Sunday, November 15, 2015

MEXICALI NEARING MEXPAC FIRST HALF TITLE

After losing 4-2 Sunday night at home to Los Mochis, the 20-12 Mexicali Aguilas will have to hold off the Caneros to clinch the Mexican Pacific League’s first half championship and pick up eight points toward a January playoff berth.  The Caneros are one game behind Mexicali at 19-13 with three games left to play in the half, which ends Thursday.

Under manager Edgar Gonzalez, a former San Diego Padres infielder whose brother Adrian is currently a Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star first baseman, the Aguilas lead all LMP teams with a .312 batting average that includes four starters topping the .300 mark.  Outfielder Welington Dotel (right), a former Mariners farmhand who was MVP of the independent Atlantic League this summer playing for Bridgeport, tops the circuit in five offensive categories including a .414 average, 15 stolen bases and 7 triples.  One-time White Sox minor league 3B C.J. Retherford is hitting .345, OF Chris Roberson (a four-time Mexican League All-Star and the 2014 Caribbean Series MVP) is at .333 and ex-MLB SS Yuniesky Betancourt, who now plays 1B, carries a .272 average with a team-high 6 homers for Mexicali.

Mexicali’s pitching is also impressive, with the Aguilas second in the loop behind Mazatlán with a 3.45 ERA.  Javier Solano has won an LMP-leading 6 games in 7 starts with a 3.38 ERA.  Solano’s early success is almost as surprising as Dotel’s after he went 11-14 (5.48 ERA) the past two summers for Monterrey in the LMP.  The Eagles wrap up the half by hosting Culiacan for three games at El Nido ("The Nest").

Four teams are battling for third place behind Mexicali and the Caneros, who are hoping to overtake the Aguilas  when they close out the half at home against hapless Hermosillo.  Mazatlan has won seven straight games to vault into third at 18-14, a game ahead of 17-15 Obregon.  After a hot start, Navojoa has lost seven in a row to drop to 16-16 and a fifth-place tie while Jalisco.  Struggling Culiacan holds seventh at 12-20 and Hermosillo, who has suffered through a disastrous first half, brings up the rear with a 10-22 mark under skipper Jose Luis Sandoval.  Nineteen pitchers have already taken the mound for the Naranjeros this season, none with more than two wins.  Winterball being taken more seriously south of the border than it is to the north, Sandoval may be excused for whistling in the dark.

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