much of the country to foreign investors. Even today, Diaz is almost equally hated and admired.
Things finally came to a head in 1910, when Diaz responded to an election-year challenge from Francisco Madero by ordering him imprisoned and declaring himself the winner at the polls. Madero escaped to Texas, declared himself president, and called on Mexicans to revolt against the aging Diaz. With Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco leading the resistance in the north and Emiliano Zapata doing the same in the south, Diaz eventually fled into exile and Madero returned to rule. Madero liberalized some aspects of Mexico, but did little to help the poor. This led to another uprising by Zapata as well as a plot between American interests and general Victoriano Huerta that led to Madero’s assassination and Huerta declaring himself president.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

TIGRES WIN MARATHON SERIES, PLAYING PUEBLA IN LMB SOUTH FINALS

It took eleven days to play seven games, but the Quintana Roo Tigres were able to outlast the Campeche Piratas in their Mexican League Southern Zone semifinal series, 4 games to 3. Three matches were cancelled due to rain.

Campeche took a 3-2 series lead into the week after a 7-6 win over Quintana Roo last Saturday behind Javier Robles’ two-run homer, but the Tigres roared back with a pair of home victories in Cancun. Quintana Roo evened the set with an 8-1 win last Monday as Derrick White walloped a two-run homer. The Tigres then won the seventh game Tuesday night with a 9-5 triumph over Campeche behind Albino Contreras’ walkoff grand slam homer in the bottom of the tenth inning.

Quintana Roo is now battling Puebla for the LMB South title. The Pericos dispatched Yucatan in five games, including a 12-0 rout in the clinching game last week as Andres Meza pitched a four-hitter and Willis Otanez went 3-for-4 with two homers and 3 RBIs. Meza led the LMB with 15 wins in the regular season.

The Tigres won Thursday night’s opener, 3-1, behind two homers by White, and followed up with a 12-1 pasting of the Pericos Friday as Ricardo Vasquez’ grand slam keyed a seven-run first inning for Quintana Roo.

LAGUNA SHOCKS DIABLOS, FACE SALTILLO FOR LMB NORTH CROWN

The Laguna Vaqueros are certainly making the most of their first playoff appearance since 2004. The Torreon team pounded Mexico City, 15-2, last Monday night in Foro Sol to win the seventh and deciding game of their Northern Zone semifinal series, eliminating the defending Liga champions in the process.

Laguna rapped out 21 hits as a team on Monday, including a 4-for-6 night with a homer from Daniel Fornes, to back up pitcher Juan Delgadillo (who tossed two-run ball over his six-inning stint on the mound). Fornes capped an excellent series in which he also whacked a homer in a Game 3 victory and drove in the winning run in the tenth inning of Game 4, both at home in Torreon. The Diablos had stayed alive with a 12-4 drubbing of the Vaqueros last Saturday, featuring a three-hit night from Ivan Terrazas.

Now the Vaqueros are squaring off with Saltillo for the LMB North championship. The Saraperos topped Reynosa in six contests, including an 8-1 Game 6 win in Saltillo last Saturday in which starter Jose Mercedes stretched his string of consecutive postseason shutout innings to 14 with seven frames of three-hit scoreless ball.

The Saraperos opened the Norte finals with a 9-0 shutout over Laguna last Wednesday in Saltillo. Hector Rodriguez scattered four hits and struck out seven Vaqueros in five innings. In Game 2 on Friday night, Refugio Cervantes slammed his fourth homer of the playoffs to break a 4-4 tie as Saltillo held on for a 5-4 win in front of over 11,000 fans in Torreon. Cervantes also stroked an RBI double in the third.

SONORAN NORTHERN LEAGUE SEMIS UNDERWAY

The semifinals of Sonora’s Northern League have begun as both Magdalena and Guaymas took opening night road victories on Tuesday.

