Friday, October 23, 2009


Outfielder Darnell McDonald is off to a terrific start to the Mexican Pacific League season, as are his Hermosillo Narajeros. The 30-year-old brother of former Mexican League standout Donzell McDonald leads the Mex Pac in batting (.486) and RBIs (12) after nine games, and is tied for the lead in home runs with four. The right-handed Fort Collins, Colorado native hit .314 with nine homers in 73 games for Louisville of the International League last summer before hitting .267 in 47 major league contests with the Cincinnati Reds. McDonald was the Baltimore Orioles’ first round draft pick in 1997.

McDonald is a big reason why Hermosillo leads the LMP with an 8-2 record two weeks into the season. The Orangemen have leveled off somewhat after reeling off six straight wins to open the campaign, but they have still held first place in the standings every day heading into Friday’s weekend series opener at home against the Los Mochis Caneros.


Hermosillo opened a weekend series with Navojoa by clobbering the Mayos, 16-2, as Trent Oeltgen went 4-for-5 in the midst of a 21-hit, five-homer Orangemen attack. Hermosillo made it six out of the gate Saturday with a 7-6 squeaker as McDonald hit a grand slam before Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Mayos, though McDonald did crack another homer.

The Naranjeros traveled to Obregon, losing 2-1 on Tuesday to squander a six-inning, two-run start by Ty Taubenheim before coming back with a 5-3 win Wednesday as Jesus Castillo gave up no earned runs in five innings and Luis Alfonso Garcia hit a two-run homer. Hermosillo ended the set Thursday with a miraculous 5-4 win after trailing 4-0 in the ninth. A Carlos Gastelum bunt drew a throwing error by Obregon pitcher Sergio Lizarraga, resulting in the tying and winning runs scoring.


Los Mochis took two of three from Mazatlan to pull into a second-place tie last weekend. Ivan Terrazas homered in Saturday’s 6-4 loss before Sandy Madera’s two homers backed Logan Duran seven scoreless innings in Sunday’s 7-0 shutout. Terrazas and Sebastian Valle combined for seven hits and a pair of two-run homers in Monday’s 8-3 series clincher.

The Caneros next hosted Culiacan for a three-game set. Tuesday’s opener was a 10-inning 7-6 win for Mochis as Cody Smith’s walkoff RBI single ended the contest. Closer Jorge Vasquez tossed two perfect innings for the win. The Caneros lost, 7-3, on Wednesday night as Valle drove in all three Mochis runs with a homer and double. Valle then parked two homers Thursday night as the Caneros finished in an 8-8 suspended-game tie. He now has four homers in three games.


Mazatlan lost two of three in a weekend series at Los Mochis. The Venados began with a 6-4 win Saturday as Christian Quintero drilled a three-run homer in the ninth. Mochis came back with a rain-shortened 7-0 shutout as Quintero singled and walked for the Deer. Mazatlan lost the rubber match Monday, 8-3, although Ruben Rivera homered and John Lindsey went 2-for-4.

The Venados moved on to Navojoa, where they topped the Mayos, 2-1, on Tuesday as Miguel Ojeda’s homer supported Oscar Bustillo’s six innings of one-hit scoreless pitching. Ojeda sliced a two-run double Wednesday night, but Mazatlan fell by an 8-3 score. The Venados came up short once again on Thursday, losing to the Mayos, 3-2. Lindsey was 3-for-4 with a double and his first homer of the season for Mazatlan.


After a wretched start to the season, Mexicali swept a series with Obregon last weekend to reach the .500 mark. Brad Snyder had a homer and three RBIs and Roman Pena homered and scored three runs to key a 10-2 win over the Yaquis October 16. Oscar Robles had two hits and Brian Schlitter struck out the side in the ninth for a 6-2 Aguilas win the next day before Mexicali completed the sweep Sunday with a 14-7 trouncing of Obregon behind Robles’ four hits, two runs and three ribbies.

The Aguilas went to Guasave for a set, winning the first two games. Tuesday’s 6-4 win was keyed by Snyder’s homer and double as Mauricio Tabachnik tossed four shutout innings in relief for the win. On Wednesday, Mexicali took a 5-2 decision thanks to Matt Camp’s 4-for-5 night at the plate before absorbing an 11-3 pounding Thursday despite three hits from Adam Rosales and Emmanuel Valdez.


Navojoa lost two of three games last weekend in Hermosillo, beginning with a 16-2 thrashing at ther hands of the Naranjeros October 16 as Matt Young went 2-for-4 with a run for the Mayos. Christian Zazueta had a two-run single the next night in a 7-6 loss before Young had three hits and two runs to support starter Orlando Lara’s one-run effort over five innings in an 8-3 win to hand Hermosillo their first loss of the year.

