Saturday, September 19, 2009

MEXICO FALLS TO USA, 7-3; OUT OF THIRD ROUND BWC CONTENTION


What began with the makings of a Cinderella run at the Baseball World Cup in Europe is going to come to a close for the Mexican National Team on Sunday. The Verde Grande were officially eliminated from contention for a berth in the BWC’s final round with a 7-3 loss to the United States Saturday in Vicenza.

After going 3-0 to sweep Group A pool play in the Czech Republic in mid-September, Mexico has struggled in the second round, winning just two of their first six games. Saturday’s loss came on the heels of Friday’s frustrating 1-0 loss to Taiwan in ten innings.

The Mexicans never led in Saturday’s game, as USA pitchers combined to hold Mexico batters to four hits on the night. The Americans drew first blood when Jon Weber scored on Lucas May’s double. Two innings later, Josh Kroeger scored on Weber’s fielder’s choice grounder in the top of the fourth. The score was stretched to 4-0 one inning later when Daniel Descalso led of the fifth with a homer and Justin Smoak later scored on Terry Tiffee’s two-bagger.

Mexico finally put a run on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Mario Valenzuela led off the inning by reaching first base on an error by USA third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Carlos Valencia came to the plate next and broke up Trevor Reckling’s no-hit bid with a double, scoring Valenzuela. Valencia subsequently plated a run on an Oswaldo Morejon flyout to center field.

The Americans scored once more in the sixth to make it a 5-2 game, and Mexico came back with a counter of their own in the bottom of the frame when Oscar Robles led off with a walk, moved to third on a Cristian Presichi (pictured) double, and came in to score on an Edgar Quintero flyout to left.

Two more runs for the USA in the seventh widened their lead to 7-3, and Mexico was unable to mount a threat the rest of the way as Abel Martinez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

Reckling won his second game of the tournament for the Americans, going five-plus innings and combining with four relievers on the four-hitter. Andres Meza took the loss for Mexico but giving up four runs on six hits and a walk in 4-2 innings. Nobody in the Mexican lineup got more than one hit. Although Mexico has cooled considerably at the plate their last wo games, Presichi has continued to smoke the ball. He's batting a team-best .448 with 13 hits for through eight World Cup games.

Mexico will wrap up its appearance in the World Cup Sunday against Australia

MEXICAN NATIONALS STRUGGLING IN BWC SECOND ROUND

After running the table with a perfect 3-0 record in Pool A first round play at the Baseball World Cup, the Mexican National Team is finding things tougher in the second round of the tournament. Mexico went 2-3 over the first five of seven Pool G contests in Italy, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Taiwan Friday night in Verona.

In that one, both teams combined for just eight hits and the score was 0-0 going into the bottom of the tenth inning. Reliever Arturo Lopez was pulled with the bases loaded and one out in the tenth, and a wild pitch by incoming hurler Hector Navarro brought in the game-ending run by Chia-Hao Chang, who was the only Taiwanese baserunner to get past second base to that point. Mexican starter Oscar Rivera went 6.1 shutout innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing four hits. Lopez tossed 2.2 frames and gave up just one scratch single. Navarro shouldn’t bear all the blame for Mexico’s loss, though. The Grande Verde had runners in scoring position no less than four times, including a bases-loaded situation in the top of the tenth.

The second round started off with a thud last Sunday, as Japan beat Mexico, 9-3, in Parma. The game was tied 3-3 in the sixth inning before the Japanese reeled off six unanswered runs the rest of the way for the win. Cristian Presichi and Sergio Contreras each had two hits for Mexico, but Edgar Quintero was held hitless one day after exploding with a 5-for-5 day a the plate in a first-round win over Australia.

Mexico came back Monday with a 6-3 win over host nation Italy in Bologna. Centerfielder Ivan Terrazas led the way with three hits (including a homer), scoring two runs and collecting three RBIs. Shortstop Oscar Robles added three hits and two walks in five plate appearances. Arturo Lopez got the win in relief.

After rain washed out Tuesday’s action, Mexico fell to Canada, 4-2, Wednesday in Godo. Saul Soto whacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it came too late as the Canadians had built up a 4-0 lead by then. Canada starter Nic Bucci was solid, holding Mexico scoreless on four hits before being relieved with one out in the fifth inning. Rafael Diaz took the loss for Mexico.

On Thursday, Mexico survived an upset bid by the Netherlands Antilles, who took an early 6-0 lead before succumbing to the Mexicans, 9-8, in San Marino. Mexico chipped away at their deficit with a solo homer from Edgar Quintero in the second inning, three runs in the fourth, and a big five-run sixth inning as Abel Martinez singled in two runs and Cristian Presichi doubled in two more to put Mexico in front, 9-7. Hugo Castellanos earned the win with 4.1 solid innings in relief of starter Francisco Cordoba.