Magdalena topped the Agua Prieta Vaqueros, 10-6, in Agua Prieta. Rodolfo Gonzalez took the win for the Membrilleras by tossing seven innings of one-run ball. On the same night, Guaymas scored four runs in the third inning and went on to beat San Luis, 9-2, in San Luis Rio Colorado. Texan Rafael Flores earned the pitching win for the Ostioneros. Both semis are best-of-7 series.

In the opening round of Northern League playoff action, San Luis knocked out Ensenada, 4 games to 1, Agua Prieta eliminated Mexicali in six games, and Magdalena outlasted Guaymas in a full seven games. While all three series winners automatically advanced to the final four, Guaymas also moved into the second round as the fourth “lucky loser” team by virtue of their three first-round wins as compared to Mexicali’s two victories and Ensenada’s lone triumph.

REYNOSA IF McDOUGALL SIGNS WITH PENSACOLA

Reynosa Broncos third baseman Marshall McDougall has signed with the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association for the remainder of the season. A former College World Series MVP and All-American at Florida State University, McDougall hit .286 for Reynosa this year with 20 homers, 20 doubles and 86 RBIs. The Jacksonville native signed with Pensacola three days after the Broncos were knocked out of the Mexican League playoffs in the first round by Saltillo in six games.

Following his collegiate career, McDougall was picked by Oakland in the ninth round of the 2000 June draft. He spent a number of years in the Rangers organization, hitting .341 with 11 homers for Oklahoma City bracketed around a brief June stint with Texas in 2005. McDougall was signed by Reynosa prior to the 2009 season.

A-GON GOES 6-FOR-6 IN PADRES POUNDING OF MILWAUKEE

San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez set a team record for hits in a nine-inning game last Tuesday night by going 6-for-6 in the Padres’ 13-6 bludgeoning of the Milwaukee Brewers in front of over 37,000 fans at Miller Park. The outburst added 11 points to A-Gon’s batting average, which has gone from .246 to .262 over the past two weeks for the two-time All-Star. Gonzalez spent 12 years growing up in Obregon.

Three other Padres have collected six hits in a game over San Diego’s 40-year team history, all in extra-inning contests: Gene Richards in 1977, Joe Lefebvre in 1982 and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in 1993. Gonzalez is the third major league player this year with a six-hit game, joining Texas’ Ian Kinsler and Freddy Sanchez of Pittsburgh.

INFIELDER CASTRO PERFORMING WELL AS DODGERS SUB

Los Mochis native Juan Castro has been a key infield reserve this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the National League’s best record at 69-45. Castro has hit .319 with a homer in 36 games for the Dodgers while playing three positions after starting the season at Class AAA Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League.

The 36-year-old Castro was signed by the Dodgers out of Mexico in 1991, and has played all or part of the past 15 big league seasons with Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He’s a career .231 hitter with 36 homers in 1,022 MLB games.

HISTORIA MEXICANA 3: The Colonial Era, Revolution and Independence

After Hernando Cortes and his troops defeated the Aztecs in the 16th Century, a period of Spanish colonial rule of Mexico that lasted over three centuries began. Conquistadores and explorers spread north and south in search of native populations to defeat and precious metals to mine. By the early 17th Century, Mexico was ruled by a number of so-called encomenderos, who served the Spanish Crown as quasi-feudal lords charged with protecting and converting indigenous people. By bringing smallpox to Mexico from Spain and decimating tribal numbers, the level of “protection” was at least questionable. As for conversion, that was eventually handled by Franciscan and Dominican friars who literally whipped the natives into spiritual shape and order.

The 17th Century was actually a relatively peaceful period in colonial Mexico. A new class of Creole people born in what was called New Spain established great estates with large agricultural areas centered around a sizeable compound called a hacienda, which included a large house for the landowners, servant’s quarters, workshops, gardens, and a church with adjacent graveyard. The Indian population was put to work cultivating crops in the fields, and the contact between Spaniards and natives created a new category of mixed-race people in Mexico, the mestizos. The population of modern-day Mexico is predominantly made up of their ancestors. In the absence of a regular army during the 17th Century, discipline was the domain of the Catholic Church. Catholicism remains the dominant religion in Mexico today.