The Mayos returned home to face defending champion Mazatlan, who beat Navojoa, 2-1, in Tuesday’s opener. Young’s homer accounted for the Mayos’ lone run. Navojoa came back for an 8-3 win Wednesday as Sergio Contreras went 3-for-3 and scored three times to back up Tim Gustafson’s strong six-inning, two-run start. The Mayos won the deciding game Thursday night by a 3-2 score. Concepcion Rodriguez batted 4-for-4 and scored three runs


Obregon stumbled into the week on the heels of a three-game sweep at the hands of Mexicali by an aggregate score of 30-11. Michael Taylor hit a two-run single in the opener, Albino Contreras scored once and drove in a run in an October 17 defeat and Neil Sellers collected three hits and two RBIs in last Sunday’s 14-7 rout, but it was essentially a lost weekend as the Yaquis pitching collectively collapsed.

Obregon then hosted Hermosillo in a series, opening with a 2-1 win over the Naranjeros on Tuesday behind starter Andrew Kown’s six shutout innings and Daniel Fornes’ 3-for-4 night at the plate. Carlos Valencia homered one night later, but Obregon fell to Hermosillo, 5-3, Wednesday night. The Yaquis had a 4-0 lead going into the ninth inning Thursday, but coughed up five runs to lose, 5-4, despite a 3-for-4 night for Valencia, who drove in three runs.


Guasave split two games at Culiacan before the rubber match was washed out last Monday. The Algodoneros lost the October 16 opener, 6-5, despite homers from the Mario Brothers (Valenzuela and Valdez) before copping a 6-3 win over the Tomateros a day later as Chris Carter singled and homered twice to finish the game with three RBIs.

The Algodoneros came back to Guasave for a series with Mexicali, losing Game One, 6-4, on Tuesday despite Cristian Presichi’s three hits and two RBIs. Guasave fell Wendesday night as well, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Aguilas although Jose Rodriguez had two singles and a walk to score once for the Cottoneers. Guasave avoided a series sweep with an 11-3 win Thursday night as Valenzuela went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and RBI single.


Culiacan entered the weekend in last place in the Mex Pac and came out in last. The Tomateros did beat Guasave, 6-5, October 16 as starter Chris Waters held the Cotton Pickers to two hits in 6.1 innings, but Culiacan fell 6-3 last Saturday despite homers from Dee Brown and Refugio Cervantes. The third game of the series was rained out both Sunday and Monday.

The Tomateros hit the road for Los Mochis, losing a 7-6, 10-inning heartbreaker Tuesday night, but don’t blame Cervantes (who homered twice and drove in five Culiacan runs). The Tomateros rode Mike Cervenak’s two homers and double for Wednesday’s 7-3 win as Cervenak finished with four ribbies. Sergio Gastelum drove in three runs on a single and double in Thursday’s 8-8 tie in a game that was suspended after ten innings.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #4): Los Mochis, Sinaloa

Heading 172 miles north from Guasave on Highway 15 in Sinaloa, our Mexican Baseball Road Trip takes us into Los Mochis, a city of 350,000 residents founded in 1893 by Pennsylvanian Benjamin Johnson. While it is a wealthy city in a fertile agricultural area, Mochis (like most MexPac cities) is not geared towards tourism. It is a hub of sorts, as it is connected by ferry to La Paz, Baja California Sur; has a busy airport with flights to and from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson; and is the western terminus of the legendary Copper Canyon railroad, Mexico’s last major passenger railway featuring one of the most spectacular views in North American train travel.

Los Mochis sits on the Rio Fuerte, which irrigates an extensive valley region whose main crops are vegetables (such as beans and corn) and sugar cane and for which Los Mochis is the commercial and financial center. The city sits 15 miles from the Pacific Mexican port of Topolobampo, which is famous for its shrimp and fishing activity. One of the native animals is the yellow crocodile, which can grow as large as 38.8 feet and weigh over a ton.

As mentioned, Los Mochis is considered a stopover for travelers, not a destination. Visitors to town should check out Parque Sinaloa, which contains the most complete collection of palm trees in Mexico (including rare species imported from around the world) and is a great setting for a stroll in the cool of the evening. Parque Sinaloa is set in the old “Colonia Americana” section of Los Mochis, a former residential district for North Americans easily identified by its typical USA-style architecture featuring brick houses with front porches and yards on all four sides which give a unique character to Los Mochis unlike anywhere else in Mexico.

The Los Mochis Caneros (or “Cane Growers”) entered the Mexican Pacific League in 1962, and are currently playing their 48th winter of pro ball. The Caneros play their home games at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada, which seats 11,000 fans. While the team is not usually one of the prime contenders for a Mex Pac title, Mochis has won LMP pennants in 1968-69 under manager Ben Valenzuela, 1983-84 under Vinicio Garcia and in 2002-03 for Juan F. Rodriguez. In two Caribbean Series, the Caneros have gone 4-8 over 12 games with second and fourth place finishes.

NEXT WEEK: Navojoa, Sonora