Saturday, January 9, 2010

OBREGON KNOCKS OUT MEXICALI IN FIVE GAMES

It didn’t take long for Obregon to move into the semifinals of the Mexican Pacific League playoffs. The Yaquis split their first two games at home against Mexicali before taking three wins in a row on the road in the Eagles’ Nest to close out their series, four games to one.

Former big leaguer Dan Serafini was sharp for Mexicali in the opener, holding Obregon to two hits in eight innings as the Aguilas blanked the Yaquis, 6-0, on January 2. It was to be the only win for the borderites in the series as Obregon came back to outscore the league’s best-hitting team in the regular season by a 32-18 margin over the next four games to bounce the Aguilas from the playoffs.

After Flavio Romero drove in three runs in the Yaquis’ series-tying 9-5 win, Carlos Valencia hit a three-run homer in Game 3 to put the Yaquis ahead in the series, a five-run second inning in Game 4 keyed by homers from Victor Diaz and Iker Franco led to a 6-2 Obregon win, and Erubiel Durazo (pictured) conked a homer, scored three runs and drove in three to aid the Yaquis’ 14-9 clincher last Thursday.


By losing in five games, Mexicali is out as a contender for a wild card slot in the semis.

MAYOS WIN TWO STRAIGHT TO HOLD OFF OUSTER

After three games, it looked like all the Hermosillo Naranjeros had to do was show up to knock out Navojoa and move into the second round. Instead, the Mayos won two straight games to make a fight out of this series, which shifts back to Hermosillo this weekend.

Hermosillo won the opener at home by a 4-3 score as Humberto Cota (pictured) knocked out a two-run homer to support starter Edgar Gonzalez, then followed with a 3-2 win behind seven innings of one-run pitching by Travis Blackley. After the Naranjeros beat the Mayos, 12-7, in Navojoa as Cota smashed three homers, the regular season champs held a 3-0 series lead.

The Mayos clawed back with a pair of wins, bopping Hermosillo, 9-5, last Wednesday and taking an 8-3 win on Thursday. Amaury Cazana hit a grand slam in Game 4, while Raul Lopez knocked out a three-run bomb in Game 5. After scoring just five runs in the two games on the road, the normally light-hitting Mayos exploded for 24 runs in three games at home.

MAZATLAN-CULIACAN SERIES COMES DOWN TO THIS WEEKEND

After shutting out the potent Culiacan Tomateros the first two games at home, the Mazatlan Venados stumbled and lost two of three road games with their bitter rivals to the north.

Pablo Ortega went all the way in Mazatlan’s opening1-0 win January 2 as shortstop Heber Gomez scored the game’s only run. Esteban Loaiza then turned in seven innings of scoreless ball as the Venados whitewashed Culiacan, 3-0, the next evening.

The Tomateros rebounded to win twice in three tries in Culiacan. Arnold Leon took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as Culiacan held on for an 8-6 Game 3 win. Mazaltan came back to crunch the hosts, 10-2, last Wednesday as Christian Quintero collected four hits and three RBIs for the defending champs, but Culiacan closed the series gap Thursday night with a 4-1 victory as starter Hector Rodriguez (pictured) let in one run in seven innings while Mike Cervenak was 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs after signing a 2010 contract with the New York Mets last week.

Games 6 and 7 (if needed) are scheduled this weekend in Mazatlan.

TOMATEROS RELIEVER AYALA VICTIM OF HOME INVASION ROBBERY

It hasn’t been the best of times for reliever Luis Ayala the past several months. After being cut by the Minnesota Twins and going into a free agency winter after getting rocked while pitching for the Washington Nationals, Ayala joined the Culiacan Tomateros after signing a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now Ayala and his family appear to have been the victims of a home invasion robbery after the pitcher returned home from two first-round playoff games in Mazatlan. According to police reports, Ayala had just arrived home early Monday, January 4 after a two-hour trip up the coast when at least 15 masked and heavily-armed men forced open a door to Ayala’s home and came in. Reportedly, neither Ayala nor anyone in his family were injured during the home invasion, but were handcuffed while the intruders searched the house for valuables. The invaders are said to have taken about seven thousand dollars in cash from Ayala, who was paid $1.3 million by the Twins and Nats last season.

