Saturday, January 23, 2016

Run holds through nine as Venados win Game Three

The Mazatlan Venados pushed one run across the plate in the bottom of the first inning and made it stand through the rest of their 1-0 shutout of the Mexicali Aguilas in Game Three of the Mexican Pacific League championship series.  The Venados took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the set with the win, which took just two hours, 21 minutes to complete.

After Mazatlan starter Andres Meza (pictured) blanked Mexicali in the top of the first inning, Jeremias Pineda led off the bottom of the frame for the Venados with a liner up the middle into center field.  After advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Justin Greene, Pineda sped in to score on Agustin Murillo's seeing-eye single over second base.  On the play, Aguilas centerfielder Chris Roberson threw a strike to first baseman C.J. Retherford after Murillo rounded first toward second, and Retherford threw the ball to shortstop Ramon Urias, who applied the tag for the out, but the damage was done.

Meza then trotted out to the mound for the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, retiring nine batsmen in a row at one point before allowing consecutive singles to Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Liddi in the fourth (the only two hits he gave up) before retiring Roberson to end the inning followed by a 1-2-3 fifth before calling it a night.  Meza struck out five Aguilas batters and walked none, throwing 38 of his 50 pitches for strikes en route to his third playoff win.

Mexicali made one last-ditch effort in the eighth when Ramon Urias led off with a ground-rule double down the left-field line off Sergio Valenzuela, then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Jon Del Campo.  Walter Ibarra then sent a hard-hit grounder in the gap between first and second that would've scored Urias from third, but Mazatlan first sacker Cyle Hankerd made a diving stop to his right, looked Urias back to his base and tagged first to put Ibarra out.  Steven Hensley then came in for Valenzuela and struck out Retherford swinging to end the threat.  Hensley pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth playoff save.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Aguilas, especially starter Hector Daniel Roriguez, who was brilliant in the first complete-game outing in three rounds of postseason play.  Rodriguez went all eight innings on the hill for Mexicali, scattering five hits (none for extra bases), walking none and striking out six while throwing seven scoreless frames after the fateful first.  Pinedas had two of those hits for the Venados.  Liddi had two hits for the Aguilas, who had seven on the night but none when it mattered as Mexicali was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Game Four will be Sunday in Mazatlan.

MAZATLAN 1-5-1, Mexicali 0-7-1
W-A. Meza (3-1).  L-H. Rodriguez (2-1).  T-2:21.  A-15,400.