However, things became less peaceful in the 18th Century. Much of the relative autonomy enjoyed by landowners in Mexico (who had established relative fiefdoms) was scaled back while local taxes were raised as Spain became embroiled in several wars in Europe. The result was a great unrest that resulted in the expulsion of Jesuit priests from Mexico in 1767 as the alliance between the Crown and Church crumbled.

By the end of the 18th Century, Mexico stretched from Yucatan in the south to a string of present-day American states from California to Florida in the north. The American and French revolutions gave hope to native Mexican seeking freedom from Spanish rule. In 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo gave his famous cry for independence, known as “El Grito” (or “The Shout”). The first try for independence failed and Hidalgo was executed, but the seeds had been planted. A second revolution headed by Father Jose Maria Morelos four years later also fell short, but guerrilla warfare continued. Back in Spain, the army seized power in 1821, and shortly thereafter, the Creole landowners in Mexico declared independence. The weakened Spaniards did not have the will to respond militarily so Mexico became a free nation.

Although Mexico was now independent, it was not unified. After a short imperial period in which Agustin I ruled as “emperor,” Mexico became a republic in 1823. Unfortunately, the economy was ravaged after Spanish capital left the country, and Mexico’s elites were divided between two factions: Conservatives who preferred a Catholic-dominated hierarchy backed by an army and a system of monarchy, and liberals who favored a more egalitarian free-trade system of government.

The eventual winner in all this was Antonio de Santa Anna, who began Mexico’s first political dynasty but who also saw the country lose a large chunk of land in the process.

NEXT WEEK: Texas, Porfirio Diaz and a final revolution

Saturday, August 8, 2009

LOPEZ WINS FIRST THREE DECISIONS FOR PHILLIES

When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Morelos native Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract in March, expectations weren’t high. After all, Lopez had undergone Tommy John surgery in August 2007 and spent last year in the Atlanta Braves organization on rehab assignment pitching in the low minors. Lopez was released by the Braves last November and signed with the World Champions four months later.

The 33-year-old righty began this season with Lehigh Valley of the Class AAA International League and went 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA before being called up to Philly last month when Brett Myers went on the 60-day disabled list. He won his first start, 7-2, over the New York Mets by pitching 6.1 innings and letting in two runs on six hits. Although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has recently moved Lopez to the bullpen, he is 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA for the club in six appearances thus far.

For his major league career, Lopez is 68-66 with a 4.78 ERA. He pitched for Mexico in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.

PUEBLA WINS 4 STRAIGHT TO ELIMINATE YUCATAN

Andres Meza tossed a four-hit shutout and Willis Otanez went 3-for-4 with two homers to lead the Puebla Pericos to a 12-0 drubbing of Yucatan Friday night to knock the Leones out of the Mexican League playoffs in their Southern Zone semifinal series.

Meza and the Pericos lost the series opener, 4-1, August 1 in Merida as Oscar Rivera pitched seven innings of five-hit ball for Yucatan. Puebla then took four straight wins, starting with Monday’s 7-3 road victory keyed by Cesar Tapia’s three-run homer.

The series shifted to Puebla on Wednesday as the Pericos took a 7-5 win thanks to Rene Reyes’ 2-run longball in the fifth. One night later, Yucatan held a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the third, but Puebla was able to come back for an 8-6 triumph as Serafin Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and Luis Suarez whacked a homer for the Pericos, leading to Friday night’s clincher. Over 43,000 fans attended three games in Puebla.

TIGRES, CAMPECHE TIED 2-2 IN RAIN-SOAKED SERIES

The Quintana Roo Tigres and Campeche Piratas are knotted up at two games apiece in their Southern Zone series that saw two games postponed by rain last week.

Quintana Roo won last Saturday’s opener in Cancun, 8-3, as Mexican League veterans Iker Franco and Carlos Sievers both homered for the Tigres. Campeche came back for a 4-2 win Sunday behind Francisco Campos’ solid seven innings of two-run pitching and Abraham Valencia’s two-run tiebreaking homer in the eighth.

