Saturday, January 30, 2010

HERMOSILLO WINS 1-0 GAME 7 THRILLER TO COP MEX PAC TITLE

Reliever Jose Vargas set down the Mazatlan Venados in a 1-2-3 ninth inning Saturday night to seal the Hermosillo Naranjeros’ 1-0 win over the home team, cinching the Mexican Pacific League pennant in the seventh and deciding game of the League Championship Series.

Hermosillo center fielder Chris Roberson (pictured) led off the game with a triple to the center field wall, and was subsequently driven across home plate on a fly ball to right by Vinny Castilla for what would be the game’s only run. The Naranjeros collected only three hits on the night, but Mazatlan was able to gather just six singles in the contest themselves in a fabulous pitcher’s duel between Naranjeros starter Juan Delgadillo and Mazatlan’s Walter Silva.

Delgadillo tossed shutout ball until being pulled with two out in the eighth, scattering those six hits and a walk on three strikeouts for the win. For his part, Silva pitched beautifully for Mazatlan over eight full innings, allowing just two hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts for the defending champion Venados, who were seeking their fourth title in six years.

REST OF CARIBBEAN SERIES FIELD SET

The other three leagues sending teams to the Caribbean Series have also concluded their respective playoffs, rounding out the field playing this week in Isla Margarita, Venezuela.

The Dominican League was the first to crown a champion, as the Escogido Leones topped the Cibao Gigantes, 5-3, last Thursday in Game Nine at Estadio Julian Javier in San Francisco de Macoris. Francisco Liriano (pictured) won his third postseason game by pitching five innings of one-hit shutout ball for Escogido.

Two more champions were crowned Friday night. The Caracas Leones topped Magallenes, 7-2, to take the seventh and deciding game of the Venezuelan Series as Carlos Maldonado was 4-for-5 at the plate with a double and two RBIs. Gregor Blanco added a solo homer to back up Caracas starter Jason Standridge, who let in one run in six innings.

Also, the Mayaguez Indios had to go eleven innings Friday before finally vanquishing the Caguas Criollos, 8-6, to win the Puerto Rican League Championship Series in five games. Angel Sanchez had four hits with a run and two RBIs for Mayaguez while Edwards Guzman knocked in a pair of runs as the Indios clinched their first trip to the CS since 2005.

CS PLAY TO OPEN TUESDAY IN VENEZUELA

With the four-team field set, the 2010 Caribbean Series will open play Tuesday with a pair of games at Isla Margarita, Venezuela. Mayaguez will take on Escogido at 3PM Tuesday, followed by an 8PM nightcap between Hermosillo and host team Caracas.

The six-day tournament will feature a double round-robin schedule among the four teams. The Mex Pac champion Naranjeros will also take on Escogido at 3PM Wednesday before squaring off against Mayaguez on Thursday, also at 3PM.
Hermosillo then begins their second run against CS opponents Friday night at 8 against Caracas, Saturday at 3PM versus Escogido and wrapping up Sunday afternoon at 3 against Mayaguez. As the host team, Caracas will play in all six night games, while each other team will play four afternoon games and two under the lights.

All Caribbean Series games will be played at Estadio Nueva Esparta.

DORADOS, TECOS APPEAR TO HAVE OWNERSHIP ISSUES SETTLED

Two Mexican League teams under scrutiny in the offseason have been the Chihuahua Dorados and Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes after LMB president Plinio Escalante told both franchises they needed to clarify their ownership situations in order to field Liga teams in 2010.

The clarifications have apparently come to pass. The Dorados are being leased to a Chihuahua group headed by Mario Rodriguez by team owner Jose Maiz (pictured). Maiz, who was elected to the Salon de la Fama in 2002, also owns the Monterrey Sultanes. The Mexican League allows people to own multiple teams.

Meanwhile, according to Puro Beisbol, the Tecolotes have submitted papers outlining their ownership structure, naming Victor Manuel Ordonez their new team president. Ordonez will replace longtime Nuevo Laredo baseball figure Victor Lozano at the top of the team.

