Puebla finished 37-15 to cruise to the first half crown in the LMB South by 7.5 games over second-place Oaxaca. Pitcher Omar Espinoza (pictured) is 7-2 to tie Oaxaca’s Sergio Valenzuela for the LMB lead in wins. The Los Mochis native won his seventh game last Wednesday against Yucatan despite allowing five runs in six innings, which gives a hint as to how the Pericos have been winning games this year. After getting just one hit in that three-game whitewashing in Veracruz, first baseman Willis Otanez went on a 15-of-25 tear last week (including a 4-hit game against Quintana Roo) to build his league-leading batting average back up to .427. As a team, Puebla leads the LMB tables with a .337 average as seven of the Liga’s 16 clubs are north of the .300 mark.
Oaxaca finished the first half with a 30-22 record, a half-game ahead of 29-22 Quintana Roo. The Guerreros have benefited from Valenzuela’s pitching, obviously, while newcomer Jolbert Cabrera has fit like a glove by batting .393 (third in the Liga behind Otanez and Puebla’s Luis Suarez’ .395 mark). The Tigres have also been led by an ex-MLB player on offense as Jose Fernandez has hit .377 and crashed 13 homers in 45 games. Yucatan took fourth in the LMB South with a 28-25 mark, but the Leones’ pitching (traditionally among the best in the circuit) has been uncharacteristically weak with just a 5.22 ERA, eleventh in the Liga.
Among other Zona Hidalgo teams, Veracruz was 24-29 in the first half. The Rojos Aguilas have been sort of an all-or-nothing team, standing second in the LMB with 51 homers but ranking last in batting (.255) and runs scored (431). Tabasco (22-31) and Campeche (21-31) had poor first halves, although the Olmecas won eight of their last ten games, while Minatitlan (17-34) was just plain dreadful.