The two teams moved on to Campeche, where the Piratas took a 2-1 series lead Tuesday night with a 9-8 thriller win. Jesse Gutierrez homered and hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the10th for Campeche. After a Wednesday rainout, the Tigres bashed four homers and 17 hits in a 9-1 romp Thursday night. Friday’s game was rained out.

LAGUNA ON VERGE OF ELIMINATING DIABLOS

The Laguna Vaqueros are one win away from defeating the defending Liga champion Mexico City Diablos Rojos in their Northern Zone semifinal series. The Diablos cruised to the best record in Mexico this summer during the regular season while the Vaqueros battled to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Mexico City won last Saturday’s opener at home, 7-3, behind Mario Valenzuela’s grand slam and a solid 7.2 innings of two-run pitching by Roberto Ramirez. Laguna followed with a 9-7 win Sunday as Ramon Ramirez, Luis Terrero and Emmanuel Valdes combined for ten hits at Foro Sol.

The set shifted to Torreon Tuesday, as pitchers Victor Santos and Dario Veras combined on a six-hit, 4-1 win over Mexico City as Daniel Fornes homered for the Vaqueros. Laguna went up 3-1 in the series Wednesday with a 5-4 overtime win. Eduardo Arredondo’s RBI double game the Diablos a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th, but Laguna replied with run-scoring singles by Terrero and Fornes in the bottom of the entrada for the victory. Mexico City held off elimination Friday by winning, 6-3, as Ramirez won his second game of the series.

SALTILLO LEADING REYNOSA, 3 GAMES TO 2

The Saltillo Saraperos are one win away in their series with the Reynosa Broncos from advancing to the Northern Zone Finals. Saltillo leads, 3 games to 2.

Reynosa shocked the Saraperos, 6-0, in Saltillo last Saturday as Harold Eckert pitched six scoreless innings for the Broncos. The Sarape Men came back for a 3-1 win Sunday as Jose Mercedes tossed seven scoreless frames of his own and Nelson Teilon added a homer for Saltillo.

The Broncos then registered a 12-5 home win Tuesday as Leonardo Heras was 4-for-4 and scored three times while Edgard Clemente drove in four runs. Saltillo came back to win the next two games. Jonathan Aceves and Jose Rodriguez both homered in the eighth in Wednesday’s 9-5 Saraperos victory. Aceves is the older brother of New York Yankees pitcher Alfredo Aceves. Refugio Cervantes led a 5-4 Saltillo triumph Thursday night by going 3-for-3 with a double and a sixth-inning homer that put the Saraperos ahead for good.

MEXICAN NORTHERN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS UNDERWAY

The 2009 playoffs have begun in Mexico’s Northern League. The Mexicali Azules slipped past the Agua Prieta Vaqueros to win the second half title with a 26-18 record after stumbling to an 18-25 mark in the first half of the season and finishing seventh in the eight-team league. The San Luis Algodoneros won the first half crown at 26-17, and finished the regular season with the best overall record at 50-38 and topping the Norte with 14.5 points over two halves. Joining Mexicali, Agua Prieta and San Luis in the postseason are the Guaymas Ostioneros, Ensenada Marineros and Magdalena Embrilleras, while Caborca and Empalme both missed the cut.

In the three best-of-7 first round series, San Luis leads Ensenada, 3 games to 0, Agua Prieta has a 2-0 edge over Mexicali, and Magdalena is ahead of Guaymas, 2 games to 1. The three series winners will advance to the semifinals, as will a fourth “lucky loser” team which wins the most games in a losing effort during the first round.

