Monday, May 16, 2016

Monterrey closing gap on Monclova in LMB North; Diablos' Alfonzo average at .420

The Monterrey Sultanes have won three straight games to bring their Mexican League record up to 23-14, coming to within a game-and-a-half of North Division-leading Monclova, who fell to 25-13 after dropping two of three at home to Laguna.

The Sultanes outscored the Broncos, 5-2, in eleven innings Friday in Reynosa as 2,848 spectators at Estadio Adolfo Lopez Mateos looked on.  Monterrey starter Javier Solano put in eight strong innings on the mound, allowing two runs on five hits over eight innings while walking none, but the righty left the game trailing 2-1 as the Monterrey offense couldn't get untracked against Broncos hurler Ivan Maldonado, who gave up two hits (including a Luis Flores solo homer) in six frames.  The Sultanes knotted the score in the top of the ninth and took a 5-2 lead in the eleventh on RBI singles by Ramon Rios and Humberto Cota and a run-scoring triple from hot-hitting Walter Ibarra, who'd doubled earlier.  It was then left to reliever Marcos Rivas to close out the win with his first save of the year.  The win went to Wirfin Obispo, who pitched the ninth and tenth.  Jesus Duenas allowed all three Sultanes runs in the eleventh and took the loss.  The two teams were washed out both Saturday and Sunday, and a twinbill was scheduled Monday in Reynosa as makeup games.

Meanwhile in the LMB South, Puebla took all three games of a weekend home series against Tabasco, capped by a 9-4 triumph Sunday over the Olmecas in front of 4,715 at Eastadio Hermanos Serdan.  The game was scoreless through the top of the fourth the Pericos plated three runs in the bottom of the stanza and tacked on five more in the fifth to give starter Hector Galvan some breathing room.  The Monterrey native scattered two runs and eight hits over seven innings to bring his record to 4-1, not bad for a guy with a 5.70 ERA after his eighth start of the year and proving that when you pitch for a team scoring 6.37 runs per game, you can afford to be generous.  Nyjer Morgan had an RBI single in the fourth inning and a two-run double in the fifth to bring his average to .342 on the season.  The win was Puebla's fourth straight and 15th in their past 16 games, giving the Pericos a Liga-best 27-11 record, four games better than 23-15 Quintana Roo in the South.

Also over the weekend, the Oaxaca Guerreros snapped a five game losing skid with a win at Tabasco Thursday and a three-game battering of Veracruz at home, outscoring the Rojo Aguilas by a composite 35-12 over the set.  Yancarlo Angula had four hits of the Guerreros' 16 safeties during Sunday's 16-8 rout of Veracruz with 1,240 warm bodies in the seats at Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos.  Oaxaca broke the contest open early with eight second-inning scores as 13 Warriors came to the plate, starting with Brett Harper's homer to right on Remberto Romo's second pitch of the inning.  The Guerreros still have a long way to go to overcome their 0-11 start to the season, but new manager Houston Jimenez may be starting to turn things around.  A team ERA of 5.52 won't get it done, however.

Mexico City catcher Eliezer Alfonzo (pictured above) has taken over the LMB batting race with a .420 average over 28 games.  The 37-year-old Alfonzo missed all of last season and didn't appear in a game this year until being signed by the Diablos Rojos as a free agent April 15.  The former Giants receiver went 5-for-5 at Saltillo on May 5 and turned in a 4-for-6 night Saturday at Tijuana.  Never a gazelle, Alfonzo has two stolen bases this year after recording just 26 swipes over 19 seasons as a pro.  Monterrey's Ibarra is second at .394 while Puebla's Cesar Tapia is tied for third with the Tigres' Esteban Quiroz at .390.

Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez whacked two homers last week to increase his season total to 12, an incredible number for a guy who'd previously hit a total of 46 longballs in 13 minor league seasons.  Quintana Roo teammates Quiroz and Alex Liddi each have 10 dingers to tie for second place.  Hernandez also still leads the LMB in runs batted in with 49 in 39 games, ten more than Quiroz' 39.  Mario Lisson of Saltillo is third in RBI's with 37.  Lisson's Seraperos teammate, Justin Greene, tops the loop with 15 steals, two more than Puebla's Morgan.

Although the LMB has been considered a "hitter's league" for decades, there've been some strong pitching performances over the first six weeks of the 2016 campaign.  Tijuana's Hector Ambriz' 0.96 ERA leads all starters after seven starts (he's 3-1 for the Toros), but it's hard to find anyone who's looked better on the hill than Josh Lowey, who's 6-2 for Monclova.  The 31-year-old Floridian, who kicked around the U.S. independent leagues for six years before signing with the Acereros in 2014, is tied for the LMB lead with 6 wins, matching teammate Jose Oyervides and Mexico City's David Reyes, his 62 strikeouts leads Oyervides by 15 whiffs in that category and his 2.09 ERA ranks fifth.

Then again, Oyervides could stake a claim as the best pitcher in the league because his 6-1 record and 47 strikeouts over 41 frames comes with a 1.32 ERA, second to Ambriz.  Yet another Monclova pitcher, closer Arcenio Leon, has 16 saves in 18 opportunities.  The 12th-year pro had never saved more than 8 games prior to the current season.

NORTH: Monclova 25-13, Monterrey 23-14, Tijuana 22-17, Aguascalientes 20-19, Laguna 20-19, Mexico City 20-19, Saltillo 19-20, Reynosa 12-23
SOUTH: Puebla 27-11, Quintana Roo 23-15, Yucatan 22-16, Campeche 20-18, Tabasco 15-24, Carmen 13-26, Veracruz 13-26, Oaxaca 12-26