Ayala was 1-5 with a 5.62 ERA in 38 MLB appearances last season, and has a 29-39 lifetime record in six major league seasons with a 3.67 ERA. He turns 32 on Tuesday, January 12.


Let’s hope his birthday party comes off without incident.

LMP PRESIDENT SEEKS 3-YEAR WINTER BAN FOR McDONALD, WATSON

Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales has requested a three-year ban from Caribbean winter baseball against former Hermosillo Tomateros players Darnell McDonald and Brandon Watson (pictured). Canizales recently filed his request with Caribbean Baseball Confederation president Juan Francisco Puello.

McDonald and Watson were both starting outfielders for Hermosillo when they left the team without notice three weeks into the current season. McDonald was second in the Mex Pac with a .378 batting average after 19 games at the time, adding six homers and 20 RBIs over that span. Watson was batting .276 for the Naranjeros, and was leading the league with eight stolen bases.

The two abandoned the team hours after a 4-3 win over Mexicali in which McDonald had belted a homer. At the time, according to Puro Beisbol, Hermosillo manager Homar Rojas said he was not told McDonald and Watson were leaving, but it’s since been rumored the two players were demanding extra performance-based bonuses prior to their departure.

Last year, the Confederation granted Canizales’ request for a three-year banishment from Caribbean baseball of current Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Casey McGehee, who left the Culiacan Tomateros without notice in 2008.

SANTIAGO WINS NOROESTE CROWN, BUSANI NAMED PLAYOFF MVP

The Mexican Northwest League pennant has been won by the surprising Santiago Tabaqueros, who defeated the regular season titleholder Tepic Diablos Rojos in five games in their best-4-of-7 championship series.

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. Santiago finished third with a 32-27 record in the regular season before upsetting 40-20 Tuxpan in a first round sweep. The Tobacconists won the finals, 4 games to 1, capping the season with a 5-4 home win over Tepic on January 5 when Franky Busani drove in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The burly Busani was named the series MVP. The 6’4” 235-pound Busani batted .329 for Santiago during the regular season, and led the Liga Noroeste with 12 homers and 34 RBIs. The 23-year-old Sonora-born Busani, who grew up in Arizona and played collegiately in the United States, hit 39 homers with 144 RBIs in 401 at-bats over his last two seasons of college ball in 2008 and 2009.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (1-02-10 through 1-08-10)

FIRST ROUND SERIES UPDATE
Obregon defeated Mexicali, 4 games to 1
Hermosillo leads Navojoa, 3 games to 2
Mazatlan leads Culiacan, 3 games to 2
Mexicali has been eliminated from contention for wild card semifinal berth

SATURDAY, January 2
Mexicali 6, Obregon 0
Dan Serafini allowed just 2 hits over 8 shutout innings for Mexicali as Adam Rosales doubled twice, singled and drive in 2 runs.
Hermosillo 4, Navojoa 3
Humberto Cota belted a 2-run homer for Hermosillo and Edgar Gonzalez got the win by tossing 1-run ball over 7 innings.
Mazatlan 1, Culiacan 0
Pablo Ortega tossed a 6-hit shutout for the Venados, outdueling Hector Rodriguez. Heber Gomez had 2 hits and scored lone run.

SUNDAY, January 3
Obregon 9, Mexicali 5
Iker Franco had 3 hits and Flavio Romero had 3 RBIs to pace Obregon win. Adam Rosales collected 3 hits and 2 RBIs for Aguilas.
Hermosillo 3, Navojoa 2
Travis Blackley let in 1 run on 4 hits in 7 frames for Naranjeros while teammate Nelson Teilon had 2 hits and 2 RBIs.
Mazatlan 3, Culiacan 0
Former MLB star Esteban Loaiza turned in 7 solid innings as Venados won second straight shutout over potent Culiacan side.