HISTORIA MEXICANA 2: Toltecs, Aztecs and Conquistadores

After the Mayan empire declined in the 9th century following about 700 years of power in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico fell into a feudalistic period in which a number of peoples established various hegemonies. The most prominent of these were the Toltecs, who built their power between 900 and 1200 A.D. north of the Valley of Mexico (which is near the center of modern-day Mexico, including Mexico City). The Toltecs are believed to have migrated from the north, and were known as both harsh rulers and adept traders, particularly in obsidian. The Toltecs’ major city was Tula, which was home to about 40,000 people, but their empire spread to smaller cities which were expected to pay tribute to their rulers…and woe betide those who didn’t.

The Toltecs ruled central Mexico until the 12th century, when Tula was sacked and collapsed. Before that occurred, a number of Toltec people are thought to have moved south to the Yucatan, where there remains influence of their presence through the legend of a prince-god named Quetzalcoatl, who is depicted as a feathered serpent (also known as Kulkulcan) and the remnants of Chichen Itza, a city of 55,000 not far from present-day Merida which claimed both Mayan and Toltec roots. However, after being overthrown by nearby rivals in about 1200 AD, the Toltec culture faded.

One more major Mesoamerican dynasty appeared in the Valley of Mexico, the Aztecs. Like the Toltecs before them, the Aztecs are said to have migrated from their northern homeland of Aztlan in the 1300’s, settling in what was to become the city of Tenochtitlan after they saw an eagle devouring a snake atop a cactus, a scene depicted on the Mexican flag. Within a century, the Aztecs became the dominant culture in central Mexico through military conquest and development of agriculture. While they had been a loosely confederated tribe upon their arrival, the Aztecs became a highly-developed imperial system as notable for their ruthlessness as for their power. Great temples were built where sacrifices involving the feeding of beating hearts to the gods were the norm. In one such place, Templo Mayor, over 20,000 prisoners are said to have been sacrificed at its dedication in 1487. Five years later, Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World from Europe, and things changed drastically afterward.

When Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes arrived in 1519 near what is now the city of Veracruz, his troops should have been no match for the Aztecs, who were in decline but still outnumbered the Spaniards by the thousands. However, Cortes formed an alliance with the Tlaxcalan people, who’d been dominated by the Aztecs and wanted revenge. Cortes and his unified troops marched to Tenochtitlan for a final conquest. However, instead of meeting stiff resistance that could have crushed him, Cortes met Aztec king Moctezuma II, who viewed the fair-skinned marauder as a god and welcomed him. The result of Moctezuma’s hospitality was the brutal decimation by Cortez of the Aztec empire, the enslavement of the Aztec people and the beginning of over 300 years of the colonization of Mexico.

NEXT WEEK: The Colonial Era, Revolution and Independence

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A-GON HOMERS IN THREE STRAIGHT GAMES FOR PADRES

If San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was distracted by trade rumors last week, he didn’t show it. The Cincinnati Reds could be forgiven for wishing any deal involving the All-Star had happened a week before last Friday’s trade deadline.

Gonzalez, who was born in San Diego but spent twelve years growing up in Mexico, blasted home runs in three consecutive games last week against the Reds in Cincinnati to raise his season total to 28, second in the National League to St. Louis’ Albert Pujols. The struggling Padres, who won three of their four games in Ohio, were sellers as the deadline approached, but Gonzalez remains in San Diego.

A-Gon is certainly a bargain for any team he plays for. He is in the middle of a contract that pays him $9 million over four seasons, with a $5.5 million team option for 2011. Good money for mere mortals, but not too much for a guy who’s hit 118 homers with 360 RBIs since coming to San Diego in 2006. Besides being a career .278 batter, Gonzalez is the National League’s defending Gold Glove first baseman.

He belted three homers for Mazatlan in a game during last winter’s Caribbean Series, and played for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic alongside brother Edgar Gonzalez (who also plays for the Padres).

LIGA PLAYOFF MATCHUPS SET AS REGULAR SEASON ENDS

The 2009 Mexican League playoffs got underway this weekend as the regular season came to a close last Thursday night. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos, who won the Northern Zone’s first half title, ended with a 36-16 record to finish on top in the second half as well, ending the season with a Liga-best 16 points. Points are assigned to all teams for each half based on how they finished in the standings, starting with eight points for the first-place team all the way down to four points for finishing eighth.

