Wednesday, December 23, 2009

MAZATLAN READIES FOR PLAYOFFS, SECOND HALF LMP TITLE UNDECIDED

The Mazatlan Venados have overcome a poor start to the second half of the Mexican Pacific League season to move into a tie with Navojoa for fourth place in the LMP standings after spending much time occupying the cellar. Lorenzo Bundy’s defending champions have been able to rest several of their key players while also bringing in San Diego Padres second baseman Edgar Gonzalez. Gonzalez has hit .275 over his first 14 games for Mazatlan, a marked improvement over Hector Garanzuay, a steady fielder but only a .217 batter this winter.

Meanwhile, the LMP second half title won’t be decided until next week. Hermosillo and Culiacan continue to battle for first place and the eight points that come with it. The Naranjeros are 17-10 while the Tomateros have a 16-10 record. It might be wise to keep an eye on Obregon, too. Obregon is two games out of first at 15-12 after winning seven of their previous ten games, and the Yaquis will have a chance to determine their own destiny when they close the regular season with three games in Hermosillo.

ACEVES GETS OKAY FROM YANKS TO PITCH FOR CULIACAN

Pitcher Alfredo Aceves has gotten the go-ahead from the world champion New York Yankees to pitch for the Culiacan Tomateros this season after first being told no. Aceves, who went 10-1 last summer for the Yankees, had initially asked New York management if he might pitch for Culiacan this winter, but the organization wanted him to remain shut down until spring training opens in Tampa next February.

However, the Tomateros were able to work things out with the Yankees so that Aceves could pitch for the team the rest of the season. Culiacan president Juan Manuel Ley was quoted on the outstanding Puro Beisbol website as saying, “The arrival of Alfredo is due to the good relations that have been cultivated with the Yankees organization.”

Part of the agreement between New York and Culiacan is that Aceves will be a starting pitcher for the Tomateros. He’s already thrown in two simulated games, and is expected to make his Mex Pac season debut against Navojoa in the final series of the regular season.

TUXTLAS WINS VERACRUZ REGULAR SEASON TITLE, PLAYOFFS UNDERWAY

The Los Tuxtlas Brujos turned in the best regular season record in the Veracruz Winter League, going 32-6 to finish nine games ahead of the 24-16 Xalapa Chileros in the eight-team overall standings. The Brujos then won their first round playoff series over the Minatitlan Gavilanes, 3 games to 1, to advance to the semifinals. Xalapa outlasted the Soledad Toros, 3-2, in their series to advance to the LIV final four, and the Cordoba Cafeteros slipped by the Santa Rosa Gallos, 3 games to 2. The three first round winners will advance in the postseason, as will the “lucky loser” team who showed best in their first round defeat.

Jorge Luis Delgado of Cosamaloapan won the Veracruzana batting title with a .368 average. Santa Rosa import Jayson Bass led the circuit with seven homers, while teammate Ricardo Vasquez and Tuxtlas’ Omar Bramasco tied for the RBI title with 31 ribbies apiece.

The Brujos’ Guadalupe Perez turned in a 7-0 record to lead all pitchers in wins. Perez’ Tuxtlas mound mate, Daniel Perez, took the ERA title with a 1.51 mark over 41 innings, while Soledad’s Aaron Acosta won the strikeout crown with 38 in 53 frames.

THIS WEEK IN THE MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE (Dec. 18-24, 2009)

1} HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS (17-10/.630/0.0GB/6.0Pts)
Hermosillo has won six of their last 10 games to maintain their half-game lead over Culiacan in the second half pennant title chase.

Ex-major leaguer Karim Garcia has hit well since returning from Korea, batting .356 in 11 games, and Luis Alfonso Garcia continues to lead the LMP with 21 homers to go with his 52 RBIs and .268 batting average. Aussie Travis Blackley has pitched very well in his six starts, going 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA.

2} CULIACAN TOMATEROS (16-10/.615/0.5GB/3.0Pts)
Culiacan has kept pace with the leaders by winning six of their last 10 games, including an 8-4 record away from home, after a horrendous first half.

Phillies prospect Mike Cervenak is hitting .353 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs, but also has 10 errors at third base. Part-timer Jorge Vazquez is hitting just .250, but has 11 homers in 112 at-bats. Hector Rodriguez has become the top Tomateros starter with a 4-1 record and 2.17 ERA in 10 starts.

3} OBREGON YAQUIS (15-12/.556/2.0GB/5.0Pts)
Despite having the Philadelphia Phillies pull prospects Michael Taylor and John Mayberry Jr. back to the USA earlier this year, Obregon has stayed in contention thanks in part to Mexican mainstays Erubiel Durazo, Carlos Valencia and Luis Mendoza.

