Saturday, January 2, 2010

HERMOSILLO WINS SECOND HALF LMP FLAG, EARNS TOP SEED IN PLAYOFFS

Hermosillo turned in a 20-13 record to overtake Culiacan and hold off a hot Obregon team to win the Mexican Pacific League’s second-half title. The Naranjeros won six of their last ten games while the Tomateros won just four in the same period. The clock ran out on the Yaquis, who went 8-2 in their last ten contests (winning the final two games at Hermosillo) to finish tied for second with Culiacan at 19-13, a half-game out of first. The Tomateros were awarded second place after defeating Obregon in two of the three games played between the teams during the second half’s unbalanced schedule.

By picking up 8 points in winning the second-half crown, the Naranjeros won the overall points title with 14, ahead of first-half champion Mazatlan’s 12. Obregon is the third seed in the playoffs with 11 points, while Mexicali and Culiacan were tied with 10 points each (the Aguilas getting the nod for fourth by finishing 2.5 games ahead of the Tomateros in the overall standings). Navojoa and Guasave tied for the sixth and final playoff berth with 8.5 points apiece, but the Mayos reached the postseason after finishing 2 games up on Guasave. Los Mochis finished last in the points race with 7.5 and, like the Algodoneros, will miss the playoffs.

MEX PAC POSTSEASON BEGINS THIS WEEKEND

Hermosillo has to be considered the favorites in the Mex Pac postseason after finishing with a superb 21-12 road record. However, the Naranjeros were a mediocre 17-17 at home, where they open their first round series against Navojoa this weekend. Hermosillo defeated Navojoa six of nine times the two teams played during the regular season.

Defending champion Mazatlan was an LMP-best 24-10 at home, but lost their final four games to end a disappointing second half with a 15-18 record going into their first round set with rival Culiacan. The Venados won their season series against Culiacan, eight games to three.

Obregon gets home field advantage against Mexicali, and the red-hot Yaquis may be the team nobody wants to play in the postseason. The Aguilas beat Obregon six out of ten games this winter, but all six of those wins came in the first half.
All three best-of-7 series were scheduled to begin Saturday, January 2.

MADERA FINISHES AT .413 TO COP LMP BATTING TITLE

Although Los Mochis finished with the fewest points in the Mexican Pacific League, their first baseman provided the Caneros with at least one saving grace. Sandy Madera (pictured) ended up batting .413 over 60 games to win the LMP batting title for the season. Madera becomes the first .400 hitter in the Mex Pac since Hector Espino batted .415 for Hermosillo in 1971-72. Espino, who won 13 LMP batting titles between 1960 and 1981, also hit .402 for the Naranjeros in 1962-63. Madera hit 14 homers, finishing tied for second with Obregon’s Carlos Valencia behind the 23 of Hermosillo’s Luis Alfonso Garcia (who won his third home run crown in five winters). Valencia’s 63 RBIs topped the circuit.

Pablo Ortega of Mazatlan had a regular season to remember. Ortega led the Mex Pac in wins with an 8-2 record and ended on top of the ERA table at 2.43. Obregon’s Luis Mendoza was second in both wins and earned-run average by going 7-4 with a 2.89 ERA, respectively, and led the LMP with 79 strikeouts in 90 innings, 25 Ks ahead of Guasave’s Jim McGrane.

“E-GON” GOING TO PLAY FOR JAPAN’S YOMIURI GIANTS IN 2010

While San Diego fans and media have focused on whether Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will be traded out of town in 2010, big brother Edgar beat Adrian to the punch by signing a one-year free agent contract with Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League for the upcoming season. Edgar Gonzalez hit .216 in a part-time role for the Padres last year after batting .274 in 111 games as a 30-year-old rookie in 2008.

After playing no less than five defensive positions for San Diego in 2009, the elder Gonzalez will be a regular second baseman in Tokyo. “I had three offers from major league teams,” Edgar told Mazatlan newspaper Noroeste, “but in the end it was for the best to go to Japan where I can play every day.” Gonzalez becomes the fifth Mexican to play in Japan, following Jose Tolentino, Elmer Dessens, Narciso Elvira and Karim Garcia.

“The Giants will pay me more than the major leagues,” Gonzalez added, “and playing every day can create more opportunities to return to the majors.” The San Diego native hit .203 in 16 regular season games for Mazatlan this season.

