Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bullpen, Hensley key to Mazatlan's CS success

While the Mazatlan Venados have certainly had their share of offensive heroes after three wins in as many games at the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic, the greatest share of credit for the success of the Mexican Pacific League champions this week may go to the team's relatively anonymous bullpen.

It's pretty hard to ignore how Sebastian Valle has the CS lead with five RBI's after whacking two doubles in Tuesday's 9-3 trouncing of Cuban champs Ciego de Avila, going 2-for-4 in the only game he's played; Esteban Quiroz (.444), Cyle Hankerd (.400) and Justin Greene (.385) are all among the tournament's top ten batters with Yuniesky Betancourt (.333) and Chris Roberson (.308) also faring well at the plate.  The Venados are second among the five CS teams with a .260 average.

Mazatlan's three starting pitchers thus far (Hector Rodriguez, Eddie Gamboa and Alejandro Soto) have all had fair showings, combining for a 3.91 ERA over 16.1 innings, but the Venados bullpen has been almost lights-out. Steven Hensley, who finished the regular season with 22 saves, one behind Los Mochis' record-tying closer Andres Avila, leads the CS with two saves after two scoreless outings.  Hensley is only part of the story, however.

Venados manager Juan Jose Pacho brought 14 pitchers to the Dominican Republic and he has not been afraid to use them.  After bringing in three relievers in Monday's win over host Escogido, Pacho called in five men from the bullpen Tuesday against Ciego de Avila before waving in seven during Wednesday's win against Venezuelan pennant-winners Aragua.  The result among the ten men who've trotted in from the pen is an ERA of 1.69, with Jake Sanchez' two-run eighth Wednesday against Aragua the only hiccup over 10.2 innings in 15 combined appearances from non-starters.  Arturo Barradas has a CS-best two holds in two hitless times on the mound, Esmailin Caridad has only allowed one walk in two trips and Terance Marin (a starter before Mazatlan added him as a reinforcement) pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts against the Dominicans in Monday's opener.

After Thursday's bye, the Venados will close out the round-robin first stage Friday at 2:30PM Eastern against Puerto Rico's storied Santurce Cangrejeros.  Regardless of Friday's outcome, Mazatlan's three wins have already punched their ticket to Saturday's semifinals.