Sunday, May 9, 2010

PERICOS BLANKED THREE STRAIGHT TIMES IN VERACRUZ

It was a very strange week for the Mexican League’s Zona Hidalgo-leading Puebla Pericos. After scoring 39 runs in a three-game home sweep of the Minatitan Petroleros between Tuesday and Thursday, the Parrots traveled to Veracruz and failed to score a single run as they lost three straight to the Rojos Aguilas.

Veracruz opened the set Friday night with a 7-0 win over Puebla as minor league veteran Philip Barzilla and reliever Jesus Duenas combined on a four-hitter. Rain washed out Saturday’s game, leading to a Sunday sweep for the Aguilas in a pair of seven-inning games. Rafael Cruz went to 3-0 on the season in his first game since March 24 by giving up three hits over five innings in the opening 3-0 whitewashing before Abraham Elvira also allowed three hits in five frames in Veracruz’ 4-0 nightcap victory as Puebla star Willis Otanez was tossed in the fourth inning after arguing a called third strike by home plate umpire Rafael Calderon. Otanez, who leads the LMB with a .402 average, had just one hit over the three games and struck out four times. Veracruz right fielder Victor Diaz was 4-for-8 in the series with two doubles and a homer.

Despite their embarrassment in Veracruz, the LMB South is still Puebla’s to lose. The Pericos enter the final week of the first half with a 32-13 record, 4.5 games ahead of the surging Oaxaca Guerreros, who’ve obviously put their ballpark problems behind them by winning nine of their last eleven games (including six in a row) to leapfrog past Yucatan into second place with a 28-18 mark. The Leones are third at 27-20.

Oaxaca pitcher Sergio Valenzuela (pictured), a newcomer from Monclova who was suspended for 50 games in 2009 after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, is making the most of his second chance. The former Braves farmhand has won six of seven games to tie Puebla’s Omar Espinoza for the league lead in wins while his 2.79 ERA is seventh in the circuit.

GUTIERREZ WHACKS THREE HOMERS IN REYNOSA WIN OVER SALTILLO

If the Saltillo Saraperos are due any deference from opposing players, nobody told Jesse Gutierrez. The Reynosa third baseman showed the defending Mexican League champions no respect last Friday night, blasting three homers and driving in all eight runs during the Broncos’ 8-0 win in Reynosa.

Gutierrez bludgeoned Saltillo starter Efrain Navares with a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the first to put Reynosa up 4-0, then sent a solo shot off Navares over the left field wall in the fourth to stretch the Broncos lead to 5-0. After singling off Saltillo reliever Fernando Villalobos in the sixth, Gutierrez launched his third bomb of the night (all to left field) with two runners on base in the seventh to close the scoring for Reynosa as Broncos starter Alejandro Astorga combined with two relievers on a one-hitter.

The Broncos went on to defeat the Saraperos, two games to one, over the weekend to inch to within one game of third-place Guadalajara and Saltillo in the Zona Madero standings. Monterrey leads the LMB North with a 30-17 record despite dropping two of three weekend games at home against Mexico City. The Diablos Rojos are two games out of first at 28-19, followed by Saltillo and Guadalajara at 25-22, while Reynosa holds fifth with a 24-23 mark.

DURAZO LET GO BY YAQUIS, LIKELY TO SPEND NEXT WINTER IN MEXICALI

Former Major League first baseman Erubiel Durazo will not be tendered an offer to return to the Obregon Yaquis next winter despite hitting .356 with nine homers in 32 games for the Mexican Pacific League team last season. Durazo began last year on the Mexicali roster before he was loaned to the Yaquis for relief pitcher Hugo Castellanos, who went 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 38 appearances as a middle reliever for the Aguilas. Castellanos is now pitching for Monterrey, where he’s 1-3 and 3.75 in 25 games out of the pen.

Fernando Ballasteros of Puro Beisbol says Durazo is likely to return to Mexicali next winter. Durazo, who hit .281 with 94 homers in seven big league seasons between 1999 and 2005 (including a .321 average with 22 homers and 88 RBIs for Oakland in 2004), now resides in Chandler, Arizona and oversees a successful livestock business, according to Ballasteros.

The Hermosillo native, who attended Pima Community College in Tucson before turning pro, hit .364 for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series but was traded to Oakland prior to the 2003 season. Injuries eventually curtailed Durazo’s MLB career after the 2005 campaign, although he’s since attended spring training with Oakland and Texas while playing AAA ball in the Rangers, Yankees and Twins organizations.

The 6’3” 240-pound left-handed batter spent part of last summer with the Monterrey Sultanes, batting .245 with no homers in 14 games. Durazo was one of a number of players ruled ineligible to play in the Mexican League this year because he did not sign a contract prior to a preseason deadline.