Friday, July 1, 2011

LIGA PLAYOFF FIELD TAKING SHAPE AS FINAL MONTH BEGINS

Although it’s still a little early to start ordering tickets to playoff games in August, the haves and have-nots are showing a real sense of separation as the Mexican League enters the final month of its regular season schedule.

In the LMB North, Mexico City (49-34) and Reynosa (48-36) have been jockeying for first place for most of the season, Monterrey (46-39) plays well enough on the road to be a real postseason darkhorse and Puebla (40-40) is likely to finish fourth but unlikely to go far in the playoffs. Laguna (37-48) has won seven in a row to pull out of the cellar, Monclova (36-49) has never made a serious run this year and Saltillo (35-49) has looked nothing like the two-time champions they are.

In the LMB South, Quintana Roo (52-32) has the best record in the Liga and odds-on favorite for a Finals berth. Surprising Veracruz (46-39) is battling Oaxaca (42-37) and Campeche (43-38) for the second seed and home-field advantage in the first round. Tabasco (38-46), Yucatan (37-47) and Minatitlan (35-50) are the also-rans at this point, with the Leones as disappointing as Veracruz has been pleasantly surprising in 2011.

One facet of the July schedule to watch is that throughout July, all series will be two-game affairs instead of the usual three-game sets. Veteran-laden teams are likely to suffer from the shorter turnarounds and extra bus rides as clubs play three series per week instead of two. If the standings change, this will be a factor.