TOMATEROS ADD JOSE MERCEDES FOR PLAYOFF RUN

The Culiacan Tomateros have solidified their starting rotation for the 2010 LMP playoffs by adding former major league pitcher Jose Mercedes to the roster. The 38-year-old righty had a 14-7 record for the Baltimore Orioles in 2000, and finished his major league career with a 33-39 record and 4.75 ERA after pitching for the O’s, Milwaukee and Montreal between 1994 and 2003. More recently, Mercedes has pitched summer ball for Puebla and Saltillo in the Mexican League, going 5-0 in nine starts with a 4.91 ERA for the champion Saraperos last season.

Mercedes had been pitching for the Licey Tigres in the Dominican League this winter, turning in a 2-1 record and 2.25 ERA in six games before getting permission to join Culiacan just prior to the end of the Mex Pac regular season. In his lone start for the Tomateros before they opened their playoff series with Mazatlan, Mercedes pitched four innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball in Navojoa on December 29 in a 1-0 loss to the Mayos.

Mercedes will fill out Culiacan manager Paquin Estrada’s starting rotation, along with Hector Rodriguez, Jorge Campillo, Rodrigo Lopez and Runelvys Hernandez. While Rodriguez is the only starter without major league experience, he is the only Tomateros pitcher with more than three wins. New York Yankees pitcher Alfredo Aceves had hoped to pitch for Culiacan in the playoffs, but was shut down by the Yanks after experiencing soreness in his lower back.

LIGA NOROESTE FINALS SET: IT’S TEPIC VERSUS SANTIAGO

The Mexican Northwest League (or Liga Noroeste) is down to its final two teams in their winter playoffs. The regular season champions Tepic Diablos Rojos are meeting the Santiago Tabaqueros in a best-of-7 series for the league title.

After finishing the regular season with a league-best 43-17 record, defending champion Tepic swept Compostela in three straight games to win their first round series. The Diablos lineup features LBN batting champion Eloy Gutierrez, who hit .388, but the linchpin to success for Tepic has been left-handed pitcher Juan Jose Flores. Flores, a native of Oaxaca who was once property of the Mexican League Guerreros, won the Noroeste’s pitching Triple Crown, with eight wins (and no losses), a 1.58 ERA and 54 strikeouts over the Diablos’ 60-game schedule.

Santiago finished third with a 32-27 record in the regular season before upsetting 40-20 Tuxpan in a first round sweep. The Tabaqueros are led offensively by former USA college player Franky Busani (pictured). Busani batted .329 for Santiago this winter, and led the Northwest League with 12 homers and 34 RBIs. The 6’4” 23-year-old hit .380 with 23 homers and 84 RBIs in 216 at-bats for Wayland Baptist University of Arkansas last spring after hitting .324 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs in 185 at-bats for New Mexico State in 2008. He was born in Sahuaripa, Sonora, but went to high school in Mesa, Arizona.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE 2009-10 Team Leaders

1} HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS (38-29/.567/1.5GB/14.0Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Humberto Cota .313, R-Humberto Cota 42, HR-Luis A. Garcia 23*, RBI-Luis A. Garcia 58, SB-Brandon Watson 8, OPB-Humberto Cota .446, SLG-Luis A. Garcia .567
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Juan Delgadillo 6, L-Francisco Campos 6, SV-Dennis Sarfate 7, ERA-Juan Delgadillo 2.95, SO-Francisco Campos/Juan Oramos 42, BB-Juan Oramos 35*

2} MAZATLAN VENADOS (40-28/.588/0.0GB/12.5Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-John Lindsey .325, R-Ruben Rivera 45, HR-John Lindsey 11, RBI-Ruben Rivera 41, SB-Ruben Rivera 6, OBP-John Lindsey .411, SLG-John Lindsey .527
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Pablo Ortega 8*, L-Walter Silva 6, SV-Gabe De Hoyos 12*, ERA-Pablo Ortega 2.43*, SO-Pablo Ortega 35, BB-Marco Duarte 24

3} OBREGON YAQUIS (37-30/.552/2.5GB/11.0Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Carlos Valencia .311, R-Flavio Romero 43, HR-Carlos Valencia 14, RBI-Carlos Valencia 63*, SB-Flavio Romero 12, OBP-Flavio Romero .404, SLG-Carlos Valencia .562.
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Luis Mendoza 7, L-Jesus Sanchez 6, SV-Hector Navarro 12*, ERA-Luis Mendoza 2.89, SO-Luis Mendoza 82*, BB- Jesus Sanchez 30

