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.