MONDAY, January 4
No games scheduled

TUESDAY, January 5
Obregon 3, Mexicali 2
Carlos Valencia pounded a 3-run homer in the 8th for Yaquis, who got 2 scoreless innings from reliever Adrian Ramirez for win.
Hermosillo 12, Navojoa 7
Humberto Cota crushed 3 homers with 5 RBIs for Orangemen, who also got HRs from Nelson Teilon and Jose Luis Sandoval.
Culiacan 8, Mazatlan 6
Tomateros got offense untracked as Ramiro Pena had 3 hit, 3 RBIs and scored twice. Edgar Gonzalez homered for Mazatlan.

WEDNESDAY, January 6
Obregon 6, Mexicali 2
Victor Diaz and Iker Franco homered to key 5-run second inning for Obregon. Matt Camp homered in losing effort for Eagles.
Navojoa 9, Hermosillo 5
Mayos stayed alive thanks to Amaury Cazana’s grand slam, his second homer in two nights. Vinny Castilla homered for Hermosillo.
Mazatlan 10, Culiacan 2
Reid Brignac was 2-for-4 with double and 3 RBIs for Venados while Christian Quintero had 4 hits and scored 3 runs.

THURSDAY, January 7
Obregon 14, Mexicali 9
Erubiel Durazo homered, had 3 RBIs and scored 3 runs as Yaquis won series. Brad Snyder had 2 HRs and 6 RBIs for Mexicali.
Navojoa 8, Hermosillo 3
Raul Lopez clubbed 3-run homer and Amaury Cazano was 2-for-4 with a run and 2 ribbies as Navojoa won second straight.
Culiacan 4, Mazatlan 1
Hector Rodriguez let in 1 run in 7 innings while recent Mets signee Mike Cervenak had homer and 2 RBIs for Tomateros.

FRIDAY, January 8
No games schedule

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
First Round Playoff Schedule
SAT, Jan. 9 Culiacan at Mazatlan, Navojoa at Hermosillo
SUN, Jan. 10* Culiacan at Mazatlan, Navojoa at Hermosillo
*If necessary

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #15): Saltillo, Coahuila

Saltillo is often lost in the shadow of nearby Monterrey, but people who prefer a less-industrialized northern Mexico city would probably like Saltillo better. The capital of the state of Coahuila, Saltillo was founded as a colonial city in 1575 and named after a nearby waterfall coming from a local spring. The city has received a number of nicknames over the years, including “The Athens of Mexico”, “The City of Ideal Climate”, and “The Land of the Sarape” (a distinctly Mexican clothing item that originated here and which Saltillo's baseball team is named after).

Founded by Spanish colonists, Saltillo is the oldest post-conquest settlement in northern Mexico. In 1591 the Spanish resettled a community of their Tlaxaltec allies in a separate nearby village in order to cultivate the land and aid colonization efforts that had stalled in the face of local hostility to the Spanish presence. In 1824, Saltillo was made the capital of the State of Coahuila and included the area which is now the US State of Texas until the Texas War and the founding of the independent Texas nation.

Besides serving as Coahuila’s capital city, Saltillo is also a major commercial and agricultural center. There are approximately 725,000 residents in the metropolitan area, which features a large number of buildings constructed of pink quarry and limestone. Among the better places to visit are the Saltillo Cathedral, considered one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the country; the Nueva Tlaxacala Plaza, mixing Spanish and native Tlaxalteca culture into a unique esplanade behind the local government palace (which itself was built in 1808 and is the sit of a number of historic murals); and the gorgeous El Casino de Saltillo, a Greco-Roman style building with neo-classic details.

The Saraperos are one of the best-run franchises in the Mexican League, annually in the hunt for a Northern Zone title and among the Liga leaders in attendance. Saltillo’s baseball park, Parque Francisco I. Madero, is one of the LMB’s bigger venues with 14,000 seats. The Saraperos are the defending Mexican League champions after defeating Quintana Roo in the 2009 championship series. Saltillo is also considered the 1980 pennant winner, although that season ended early with a players strike and the formation of a player-run league that ran its own schedule after the LMB called off the rest of their schedule that year.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#16): Mexico City, Distrito Federal