Sunday, October 18, 2009


While wins are a baseball team’s ultimate measure of success on the field, a means of financial success comes through the clicking of turnstiles. On that latter basis, Mexican Pacific League front office leaders had to be happy with last weekend’s four Inauguration Series.
After teams had completed their two-game home-and-away series with leading rivals, the eight home openers brought in 102,605 fans, an average of 12,826 per game. Four teams drew crowds of more than 15,000, including 16,312 in Culiacan for the Tomateros’ game with Mazatlan, an even 16,000 for Mexicali’s opener against Hermosillo, 15,780 for Mazatlan’s game with Culiacan and 15,228 in Obregon for the Yaquis’ match against Navojoa. Hermosillo drew nearly 14,000 while Navojoa topped the 10,000 mark.


Hermosillo has won their first four games to take the early LMP lead. The Naranjeros clubbed Mexicali, 13-4, in the Mex Pac season opener October 9 as Humberto Cota went 3-for-5 with a double, homer and three runs scored. The Orangemen had to go 11 innings to top the Aguilas, 6-5, two days later. Trent Oeltgen was 4-for-5 while Darnell McDonald had three hits, including a game-winning single.

Then it was on to a set at Guasave, which was delayed by a rainout. Hermosillo won Wednesday’s opener, 9-5, behind Ramon Rios’ grand slam. Dennis Sarfate came on to strike out the side in the ninth to seal the deal. The Naranjeros won Thursday’s first game, 3-0, as Jesus Castillo combined with four relievers on a three-hit shutout and McDonald stroked a double and homer with three RBIs. The second game was halted by curfew after seven innings.


Mazatlan is right behind Hermosillo after winning four of their first five contests. John Lindsey was 4-for-5 and Pablo Ortega pitched five shutout innings in the Venados’ 4-3 season opener win over Culiacan October 10, followed by a 5-4 win in Culiacan one day later behind Ruben Rivera’s solo homer and Brian Bixler’s two hits (including an RBI single).
The Deer stayed home for a three-game midweek set with Obregon. Rivera whacked a two-run homer to pace Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over the Yaquis, but Mazatlan tasted defeat on Wednesday as Obregon prevailed, 6-4 despite two singles and a triple from Freddy Sandoval and two more singles from Bixler. The Venados copped the rubber match Thursday night, 4-1, as Sandoval homered and tripled to back another strong outing from Ortega, who allowed no earned runs in six innings.


Los Mochis is in third place after going 3-2 over the first week. The Caneros rode a solid five-inning start from Jesus Sanchez to beat Guasave, 2-0, October 10 as Saul Soto and Sandy Madera each powered solo homers. The series swung to Guasave a day later with a Mochis loss to the Algodoneros, 8-1. Edgar Quintero drove in the lone Caneros run.
Mochis then took two of three games against Mexicali, starting with Tuesday’s 7-5 win keyed by another Soto homer and a three-strikeout ninth inning by closer Jorge Vazquez for his second save in as many opportunities. Vazquez picked up another save Wednesday to close a 9-8 win as Carlos Orrantia homered and drove in four runs and Caonabo Cosme added a solo roundtripper. The Caneros lost the third game, 3-1, despite a 2-for-4 night at the plate for Madera.


Obregon pounded Guasave twice before dropping two of three games in Mazatlan to end the first week tied with Mochis in the standings at 3-2. Reigning Mex Pac MVP Agustin Murillo was 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI to pace the Yaquis to an 8-2 win October 10 as five relievers combined to pitch 6.1 innings of three-hit shutout ball. Obregon won their home opener the next day, 7-3, with Corey Wimberly scoring twice and driving in two more runs.
Obregon then lost Tuesday in Mazatlan, 5-3, although Carlos Valencia turned in his second straight three-hit game and Neil Sellers homered. The Yaquis beat the Venados, 6-4, on Wednesday as Murillo crunched a three-run homer in the seventh to help lift Obregon into a second-place tie with Mazatlan. The Yaquis dropped the third game of the series, 4-1, as Michael Taylor had two hits.


Navojoa has played fitfully to begin the season in fifth place at 2-3. The Mayos were bopped twice by Obregon, 8-2 and 7-3 in the Inaugural Series. Francisco Arias was the lone bright spot in the opener, going 4-for-4 while his teammates only had three more hits. Arias collected two more hits with two runs and an RBI in Navojoa’s second loss to the Yaquis.
Things went better in a home series with Culiacan. The Mayos shut out the Tomateros, 2-0, in the rain-delayed opener on Wednesday as starter Alejandro Armenta went six innings, allowing five hits and striking out four. Navojoa split a Thursday doubleheader, winning the first game, 5-2, with pitcher Tim Gustafson tossing five innings of one-run ball and Matt Young doubling, tripling and driving in two runs. The Mayos dropped the nightcap, 4-3, although Raul Lopez did pick up a pair of singles.


