Friday, July 15, 2011

DIABLOS, TIGRES CLINCH LIGA PLAYOFF BERTHS

Although they’ve taken decidedly different routes to their identical records, both the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Quintana Roo Tigres have become the first teams to clinch berths in the Mexican League playoffs this season.

The Diablos have fashioned a 57-36 record by essentially bludgeoning their competition into submission. Mexico City is batting .330 as a team this year while belting an LMB-best 169 homers en route to scoring an average of 7.6 runs per game. Although Mexico City’s pitching is showing a hefty 5.18 ERA, that’s been more than enough to give the Diablos a five-game lead in the LMB North over second place Monterrey.

On the other hand, the Tigres offense is less than overwhelming with a .277 team average, 13th among the 14 Liga teams. The Cancun club is tied for third in the LMB with 113 homers (led by Iker Franco’s 23 bombs and Doug Clark’s 18), but this is a side that’s 57-36 and six games ahead of Veracruz in the Southern Zone because of pitching. The Tigres have a 4.30 ERA (second among Liga teams) and their 1.46 WHIP is tops in the circuit. While there’s no Bobby Cramer on the staff this year, crafty Pablo Ortega (9-2/2.91) leads a solid rotation and Sandy Nin (pictured) has won or saved 30 games out of the bullpen.

At this stage of the season it's easy to envision these two longtime rivals meeting in the Championship Series next month, but there'll be the matter of two playoff rounds to attend to first and. as Saltillo proved last year, clinching a division title in July doesn't guarantee a pennant in August.