Monday, May 30, 2016

Sultanes catch up to Acereros, All-Star Break ahead

As the Mexican League's five-day All-Star break approaches, the Monterrey Sultanes have taken advantage of a four-game Monclova losing streak to pull into a tie atop the LMB's North Division standings.

Not that the Sultanes have been playing like world-beaters themselves over the past week, losing two of three games in both a series at Monclova and a set at home against Tijuana.  However, Monterrey's 11-6 win over the Acereros last Thursday kicked off the Monclova skid that included being swept in Aguascalientes as both teams ended the weekend with identical 32-19 records while the Rieleros vaulted into third place in the LMB North at 29-21.  Tijuana is fourth with a 29-22 mark, three game behind the co-leaders.

Monterrey pulled into their first-place tie with a 3-0 shutout of the Toros at home Sunday.  Starter Marco Tovar (pictured) scattered three hits over seven innings for the win to go to 2-4 on the season.  Ex-major leaguer Horacio Ramirez dropped to 0-3 with a 7.00 ERA for Tijuana after allowing all three Sultanes runs (including a two-run homer from Alex Valdez) over five innings.

While Monterrey was avoiding getting swept at home, Monclova dropped a 9-4 decision at Aguascalientes.  The Acereros led that one, 3-1, until the bottom of the sixth inning, when the Railroaders put three runs on the board to take the lead.  One inning later, Aguascalientes scored four more times to put the game out of reach and went on to beat the Steelers, 9-4, collecting 17 hits on the way.  Brian Burgamy and Jesse Castillo each had three hits for the winners (with Castillo socking a solo homer in the eighth) while Eliezer Ortiz drove in three runs.  Jose Amador swatted his eleventh longball of the year for Monclova.

In the LMB South, Puebla won two of three home games against Veracruz before traveling to Campeche and doing the same against the Piratas over the weekend, although Campeche did pull out a comeback ten-inning win over the Pericos, 4-3, Sunday night at Parque Nelson Barrera.  The Piratas were trailing, 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth when Francisco Rivera lined a two-out single to left off reliever Chad Gaudin, ultimately sending the game into extra innings.  After John Yan retired Puebla without a score in the top of the tenth, Piratas third sacker C.J. Retherford rerouted Pericos hurler Benny Suarez' first pitch of the game over the left field wall for a walk-off homer, his eighth roundtripper of the season.

Despite the loss, Puebla still leads Yucatan by 5.5 games while Quintana Roo trails the leaders by 6.5 games.  Campeche evened their record at 25-25 in fourth place, five games up on 20-30 Oaxaca, who've won won eight of their last ten as new manager Houston Jimenez has breathed some life into the Guerreros since taking the helm earlier this month.  All 16 Liga teams will play three-game series from Monday through Wednesday before taking five days off while the All-Star Weekend is held in Monterrey.  The Sultanes will host Mexico City for a set, Monclova is at home against Saltillo and Puebla will be at Carmen.

Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia still leads the LMB in batting with a .398 average, six points ahead of Mexico City backstop Eliezer Alfonzo's .392.  Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez went a second week without hitting a homer, and now owns a share of the Liga lead in that category with 12, along with Quintana Roo third baseman Alex Liddi and Monclova first baseman Alex Ruiz, who hit one dinger against Monterrey last Wednesday and two bombs in Aguascalientes two nights later.  Hernandez still leads the league in RBI's with 59, 15 ahead of his nearest rivals.  Saltillo outfielder Justin Greene continues to top the loop in stolen bases with 18 swipes, three up on Puebla's Nyjer Morgan.

Tijuana pitcher Hector Ambriz hasn't pitched since a May 22 start against Aguascalientes but his 1.23 ERA is still best in the circuit.  Mexico City starter David Reyes is 8-0 in ten starts to share the LMB lead in wins along with Monclova's ace Josh Lowey, whose 8-2 record comes with a 1.78 ERA and a Liga-best 78 strikeouts over 65.2 innings pitched.  Lowey's moundmate on the Acereros, Jose Oyervides, has been almost as effective, posting a 7-1 record with a 1.78 ERA.  However, the 34-year-old McAllen, Texas native has not pitched since going eight innings against Reynosa May 17.