The Yucatan Leones won the Southern Zone’s second-half title at 35-18, but finished second overall to Quintana Roo. Both teams ended up with 15 points, but the Tigres got the nod for top playoff seed by posting a 71-36 overall record, while Yucatan ended the regular season 2.5 game behind with an aggregate 68-38 mark.

First round matchups in the Northern Zone have Mexico City taking on the Laguna Vaqueros while Saltillo battles Reynosa. Laguna is in the postseason for the first time in five years. In the LMB South, the Tigres are playing Campeche and Yucatan is facing off against Puebla. The first round will consist of best-of-7 series, after which the Zone Finals will begin a week from Monday.

One notable absence from the postseason is Monterrey, a perennial Mexican League powerhouse. The Sultanes finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Northern Zone in the second half, but only received 5.5 points after a poor first half to end up out of the money.

AROUND THE LIGA...

NORTHERN ZONE

Mexico City won both halves in the Northern Zone and finished 70-35. Robert Saucedo batted .348 with 24 homers and a Liga-high 109 RBIs as the Diablos hit .332 as a team. Roberto Ramirez was 13-4 with a .3.45 ERA, and closer Scott Chiasson had 34 saves.

Saltillo was 59-48 in 2009 with a balanced offense that featured six players with 12 or more homers. Nelson Teilon hit .353 with 18 homers and 82 RBIs. Saltillo’s pitching has been marginal, with nobody reaching double-digit win totals. Mario Mendoza, Jr. did win 9 games.

Reynosa finished 58-47, thanks to Marshall McDougall (20 homers with 86 RBIs), Ray Martinez (a .361 batting average over 71 games) and Edgard Clemente (.339 after a midseason trade with Yucatan). Closer Alan Guerrero led the Broncos with 9 wins and 22 saves.

Laguna was 55-51, and feature the Liga’s top hitter, Dionys Cesar, who batted .380 while stealing an LMB-best 40 bases. The Vaqueros were one of eight teams with a .300 or better batting average. Jorge Ibarra led the pitching staff with a 10-1 record

Monclova ended at 57-50, but was a half-point out of fourth. Saul Soto had a great year for the Acereros, batting .370 and leading the Liga with 28 homers. Nerio Rodriguez and Jasiel Acosta each won 11 games, and Rodriguez led the Mexican League with 117 strikeouts.

Monterrey came in sixth in the North at 51-56 to miss the playoffs only two years after winning the pennant. Edgar Quintero was second among Liga batters at .378 and hit 21 homers, but a mediocre pitching staff produced nobody with more than 8 wins.

Chihuahua ended the season with 11 straight losses to finish at 40-67. Jacob Cruz had a good year by batting .359 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs, but ex-Kansas City pitcher Jose Santiago’s 7-11 record was the best among a weak group on the mound.

Nuevo Laredo finished last in both halves to end at 35-71, 35.5 games out of first. The Tecolotes had a sorry offense, hitting .271 and just 42 homers. Enrique Quintanilla’s 2.48 ERA was second in the LMB, but he was only 6-7 record in 20 starts.


SOUTHERN ZONE

Quintana Roo nudged out Yucatan as the LMB South’s top seed at 71-36, mostly due to a pitching staff that led the LMB with a 3.94 ERA. Pablo Ortega was stellar, going 13-5 with a 3.19 ERA. Sergio Contreras batted .346 and Carlos Sievers had 24 homers and 77 RBIs.

Yucatan went 68-38 to finish second. Willie Romero had a .346 average and ageless Luis Arredondo hit .338 and stole 31 bases to become the first player in Liga history with 500 career swipes. Javier Martinez led a solid pitching corps with an 11-4 record and 2.95 ERA.

Puebla was 62-43 and finished third in the South. Serafin Rodriguez hit .358, Rene Reyes added a .355 average (plus 12 homers and 12 steals), vet Willis Otanez hit .349 with 19 homers and 91 RBIs, and Andres Meza led Liga pitchers with 15 wins against two losses.