4} MEXICALI AGUILAS (34-34/.500/6.0GB/10.0Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Brad Snyder .379, R-Adam Rosales 56*, HR-Emmanuel Valdez 12, RBI-Brad Snyder 48, SB-Brad Snyder 18, OBP-Brad Snyder .463, SLG-Brad Snyder .602
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Oscar Rivera/Enrique Quintanilla 4, L-Oscar Rivera/Enrique Quintanilla/Jeff Stevens 5, SV-Brian Schlitter 6, ERA-Oscar Rivera 4.90, SO-Oscar Rivera 46, BB-Oscar Rivera 35*

5} CULIACAN TOMATEROS (30-35/.462/8.5GB/10Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Mike Cervenak .330, R-Mike McCoy 45, HR-Mike Cervenak/Jorge Vazquez 11, RBI-Mike Cervenak 48, SB-Mike McCoy 26*, OBP-Mike McCoy .413, SLG-Mike Cervenak .496
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Hector Rodriguez 4, L-Andres Meza 8*, SV-Jose Silva 9, ERA-Hector Rodriguez 2.39 (64IP), SO-Hector Rodriguez 47, BB-Hector Rodriguez 34

6} NAVOJOA MAYOS (32-36/.471/8.0GB/8.5Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Matt Young .315, R-Matt Young 54, HR-Adan Munoz/Matt Young 8, RBI- Adan Munoz 46, SB-Matt Young 21, OBP-Matt Young .435, SLG-Matt Young .523
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Tim Gustafson/Javier Martinez 5, L-Alejandro Armenta 6, SV-Stephen Marek/ Brett Butts 5, ERA-Orlando Lara 3.90 (62.1IP), SO-Brian Adams 54, BB-Orlando Lara 28

7} GUASAVE ALGODONEROS (29-37/.439/10.0GB/8.5Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Jose Rodriguez .280, R-Jose Rodriguez 42, HR-Japhet Amador/Jose Rodriguez 8, RBI-Jose Rodriguez 38, SB-Cristian Presichi 7, OBP-Francisco Mendez .357, SLG-Jose Rodriguez .451
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Francisco Cordova 7, L-Francisco Cordova/Jim McGrane/Robert Coello 4, ERA-Robert Coello 3.50 (64.1IP), SO-Jim McGrane 57, BB-Oscar Bustillos 33

8} LOS MOCHIS CANEROS (28-39/.418/11.5GB/7.5Pts)
BATTING LEADERS: AVG-Sandy Madera .413*, R-Sandy Madera 47, HR-Sandy Madera 14, RBI-Saul Soto 42, SB-Coby Smith 5, OBP-Sandy Madera .492*, SLG-Sandy Madera .654*
PITCHING LEADERS: W-Jorge Vasquez 5, L-Juan Pena/Ismael Castillo 4, SV- Jorge Vasquez 8, ERA-Ismael Castillo 5.95 (59IP), SO-Juan Pena 34, BB-Victor Santos 25

NOTE: Hitters need 3.1 plate appearances per LMP game to qualify for batting title; Pitchers need 1 IP per LMP game to qualify for ERA title.
* Led League

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (12-25-09 through 12-30-09)

FRIDAY, December 25
Mazatlan 12, Mexicali 3
Miguel Ojeda blasted a grand slam and drove in a season-high 5 runs while John Lindsey had 3 hits and 3 runs for the Venados.

SATURDAY, December 26
Mazatlan 2, Mexicali 0
Venados starter Jasiel Acosta scattered 3 hits and a walk over 6 innings in the shutout as Heber Gomez contributed a 2-run single.
Hermosillo 3, Culiacan 0
Juan Delgadillo tossed 7 strong innings for the Naranjeros. Luis Alfonso Garcia and Chris Roberson added homers for the winners.
Navojoa 4, Los Mochis 3
Reid Gorecki slashed a bases-loaded, 3-run double and later scored on Francisco Arias’ groundout to lead the Mayos victory.

SUNDAY, December 27
Mexicali 3, Mazatlan 1
Eagles starter Dan Serafini posted 5.2 shutout innings and Emmanuel Valdez scored 2 times to snap a 4-game loss streak.
Obregon 4, Guasave 2
Carlos Valencia whacked a bases-loaded triple and Victor Diaz added a pair of hits as the Yaquis won their fifth in a row.

