Monday, May 17, 2010

MONTERREY HOLDS OFF SALTILLO FOR FIRST HALF NORTH CROWN

Although Monterrey won only two games last week, that was enough to give the Sultanes a 32-21 record and a two-game lead over the 30-23 Saltillo Saraperos at the end of first half play in the Mexican League’s Zona Madero, good for eight points in the season-long battle for a playoff berth in August.

The Sultanes have been led offensively by outfielder Luis Alfonso Garcia, who’s batting .366 and leads the Liga with 15 homers, 60 RBIs and a .710 slugging percentage. Monterrey’s 4.16 ERA is tops among teams in the LMB North. Veteran right-hander Jonathan Castellanos tossed six shutout innings in a 3-0 win at Monclova Saturday to raise his record to 5-1 while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.37. Castellanos has not lost a game since mid-March.

Saltillo won seven of their last ten games to pull past Mexico City into second place in the LMB North to earn seven first-half points in the bargain. First baseman Sandy Madera is fourth in the Liga with a .392 batting average to lead a balanced attack, and reliever Esteban Hernandez has gone 6-0 in 26 appearances out of the bullpen to lead the team in wins.

Elsewhere in the Zona Madero, Mexico City faded into a third-place tie with streaking Reynosa, who has won five of their past six games. Both teams ended the first half a game behind Saltillo at 29-24. Surprising Chihuahua scored 38 runs in two consecutive games last week en route to finishing the first half in fifth place in the LMB North at 28-25, two games out of second place. Laguna (25-28), Nuevo Laredo (20-33) and Monclova (19-34) all finished below .500. Nuevo Laredo has hit just 14 homers in their first 53 games.

PERICOS GET BATS BACK ON TRACK TO WIN LMB SOUTH FIRST HALF TITLE

After an embarrassing series in Veracruz in which they were shut out three consecutive times, the potent Puebla Pericos woke up to score 58 runs while winning five of six home games last week to clinch the Zona Hidalgo’s first half title. The Parrots scored 35 runs during a sweep of Yucatan before notching 23 more tallies against Quintana Roo, with only a 9-8 Friday loss to the Tigres blemishing their week.

Puebla finished 37-15 to cruise to the first half crown in the LMB South by 7.5 games over second-place Oaxaca. Pitcher Omar Espinoza (pictured) is 7-2 to tie Oaxaca’s Sergio Valenzuela for the LMB lead in wins. The Los Mochis native won his seventh game last Wednesday against Yucatan despite allowing five runs in six innings, which gives a hint as to how the Pericos have been winning games this year. After getting just one hit in that three-game whitewashing in Veracruz, first baseman Willis Otanez went on a 15-of-25 tear last week (including a 4-hit game against Quintana Roo) to build his league-leading batting average back up to .427. As a team, Puebla leads the LMB tables with a .337 average as seven of the Liga’s 16 clubs are north of the .300 mark.

Oaxaca finished the first half with a 30-22 record, a half-game ahead of 29-22 Quintana Roo. The Guerreros have benefited from Valenzuela’s pitching, obviously, while newcomer Jolbert Cabrera has fit like a glove by batting .393 (third in the Liga behind Otanez and Puebla’s Luis Suarez’ .395 mark). The Tigres have also been led by an ex-MLB player on offense as Jose Fernandez has hit .377 and crashed 13 homers in 45 games. Yucatan took fourth in the LMB South with a 28-25 mark, but the Leones’ pitching (traditionally among the best in the circuit) has been uncharacteristically weak with just a 5.22 ERA, eleventh in the Liga.
Among other Zona Hidalgo teams, Veracruz was 24-29 in the first half. The Rojos Aguilas have been sort of an all-or-nothing team, standing second in the LMB with 51 homers but ranking last in batting (.255) and runs scored (431). Tabasco (22-31) and Campeche (21-31) had poor first halves, although the Olmecas won eight of their last ten games, while Minatitlan (17-34) was just plain dreadful.

KOREAN TEAM RELEASES P EDGAR GONZALEZ

There is now just one Edgar Gonzalez playing pro ball in Asia. One of them, the former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher, was released last week by the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization after going 0-6 with a 7.68 ERA in nine starts (although his last start was decent enough as he allowed two runs in six innings of work). He had reportedly signed with LG for over $200,000 in the offseason.

The other Edgar Gonzalez, an ex-San Diego Padres infielder (pictured), has had his own struggles with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League, batting .221 with one homer in 24 games as a part-timer.