Mexico was to wrap up the second round with games against the USA Saturday and Australia Sunday. Both are must-win games, as only the top four teams in Pool G will advance to the third and final round. The USA leads at 4-0, Australia and Taiwan are tied for second at 4-1, and Canada in fourth at 3-2. Mexico stands fifth at 2-3.

MEXICAN LEAGUE HANDS OUT MORE AWARDS

On the heels of Dionys Cesar receiving the Most Valuable Player award, the Mexican League has announced more top honors for the 2009 season.

Puebla pitcher Andres Meza was named Pitcher of the Year. The 23-year-old Meza led the Liga with 15 wins, finishing 15-2 with a 2.72 ERA and two shutouts over 125.2 innings pitched. The Culiacan native debuted with the Pericos in 2007.

Quintana Roo closer Scott Chiasson was named Reliever of the Year. The Norwich, Connecticut product helped lift the Tigres to the LMB Championship Series with a league-high 34 saves, ending the year with a 4-2 record and 2.61 ERA.

Japhet Amador was named Rookie Player of the Year after splitting his first season between Minatitlan and Veracruz. The 22-year-old infielder batted .306 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 106 games for the Petroleros and Aguilas.

Mexico City pitcher Juan Pablo Oramos was selected Rookie Pitcher of the Year after going 9-1 for the Diablos and tying Campeche ace Francisco Campos for the ERA title at 2.31. A 19-year-old lefty, Oramos is a Tabasco native.

LIGA ATTRACTS OVER 3 MILLION FANS IN 2009

Even though the numbers were down in a number of the 16 cities with teams, the Mexican League topped the 3,000,000 mark in attendance for the 2009 season. The Liga averaged 3,807 fans over 809 games for a total of 3,079,774.

Monclova led the LMB with 430,059 turnstile clicks, or an average of 8,114 per game over 53 openings. Reynosa welcomed back Mexican League baseball after the Tijuana franchise was shifted there last winter by bringing in 6,556 people per night for a total of 334,369. Laguna was third on the list with 300,722 fans, averaging 6,014.

At the other end of the spectrum, Minatitlan and Tabasco were the only two teams to fail to draw 100,000 fans. The Petroleros pulled in 91,746 for the season, averaging 1,872 fanaticos per outing. Things were worse in Tabasco, where the Olmecas brought in just 60,312 people to the ballpark in Villahermosa to finish last among all Class AAA teams with an average of 1,256 per date.

MEX PAC TO HONOR TOP PLAYERS FROM LAST SEASON

Before the Mexican Paciic League opens its 2009-10 season, they’ll turn back the clock for one night in Mazatlan to honor last winter’s award winners. The “Dinner of Champions” will be held Monday, October 5 in the Tapestry Lounge of the El Cid resort in Mazatlan.

Agustin Murillo will be given his MVP trophy after hitting .345 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs for Obregon last winter, while Ismael Castillo of Los Mochis will get his Pitcher of the Year award after winning the ERA title with a 2.86 figure in 72.1 innings. Mazatlan manager Lorenzo Bundy will be honored after leading the Venados to the pennant and a second-place finish in the Caribbean Series.
Other awards will go to Mazatlan general manager Jesus “Chino” Valdez as Executive of the Year, the Venados’ Christian Quintero for winning the batting title by hitting .357 last season, and Guasave pitcher Daniel Guerrero gets Rookie of the Year honors after going 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA.,

The evening will also feature a tribute to Mazatlan team president Jose Luis Martinez, who oversees one of the most well-run franchises in winter baseball.

MEXICAN BASEBALL HISTORY 3: The Mexican Pacific League

At the same time Jorge Pasquel was beginning his most concerted push to raid Major League Baseball rosters for players willing to come south to play in his Mexican League, Mexico’s premier winter league was beginning its first season of play.

In 1945, a group of baseball aficionados led by Teodoro Mariscal of Mazatlan formed what was then known as the Liga del Costa del Pacifico, or Pacific Coast League. The LCP began with four teams: The Maztlan Venados, Hermosillo Queliteros, Guaymas Ostioneros and Culiacan Tecuarineros. Mariscal served as league president the first season, and the first games were held the weekend of October 27-28, 1945. Alejandro “Fray Nano” Reyes, the founder of the Mexican League, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Culiacan.