OSUNA SIGNS ONE-YEAR DEAL WITH KANASAS CITY

Left-handed pitcher Edgar Osuna has agreed to a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals for 2010. Osuna was picked by the Royals in this winter’s Rule 5 draft after spending several seasons in the Atlanta Braves organization.

A native of Mazatlan, Osuna was signed by Atlanta as an undrafted 16-year-old free agent in 2004. He ultimately began his minor league career in 2006 with the Braves’ rookie team in the Gulf Coast League. Osuna worked his way up the Atlanta system, splitting the 2009 season between Myrtle Beach of the Class A Carolina League and Mississippi of the Class AA Southern League. Overall, his minor league career record is 22-19 with a 3.38 ERA in four years. Baseball America ranked Osuna as Atlanta’s 17th best prospect last year.

Osuna spent time this winter pitching for Mazatlan, posting a 2-0 record and 1.80 ERA in 16 appearances for the Venados before the Royals shut him down.

VALENZUELA TRADED AGAIN, THIS TIME TO OAXACA

You can’t blame Sergio Valenzuela if he’s hesitant to sign a long-term lease on an apartment these days. The ill-fated pitcher has been traded for the second time since the end of the 2009 Mexican League season, this time to the Oaxaca Guerreros.

Valenzuela’s odyssey began when he was initially dealt in the offseason by the Monclova Acereros to Quintana Roo. Then, on January 25, the Tigres shipped Valenzuela to Oaxaca in exchange for young catcher Jose Francisco Cordova.

The 25-year-old righty was 3-1 with a 3.11 ERA for Monclova last summer, but his season was most notable for his 50-game suspension handed down by the Mexican League after testing positive for amphetamine use. A former Atlanta Braves farmhand, Valenzuela has spent the winter pitching for Mazatlan, going 4-4 with a 4.65 ERA over the regular season and is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Venados in the playoffs.

MATEO INKS CONTRACT WITH LAGUNA FOR 2010

Major league veteran infielder Henry Mateo will open the upcoming 2010 Mexican League season in Torreon with the Laguna Vaqueros.

The 33-year-old Dominican spent last summer with the pennant-winning Durham Bulls of the Class AAA International League, batting .277 in 82 contests. Mateo has split this winter between Del Este of the Dominican League and Los Mochis of the Mexican Pacific League. After hitting just .167 in 16 games for the Toros, he finished the regular season with Mochis by batting .308 over 16 games for the Caneros.

Mateo was Montreal’s second round draft pick in 1997, and made his big league debut with the Expos in 2001. He moved with the team to Washington in 2005. In 190 games over six MLB seasons, Mateo batted .233 with one homer, 15 stolen bases and 39 runs scored.

Mateo will be expected to take over second base in Laguna for 2009 Mexican League MVP Dionys Cesar, who will play in Japan this year.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE 2009-10 League Championship Series Results

FRIDAY, January 22
MAZATLAN 5, Hermosillo 0
Christian Quintero went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and Ruben Rivera hit a 2-run homer to lead the Veandos’ series opener win.

SATURDAY, January 23
Hermosillo 4, MAZATLAN 2
Vinny Castilla homered and Travis Blackley tossed 5.2 shutout innings as the Naranjeros evened the title set.

SUNDAY, January 24
No games scheduled

MONDAY, January 25
Mazatlan 8, HERMOSILLO 7
Ruben Rivera homered and drove in 3 runs while Jon Weber had 3 hits, 2 runs and an RBI as the Venados copped a road win.

TUESDAY, January 26
HERMOSILLO 7, Mazatlan 2
Chris Roberson had 4 hits with a homer and 4 RBI (just missing the cycle by a triple) to help the Naranjeros knot the series at 2-2.

WEDNESDAY, January 27
HERMOSILLO 9, Mazatlan 0
Edgar Gonzalez pitched a five-hit shutout with support from Karim Garcia’s 3-run homer and Luis Alfonso Garcia’s 2-run blast.