Durazo is hitting .326 (with an OBP of .492) in 28 games, while Valencia has a .300 average, 14 homers and a league-high 58 RBIs. Mendoza is 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA, leading the LMP with 78 strikeouts.

4T} MAZATLAN VENADOS (13-14/.481/4.0GB/8Pts)
Mazatlan has quietly climbed from eighth place to fourth over the past two weeks, winning nine of 13 games since December 13 (including a three-game sweep of Los Mochis last weekend).

Jon Weber continues to pound LMP pitchers with a .394 average while John Lindsey (.318) and Ruben Rivera have combined for 21 homers and 86 RBIs, but the biggest story continues to be Venados pitcher Pablo Ortega, who is 8-2 and leads the league in both wins and a 2.40 ERA in his standout year.

4T} NAVOJOA MAYOS (13-14/.481/4.0GB/4.5Pts)
At first blush, it’s hard to see how Navajoa has remained in the first division. They have just one .300 batter in Matt Young, who’s hitting .324 with 7 homers and 20 stolen bases; and their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00 is Tim Gustafson, who is 5-1 with a .293 ERA in 9 starts.

Adan Munoz leads the Mayos with 8 homers and 45 RBIs, but has had little help in the batting order or on the mound. Manager Orlando Sanchez deserves kudos for keeping this team near .500.

6} GUASAVE ALGODONEROS (13-15/.464/4.5GB/3.5Pts)
Guasave has struggled for wins all year long, which is what happens when you have a weak batting order trying to help mediocre pitchers. The Algodoneros are a longshot for the playoffs.

Dutch National Team infielder Yurendell de Caster has hit .380 in 20 games while Juan Rodriguez has had some timely hits en route to a .283 average and a team-high 8 homers and 36 RBIs. Francisco Cordova has managed a 6-4 record in 13 starts, but this just hasn’t been Guasave’s year.

7} MEXICALI AGUILAS (11-16/.407/6.0GB/7.0Pts)
One of the mysteries of this Mex Pac season is how Mexicali has the league’s best offense with a .304 batting average and serviceable (if undistinguished) pitching, yet is fighting to stay out of last place.

A possible answer is the callback of outfielders Brad Snyder and Matt Camp (hitting .380 and .333, respectively) by the Chicago Cubs in mid-December. Although batters like Jose Amador, Roman Pena and Emmanuel Valdez remain, Mexicali has not recovered. Welcome to winter league ball.

8} LOS MOCHIS CANEROS (10-17/.370/7.0/4.0Pts)
Along with Guasave, Los Mochis is in danger of having their season slip away. The Caneros are in last place after losing eight of their last ten games.

After slipping below .400 briefly, Sandy Madera has gone on a 9-for-22 tear to bring his league-leading average back up to .407. Madera also has 14 homers. Saul Soto is hitting .310 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs, but the Caneros just don’t have the pitching.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (12-18-09 through 12-24-09)

FRIDAY, December 18
Navojoa 10, Obregon 1
Scott Thorman homered and drove in 3 runs while Reid Gorecki scored twice for the Mayos.
Guasave 5, Culiacan 1
Jose Rodriguez went 4-for-5 with a homer and 2 runs for the Algodoneros while Francisco Mendez added 2 RBIs.
Mexicali 12, Hermosillo 7
Emmanuel Valdez singled, doubled and homered to drive in 3 runs for Mexicali, who also got 4 hits from Oscar Robles.
Mazatlan 6, Los Mochis 5 (11)
Miguel Ojeda stroked a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning for his 3rd hit and 4th RBI of the night for Mazatlan.

SATURDAY, December 19
Obregon 4, Navojoa 1
LMP strikeouts leader Luis Mendoza whiffed 8 Mayos and let in just 1 run over 7 innings for the Yaquis win.
Culiacan 5, Guasave 4
Yankees farmhand homered twice and Mike Cervenak sliced 3 singles to give the Tomateros their 7th win in their last 10 games.
Hermosillo 5, Mexicali 3
Naranjeros’ leadoff batter Chris Roberson singled twice and scored 2 runs and catcher Geronimo Gil added 2 singles.
Mazatlan 4, Los Mochis 2
Jon Weber went 3-for-4 with a run for the Venados while defending LMP batting champ Christian Quintero had 2 hits and 2 RBIs.