Mazatlan won the first Coast League pennant with a 30-24 record. The LCP was considered a success, and it expanded to six teams in 1947 with the addition of Los Mochis and Obregon. Although there would be occasional shifting around of franchises, the league stuck with a six-team lineup for years. The Pacific Coast League lasted through the 1957-58 season, and became a popular destination among American players and Negro League veterans for winter ball experience.

However, the league underwent an overhaul.before the 1958-59 season, changing it’s name to Sonora Winter League and cutting back to four teams: the Hermosillo Naranjeros, Guaymas Ostioneros, Obregon Rojos and Empalme Rieleros. This is considered the beginning of the modern era of what is now the MexPac. When the Culiacan Tomateros and Mazatlan Venados were brought into the circuit in 1965, the league was again renamed to Sonora-Sinaloa League. The league finally settled on its current name of Mexican Pacific League in 1970 when the Confederation of Caribbean Baseball (or COPABE) requested a name change as a prerequisite to admitting Mexico into the Caribbean Series, which was being revived that winter after an absence of ten years following the demise of Cuba’s winter pro baseball with the rise of Fidel Castro and communism.

While the Mexican Pacific League is not officially recognized by Minor League Baseball, it is probably a stronger organization than a number of circuits north of the border. Almost all eight MexPac teams average more than 5,000 fans per opening over their 68-game schedules, and the level of play is comparable to Class AAA ball as team rosters feature a mix of Mexican League veterans and top prospects from Major League Baseball organizations, although MLB teams are not sending as many young players to spend their winters in Mexico or other Caribbean leagues because of the growth of offseason programs in their spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona.

Over the five decades of winterball in Mexico, Hermosillo teams have won 16 pennants since 1947, while Mazatlan and Culiacan have both won 14 titles. The MexPac has enjoyed limited success in the Caribbean Series, winning just five championships since 1970, most recently Mazatlan’s remarkable champions of 2005. That year, the Venados lost their first-round LMP playoff series, but advanced to the semifinals as the so-called “lucky loser” team with the best record in defeat. They then went on the win the MexPac title and took the Caribbean Series held that February at home in Mazatlan. It remains one of Mexican baseball’s greatest comeback stories.

NEXT WEEK: Mexican Baseball History 4: The Modern Era

MEXICO LOSES 1-0 HEARTBREAKER IN WILD FINISH


This one hurt. Really hurt.

One wild pitch undid a superb pitching effort by Oscar Rivera (pictured) and Arturo Lopez as Mexico lost a 1-0 Baseball World Cup game to Taiwan in ten innings Friday at Verona, Italy. The defeat left the Mexicans with a 2-3 record in second round pool play, while Taiwan moved to 4-1.

The game was a pitcher’s battle all the way, as the two teams combined for just eight hits over ten frames. Taiwan starter Yen-Feng Lin was especially sharp, allowing just three hits over nine innings. Rivera matched zeroes with Lin for 6.1 innings, letting up just four Taiwan singles with one walk while striking out 11 matters. Lopez came on with one out in the seventh and allowed one single and no runs in 2.2 innings.

Lopez was pulled with one out in the bottom of the tenth with the bases loaded, although the online account on the BWC website was muddled as to how that happened. Hector Navarro, who has pitched effectively in relief in Europe, was brought in from the bullpen to face Kuo-Min Lin. Navarro’s first pitch was wild, however, bringing in pinch-runner Chia-Hao Chang with the game-ending run. Chang was the first Taiwanese runner to get past second base the entire game.

Navarro can’t be held solely responsible for Mexico’s bitterly disappointing loss because the Verde Grande had no less than four opportunities to score despite gathering only three hits for the contest.

Edgar Quintero sliced a one-out double to left field in the fifth and advanced to third on Carlos Valencia’s 5-3 groundout, but Ivan Terrazas dinked a tapper to the first baseman, who tossed the ball to pitcher Lin (one of seven players with that surname on the field for Taiwan) for the third and final out.

Then, in the seventh, Cristian Presichi opened the inning with a double. Presichi stayed on second when Jesus Cota flew out to left, but advanced to third when Saul Soto fouled out to right. Quintero then struck out on five pitches to end the threat.

In the ninth, Eduardo Arredondo led off with a walk, then advanced to second on an Oscar Robles groundout. Presichi walked to give Mexico two baserunners with one out. However, Cota lined out to left for the second out as both runners held, and Soto bounced into a 4-6 fielder’s choice as Presichi was cut down at second.

Finally, facing reliever Yu-Ching Lin, the Mexicans gave it one last shot in the top of the tenth. With two out and the bases loaded, Cota went down swinging on four pitches to end the rally with Terrazas standing ninety feet away from paydirt at third.

Mexico will face the 4-0 United States on Saturday in Vicenzo, Italy.