Guasave split two games to Los Mochis before dropping a pair with Hermosillo to go into this weekend at 1-3. The Algodoneros were blanked, 2-0, by Mochis October 10 to spoil a strong start by Francisco Cordova, who let in one run on three hits in five innings. The Cotton Pickers came back last Sunday by bombing the Caneros, 8-1. Wes Bankston was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and drove in three runs, while Chris Carter doubled and homered for Guasave.
The Algodoneros then lost twice at home to Hermosillo, including a 9-5 defeat last Wednesday in spite of Carter’s two-run homer against the Naranjeros. One night later, Guasave was shut out for the second time in four games, losing to Hermosillo, 3-0. Bankston was one of three Algodoneros player to collect a hit. The third game of the series was suspended after seven innings with the score tied at 4-4.


Mexicali lost their first four games before ending a series against Los Mochis with a win. The Aguilas opened the LMP season October 9 on the short end of a 13-4 game with Hermosillo. Matt Camp did go 3-for-4 with two RBIs, but it was not Mexicali’s night. The Aguilas put up a better fight two days later in Hermosillo before dropping a 6-5, 11-inning game. Oscar Robles and Emmanuel Valdez each homered and scored twice, but Enrique Quintanilla’s five innings of two-hit shutout pitching went to waste.
Mexicali then lost two more game to Mochis, dropping Tuesday’s opener, 7-5, although Roman Pena posted a single and double while scoring once. The Aguilas then lost, 9-8, on Wednesday despite a Valdez three-run homer. Mexicali broke through Thursday to win, 3-1, as Jeff Samardzija pitched six innings of one-run ball for the victory.


Hopes were high in Culiacan going into this season after a last-place finish last winter, but the Tomateros lost four of five games to start the season to go into the weekend tied for last place. Jesus Cota has been a home run machine since August, and he whacked a two-run bomb in the season opener at Mazatlan, but Culiacan still lost, 4-3. The Tomateros fell to the Venados, 5-4, in Culiacan last Sunday, thwarting a six-inning, one-run start for Travis Minix and a three-hit day for Victor Bojorquez.
Culiacan then lost two more in Navojoa before getting their first win. Wednesday’s 2-0 loss spoiled a good six-inning, three hit outing by starter Arturo Barradas. The Tomateros absorbed a 5-2 loss to the Mayos Thursday despite a Dee Brown homer before winning the nightcap, 4-3, as Mike Cervenak went 2-for-3 with a homer and Brown added two RBIs.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #3): Guasave, Sinaloa

The next visit on our 24-city Baseball Mexico Road Trip is Guasave, Sinaloa, which can easily be reached by staying on Highway 15 for 91 miles from our last stop to the south, Culiacan.

A city of about 67,000 people (plus another 200,000 in the surrounding municipality), Guasave is, like most Mex Pac venues, an agricultural center. The major crops in the area are corn, wheat, sorghum, soy, beans and cotton. The land around Guasave is generally rocky and the climate is usually very dry and warm, with an average of about 15 inches of rain a year and an annual temperature of 80 degrees.

While Guasave is only 22 miles east from the Gulf of California, the major source of the city’s water is the Sinaloa River, which starts in the southwest corner of the state of Chihuahua and flows into the gulf. The river includes Navachiste Bay, which is known for aquatic sports and fishing; and San Ignacio Bay, noted for its clean landscape, calm waters and abundance of flora and fauna. Further towards the gulf from Guasave are The Glorias, a very popular stretch of the river known for its beaches and terrific seafood like shrimp meatballs. Along the river, there are many poplars and willows lining the shores.

Among the more interesting spots for travelers to visit are the 17th century ruins of Guasave’s Old Town, the Nio ruins (which date back to 1767), and Tamazula, a colonial site featuring a museum and church first built in 1820. Guasave is well known for the raising of thoroughbred horses. Guasave is (again like most LMP cities) not a tourist destination, but it is a slice of authentic northern Mexico with its own enjoyments, and the lifestyle there is considered very traditional.

Guasave is represented in the Mexican Pacific League by the Algodoneros (or “Cotton Pickers”). The team is in its 40th year of MexPac baseball after forming in 1970. They won the LMP pennant in only their second season under manager Vinicio Garcia (going 1-5 in the Caribbean Series that winter), but have not finished higher than third place in the standings since then. The Algodoneros play their home games at Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon, which seats 8,000 spectators.

NEXT WEEK: Mexican Baseball Road Trip (Los Mochis, Sinaloa)