THURSDAY, January 28
No games scheduled

FRIDAY, January 29
MAZATLAN 4, Hermosillo 3
Sergio Gastelum singled in the go-ahead run in the 8th. Gastelum had 3 RBIs and Ruben Rivera hit his 3rd homer of the finals.

SATURDAY, January 30
Hermosillo 1, Mazatlan 0
Juan Delgadillo pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball as Vinny Castilla’s flyout drove in Chris Roberson with the game’s lone run.


2010 CARIBBEAN SERIES SCHEDULE
Estadio Nueva Esparta (Isla Margarita, Venezuela)

TUE, 2/2 Puerto Rico @ Dominican Republic 3pm, Mexico @ Venezuela 8pm
WED, 2/3 Dominican Republic @ Mexico 3pm, Venezuela @ Puerto Rico 8pm
THU, 2/4 Mexico @ Puerto Rico 3pm, Venezuela @ Dominican Republic 8pm
FRI, 2/5 Dominican Republic @ Puerto Rico 3pm, Venezuela @ Mexico 8pm
SAT, 2/6 Mexico @ Dominican Republic 3pm, Puerto Rico @ Venezuela 8pm
SUN, 2/7 Puerto Rico @ Mexico 3pm, Dominican Republic @ Venezuela 8pm

DR-Escogido Leones, MEX-Hermosillo Naranjeros, PR-Mayaguez Indios, VEN-Caracas Leones.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #18): Veracruz, Veracruz

Veracruz is a city full of life and history. With about 500,000 residents, it sits on the Gulf of Mexico and ranks as one of the wettest and most humid cities in the country. It was the first town in Mexico to be founded by the Spanish conquistadores, just days after Hernando Cortes landed on Good Friday of 1519. The original site was just to the north of the present city, but the Spaniards finally settled on the current location by 1589. Veracruz immediately became Mexico’s most important seaport, a position it would hold well into the last century. As a result, it has also been the scene of many military battles over the centuries.

In addition to the Spanish, Veracruz has been occupied twice each by French and U.S.A. forces during the past 200 years, most recently in 1914 when U.S. Marines took over to protect their government’s interests during the Mexican Revolution of that time.

Despite a somewhat somber military history, Veracruz is one of the liveliest cities in Mexico. The annual nine-day winter Carnaval celebrated there ranks among the most-raucous on the American continent, and the Festival del Caribe in late August features a huge celebration of the arts. While tourism has never been a centerpiece of Veracruz’ economy, people who do visit find it one of the most fun-loving and enjoyable places in the country.

The cultural center of Veracruz is the Plaza de las Armas, a tree-filled square that has been occupied by locals and visitors (some of them belonging to invading armies) for generations. There is perpetual activity at this Zocalo from morning through night. The Plaza de las Armas is surrounded by shops and restaurants, as well as the Municipal Palace (which was built in 1608 and renovated in the 1700’s) and the Virgen de la Asuncion cathedral, which dates back to 1731. Veracruz’ port features the Pemex Tower, a crafts market, several prominent old buildings and a miles-long Malecon seaside walkway similar to that in Mazatlan.

Baseball has had a long, storied history in Veracruz, too. The Rojos Aguilas team in the LMB dates back to the 1930’s, and the city has been home to five Liga champions (although the last pennant came in 1970). “Cool Papa” Bell won the first Triple Crown in Mexican League history in 1940 playing under legendary strongman owner Jorge Pasquel. Veracruz has been one of the true hotbeds for baseball in Mexico for many years, and today many players call the state home.

The modern-day Red Eagles play their Liga home games at Parque Beto Avila, one of the smallest venues in Mexico with seating for about 7,000 fans. Veracruz is also home to a winter baseball league that draws many Mexican League veterans, and is said by some to be on a par competitively with the western Mexican Pacific League.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#19): Minatitlan, Veracruz