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.