SUNDAY, December 20
Obregon 3, Navojoa 0
Yaquis starter Brian Mazone lowered his ERA to 0.82 with 6 shutout innings as Agustin Murillo and Flavio Romero each had 2 hits.
Guasave 6, Culiacan 2
Francisco Cordova allowed 1 run with 6 Ks over 7 innings for Guasave. Jesus Cota and Refugio Cervantes homered for Culiacan.
Hermosillo 8, Mexicali 2
Geronimo Gil’s homer keyed a 7-run second inning for Hermosillo as Juan Delgadillo lifted his record to 6-4 with 6 strong frames.
Mazatlan 4, Los Mochis 0
Walter Silva sparkled in 7 scoreless innings and Reid Brignac had 2 hits, a run and an RBI as the Venados won their third straight.

MONDAY, December 21
Obregon 10, Guasave 5
Agustin Murillo drove in 3 runs on 2 hits for Obregon as Yaquis starter Marco Quevedo allowed 1 earned run in 6.1 innings.

TUESDAY, December 22
Obregon 2, Guasave 1
Yaquis pitcher Bobby Evans let in 1 run on 4 hits over 7 innings while James Tomlin collected 2 hits and scored go-ahead run.
Culiacan 8, Hermosillo 3
Adan Amezcua’s 2-run double highlighted Tomateros’ 5-run 1st inning as Culiacan overtook Hermosillo for LMP standings lead.
Los Mochis 1, Navojoa 0
Alberto Castillo struck out 9 Mayos in 7.1 shutout innings, but it was Edgar Quintero’s walk-off homer that won game for Caneros.

WEDNESDAY, December 23
Hermosillo 9, Culiacan 4
Humberto Cota went 3-for-4 with a homer, 2 runs and 2 RBIs while Nelson Teilon added 3 hits (including a homer) for Hermosillo.
Los Mochis 4, Navojoa 1
Arturo Lopez tossed 6 innings of 1-run,6-hit ball for Caneros as Carlos Sievers went 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs.

THURSDAY, December 24
No games scheduled


UPCOMING MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE GAMES
DEC. 25 Mexicali at Mazatlan
DEC. 26 Hermosillo at Culiacan, Mexicali at Mazatlan, Navojoa at Los Mochis
DEC. 27 Mexicali at Mazatlan, Guasave at Obregon
DEC. 28-30 Culiacan at Navojoa, Mazatlan at Guasave, Obregon at Hermosillo, Los Mochis at Mexicali
END OF REGULAR SEASON

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #13): Reynosa, Tamaulipas

Our Road Trip this week takes us eastbound from Nuevo Laredo on Highway 2 along the Rio Grande to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, which is located across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas. According to the 2005 census, Reynosa's population was 507,998 for the city.

Reynosa was founded on March 14, 1749 with 297 inhabitants by Carlos Cantú under the command of the Count of Sierra Gorda, Jose de Escandon. However, due to flooding in the area on July 4, 1802, they decided to move five miles to the east while keeping the same margin between them and the Rio Grande. It was not until 1926 that the state government recognized Reynosa as a city.

It was first named Villa de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Reynosa. The pioneers of the town all came from from El Nuevo Reino de León, especially from Monterrey, Cadereyta, Cerralvo and El Pilón. The town originally was composed of 50 families, and was given the name of Reynosa as a tribute to a town with the same name in Spain. From 1846 until 1848, the township was captured and temporarily held by the United States Army during the War of Texas until it was permanently ceded to Mexico and the border between the two countries redrawn along the Rio Grande.

Reynosa extends across 1,219 square miles, representing 3.7 per cent of the Tamaulipas territory. Today it is the location of several satellite U.S. companies doing business to take advantage of low labor rates, sparse benefits and industry incentives (as is the case in so many Mexican cities along the border. The township and area have been featured in the news due to the reported discovery of the largest seized weapons cache in Mexican drug cartel history.

The Reynosa Broncos are a Mexican League team that plays its home games in 10,000-seat Estadio Adolfo Lopez Mateos. Reynosa has won one pennant in their history by copping the flag in 1969 by topping Monterrey in the finals, but lost in seven games to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in 1981 for the only other time it has played in the LMB championship series. That set was unique in Mexican baseball history in that despite the series going the full seven games, neither team won a single home game.

The Broncos finished the 2009 regular season with a 58-47 record to qualify for the playoffs. Reynosa won two of the first three games in their Northern Zone semifinal series with Saltillo, but then dropped three contests in a row to the eventual Liga champions to be eliminated from the postseason.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#14): Monterrey, Nuevo Leon