MONDAY, December 28
Hermosillo 4, Obregon 3
Vinny Castilla hit 2 doubles and scored twice for the Naranjeros as fellow MLB vet Edgar Gonzalez let in 2 runs over 5 innings.
Culiacan 6, Navojoa 5
Luis Cruz had 3 hits, scored 2 runs and drove in a counter for the Tomateros, who also got a 2-run single from Jesus Cota.
Mexicali 12, Los Mochis 2
Matt Camp tripled, singled, scored 3 times and drove in 2 more runs while Oswaldo Morejon had 4 RBIs for Mexicali.
Mazatlan at Guasave postponed

TUESDAY, December 29
Obregon 15, Hermosillo 6
Erubiel Durazo cracked a 3-run homer and a solo shot while Agustin Murillo homered, scored 3 runs and had 4 RBIs for Obregon.
Navojoa 1, Culiacan 0
Orlando Lara outdueled Culiacan’s Jose Mercedes, scattering 4 hits over 8 innings in the Mayos’ shutout win.
Los Mochis 8, Mexicali 6
Sebastian Valle hit homer for the Caneros. Mexicali’s Adam Rosales stroked a 2-run double.
Guasave 2, Mazatlan 1 (first game)
Jim McGrane allowed just 1 run on 4 hits with 7 strikeouts as Japhet Amador homered to lead the Cottoneers’ win.
Guasave 1, Mazatlan 0 (second game)
Jose Rodriguez’ RBI double in the 3rd inning plated the game’s only run as Francisco Cordova pitched 5.1 innings in the shutout.

WEDNESDAY, December 30
Obregon 4, Hermosillo 3
Erubiel Durazo hit his 4th homer in 3 games for Obregon, who scored all their runs in the 3rd inning.
Navojoa 3, Culiacan 1
Francisco Felix tossed 5 shutout innings in his first start after 31 relief appearances for the Tomateros.
Los Mochis 6, Mexicali 3
Edgar Quintero homered and Carlos Orrantia drove in 2 runs for Caneros, who got 3 scoreless innings from starter Alberto Castillo.
Guasave 9, Mazatlan 1
Oscar Bustillos pitched 5 shutout innings while Mario Valenzuela and Japhet Amador both homered and had 3 RBIs for Guasave.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
JAN. 2-3 Navojoa at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Mazatlan, Mexicali at Obregon
JAN. 5-7* Hermosillo at Navojoa, Mazatlan at Culiacan, Obregon at Mexicali
JAN. 9-10* Navojoa at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Mazatlan, Mexicali at Obregon
*Games played on January 7, 9 and 10 if necessary.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #14): Monterrey, Nuevo Leon

Our Mexican baseball road trip takes us away from the U.S. border for the final time as we leave Reynosa westbound on Highway 40D until we reach Monterrey, the capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, the leading city in northern Mexico and the industrial center of the nation. Monterrey was founded in 1596 by Diego de Montemayor, but it wasn’t until after the War of Independence in the 1820’s that it started blossoming as in important business center. Present-day Monterrey is home to nearly four million residents, and is Mexico’s third-largest city behind Mexico City and Guadalajara.

While many visitors will not be impressed by the factories, traffic and smog they’ll encounter here, Monterrey’s city center is actually quite pleasant, with a combination of colonial elegance and modern architecture and statues. The heart of Monterrey, many say, lies in the Plaza Zaragosa (also known as the “Macroplaza”), which was created by the demolition of six complete city blocks in downtown Monterrey. The crown jewel of the Macroplaza is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, or MARCO, a museum that is considered a “don’t-miss” experience for art lovers visiting Monterrey. While not as beautiful on an overall basis as some of the more colonial cities in Mexico’s south, Monterrey has much to offer those willing to look past the industrial congestion that creates the city’s wealth.

Home to three past Little League World Series champions, Monterrey is also perhaps the center of Mexican baseball. It is home of the Salon de la Fama, the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located at the Cuauhtemoc Brewery grounds. The Salon was built in 1971.
Also in the area is the Mexican Baseball Academy, where all 16 LMB teams share funding for the 100 young domestic athletes hoping to develop into pro ballplayers. The complex consists of 56 dorm rooms, four baseball fields, four batting cages, a computer room, a weight room, an infirmary and a plaza where players can congregate. The Academia runs an eight-team rookie league during the winter, and its players are subject to an annual Liga draft of young talent.

The Monterrey Sultanes are one of the Mexican League’s flagship franchises, and have won nine Liga championships since their founding in 1939 (although the team failed to reach the playoffs in 2009 just two years after winning their last pennant). The Sultanes are usually near the top of the LMB in attendance, playing home games in Mexico’s largest ballpark, the 27,000-seat Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. It is the only ballpark in Mexico to have hosted Major League Baseball regular season games (in 1996 and 1999), and there was an attempt to bring the Montreal Expos to Monterrey before they were finally moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#15): Saltillo, Coahuila