Campeche came in fourth overall in the Southern Zone at 56-21. Ruben Rivera led Mexican batters with 32 homers to go with 17 steals, a .344 average…and 14 errors in the field. Francisco Campos won 11 games and led the league with a 2.31 ERA.

Veracruz end the year at 51-56. The Aguilas actually had very good pitching, with a team ERA of 4.05 (second in the LMB). Rafael Cruz was solid, going 12-7 and 2.81. The hitting was lackluster, though Timo Perez did bat .323 with 8 homers and 11 steals in 77 games.

Oaxaca had a tough season, ending at 42-63. Carlos Rivera, Raul Lopez and Christian Quintero all hit over .330 and combined for 55 homers and 240 RBIs to anchor a good batting order, but the pitching was awful. Wilton Chavez went 7-9 for a team with a 6.15 ERA.

Tabasco was 39-63 this season, although the Olmecas followed a horrible first half with a 23-26 second half. Pedro Valdes was tenth in batting at .354 with 17 homers, but he had no protection in the lineup. Leonardo Gonzalez was 8-8 and 4.02 for a mediocre pitching staff.

Minatitlan had the worst record in the Liga at 34-73, 37 games behind the Tigres. Only Ricardo Soriano (.309) hit over .300, Frank Diaz led the team with 6 homers in 39 games, and Alexander Francisco (6-8) stood out among pitchers. It was a lost year for the Petroleros.

HISTORIA MEXICANA I: The Olmecs and Mayans

The earliest settlers arrived in Mexico after crossing the Bering land bridge between Asia and Alaska some 20,000 years ago. By 2000 BC, farming villages were beginning to spring up. Sometime around 1500 BC, the first prominent culture, the Olmecs, was established on the hot and humid south Gulf coast. The Olmecs built ceremonial centers rather than cities, and their earthen pyramids suggest a centralized government capable of mobilizing extensive manpower used to raft heavy basalt blocks downriver and carving them into massive heads and other sculptures. The Olmecs also produced ceramic and exquisite jade figurines.

However, during the first millennium BC, Olmec centers declined and were the scene of systematic destruction by unknown marauders, and the Olmec civilization faded into obscurity. The Olmec “mother culture” spawned several subsequent groups of people, including the Mayans. Maya settlements began to appear in what is now the Mexico-Guatemala border region by around 500 BC, and their culture reached its zenith in the “classic period” of 200-900 AD. Numerous cities with elaborate temples surrounded by residential and agricultural areas developed at that time, as the Classic Maya pursued a ritual life and practiced sophisticated art, including a remarkable mathematical and astronomical knowledge. Once thought of as pacifistic, the Mayans actually engaged in conquest and warfare between cities regularly. Stone carvings from the period depict victories of great Maya rulers, who warred, allied, intermarried and patronized the arts in the same fashion as later princely families like the Medicis in Renaissance Italy.

By around 800 AD, though, the Classic Maya faced such crises as overuse of resources, and several centers were destroyed and abandoned, perhaps as victims of epidemics or peasant revolt.

Among the largest city-states was Monte Alban, a hilltop city in Oaxaca with a population of about 25,000 by the eighth century AD. When Monte Alban began to decline, Mitla and other lesser towns sprang up in Oaxaca. The biggest city of the first millennium AD, however, was Teotihuacan. Located just north of what is now Mexico City, Teotihuacan eventually was home to 125,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in the world. However, the same troubles that led to the decline and fall of the Mayan Empire beset Teotihuacan. As its population increased, so did the amount of poverty and discontent, and invaders from the north attacked and partly burned Teotihuacan in around 650 AD.

That began a decline in the seventh century that brought about Teotihuacan’s eventual downfall. In the wake of the demise of the early cultures, it would be centuries until the establishment of the next great Mexican empire, the Toltecs.

NEXT WEEK: Toltecs, Aztecs and Conquistadores