Monday, July 25, 2011

ORTEGA TOSSES NO-HITTER AS TIGRES CLINCH LMB SOUTH TOP BERTH

Pablo Ortega has been one of the top pitchers in Mexico for years: Not a guy who’ll blow batters away with speed or filthy breaking pitches, but a pitcher who genuinely “pitches” and relies on fooling batters. Sunday, he had the potent Veracruz lineup (including sluggers Jorge Guzman and Victor Diaz) entirely fooled, save for one patient batter.

The crafty 34-year-old righty registered the first no-hitter of the season as the Quintana Roo Tigres defeated the Aguilas, 10-0, beofre 4,270 fans in Veracruz’ Parque Universitario Beto Avila. And it was almost as efficient a no-no as you’ll ever see, as Ortega retired the first 25 hitters he faced until issuing a walk to Leo Rodriguez with one out in the bottom of the ninth before setting down the last two batters he faced. With the win, the former Tampa Bay farmhand improved to 10-3 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.29 in the hitter-friendly Mexican League. As if the Tigres needed any more reason to celebrate, the win clinched the LMB South title for the Cancun side, who lead Campeche by 4.5 games with four left to play until the postseason.

Besides throwing the eighth no-hitter in the Tigres’ 57-year history (and the first since 2004), Ortega’s gem capped a year of vindication. After winning 36 of 49 decisions between 2007 and 2009, the Nuevo Laredo native suffered a horrible 2010 campaign, going 2-6 with an 8.24 ERA and causing some to wonder if he’d finally run out of gas after 113 wins over 14 professional seasons.

Instead, it would appear that Pablo Ortega still has a Tigre in his tank.