Things were sailing along well enough for the Saltillo Saraperos Friday night. Although the defending Mexican League champions only scored single runs in the second and sixth innings, that was enough support for Saltillo starting pitcher Jose Mercedes as the ex-major leaguer was shutting out visiting Mexico City through the first seven innings of Game Three in the playoff series.
Then Saraperos manager Orlando Sanchez went to his bullpen for the eighth. Bad move.
Relievers Thomas Melgarejo and Mario Mendoza, Jr. combined to allow five runs on five hits and a walk as the Diablos Rojos batted through the order to take a 5-0 lead, and Mexico City scored twice more in the top of the ninth for a 7-2 comeback win in front of 9,855 fans at Saltillo’s Parque Francisco I. Madero. The Red Devils now lead the best-of-7 Mexican League North semifinals, 2 games to 1.
The score was still 2-0 with two out and runners at the corners when Mendoza replaced Melgarejo in the eighth, but Japhet Amador’s RBI single put the Diablos on the board. One walk later and with the bases loaded, Saltillo left fielder Jesus Cota’s throwing error on a Geronimo Gil (pictured) single led to three Mexico City runs crossing the plate on the play and Gil moving to second, putting the Diablos ahead, 4-2. Jose Luis Sandoval’s single brought in Gil to finish the inning’s fireworks with Mexico City holding a 5-2 advantage.
The wheels really came off the wagon for Saltillo in the ninth when Cota and shortstop Jose Rodriguez both commited errors behind new pitcher Cecilio Garibaldi, leading to two more tallies for the visitors, and Diablos closer Francisco Butto came in for a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to nail down the win.
Mexico City outhit Saltillo, 12 to 8, as Gil collected three singles. Willie Romero and Gabriel Martinez each had two hits for the Saraperos while Refugio Cervantes added a solo homer in the second. Reliever David Cortes took the win, while Melgarejo absorbed the loss although no runs scored against him while he was in the game.
The same two teams will battle it out in Game Four on Saturday in Saltillo.
RAIN HALTS GAME IN MONTERREY WITH DORADOS LEADING SULTANES, 6-4
The Chihuahua Dorados were eight outs away from picking up their first win against Monterrey in Game Three of their first round series Friday night, but rains halted the contest with Chihuahua holding a 6-4 lead over the host Sultanes at Estadio Monterrey. Monterrey batter Edgar Quintero was facing a 2-0 count against Dorados reliever Mauro Nieblas with one out in the bottom of the seventh when home plate umpire Oscar Marin suspended the contest due to a driving rain.
Chihuahua got off to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first against Sultanes starter Walter Silva, a former Padres hurler who never made it past the first out of the game. Silva let in five runs on as many hits and three walks before mercifully being lifted for lefty reliever Raul Rodriguez. With the bases loaded and one out and the score already 1-0, a two-run ground rule double by Benji Gil was immediately followed by a two-run single by Wilfredo Arano to make it a 5-0 Chihuahua lead. At that point, Rodriguez entered the game and stopped the bleeding.
Rodriguez did well out of the bullpen for the Sultanes, tossing 4.1 shutout innings as his teammates chipped away at the Dorados lead with a run in the first and two in the fourth. Another Chihuahua score made it a 6-3 ballgame, but Monterrey notched another tally in the sixth. When the game was halted, Gil was working on a 3-for-4 night for Chihuahua while teammate Omar Mendoza had a pair of doubles. Luis Alfonso Garcia had two of Monterrey’s five hits, both singles.
As a result of the rain delay, the Dorados and Sultanes will try to get in two games Saturday. The suspended game will resume at 1:00PM local time. If it’s completed by 3:30, they’ll play again at 5:30. If not, Game Four will be pushed back to Sunday in Monterrey.