Monday, August 1, 2016
The visiting Saltillo Saraperos were leading archrival Monterrey, 12-10, in the bottom of the ninth, but the host Sultanes had Agustin Murillo standing on second base with two out when pinch-hitter Arturo Rodriguez swatted a pitch from closer Tony Pena over the wall above the left-field foul pole that third-base umpire Hugo Torres ruled foul, bringing Monterrey manager Felix Fermin out of the dugout to appeal the call, which was reversed by the crew into a game-tying, two-run homer. At that point, Saltillo skipper Francisco "Paquin" Estrada and his coaches emerged from the Saraperos dugout to protest the reversal and the battle was on.
When the dust finally settled, the call stood (Monterrey eventually won, 16-14, in twelve innings) but things got ugly enough that the LMB has handed out the following suspensions and fines: Saltillo skipper Estrada was suspended a total of three games and fined $14,608 for insulting umpires Torres and Jair Fernandez upon his ejection, then remaining in the dugout following his expulsion; Saraperos coaches Fernando Elizondo and Luis Carlos Martinez will each miss a game due to their use of abusive language to the men in blue; Saltillo right fielder Carlos Alvarez was suspended for a game and fined $3,652 for using foul language and threatening Torres; and relief pitcher Rudy Gonzalez was suspended for the rest of the season after head-butting Torres during the argument. Saltillo's entire coaching staff was given a blanket warning by the LMB that if they engage in similar behavior again, strong sanctions will come their way.
Even the umpires were not unscathed, although it was for what was NOT done Saturday. Home plate umpire Fernandez was suspended two games and fined $3,000 for taking an inordinate amount of time to consult with his crewmates on Fermin's appeal, reversing the initial decision of his companions "without the strong elements to do so" ("sin tener los elementos contundentes para hacerlo"), failing to maintain control of the argument between Saltillo team members and coaches and the umpires and no applying a regulation that calls for a forfeit if an argument lasts more than 20 minutes.
The first-place Sultanes have won their last six games to improve to 66-34 on the season, becoming the first team in the LMB North Division to clinch a playoff berth with eleven games left on the schedule. Monclova (62-39) is in second place, Tijuana (61-41) is third and Laguna (56-46) holds the fourth and final playoff berth, five games ahead of Mexico City (50-50). Saltillo is next-to-last at 44-56. Puebla (68-32), Yucatan (67-32), Quintana Roo (61-41) and Campeche (52-47) have all punched their tickets to the postseason.
Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia (.374) has a comfortable lead in the batting race, Monterrey third baseman Alex Valdez (whose two-run walkoff homer in the twelfth won Saturday's game) now has a Liga-best 27 longballs, Aguascalientes shortstop Diory's 90 RBI's tops the circuit and Saltillo outfielder Justin Greene's 32 stolen bases is one more than Christian Zazueta of Saltillo. Among pitchers, departed Monclova ace Josh Lowey's 1.66 ERA and 131 strikeouts both remain best among the loop's hurlers, Cuban exile Yoanner Negrin is 16-1 for Yucatan to lead in wins and Monclova closer Arcenio Leon has 32 saves, one up on Puebla's Chad Gaudin.
Puebla has a pair of crucial LMB South series this week, starting with a three-game midweek set in Cancun against the Tigres and continuing next weekend with three more against Yucatan in Merida. In the North, Aguascalientes tries to stay in the race as they host Laguna from Tuesday through Thursday while Monterrey has a big series in Tijuana starting Friday night.
Northern Mexico League playoff semis underway
The Northern Mexico League's regular season has concluded and the Mexican League's AA minor circuit is currently in the midst of their playoff semifinals.
The San Quintin Freseros, Ensenada Marineros and Mexicali Centinales all finished the schedule with identical 42-32 records to lead the composite LNM standings, but the Freseros got the nod for top seed in the postseason by collecting 13.0 points over the two-half campaign, just ahead of Ensenada's 12.5 points and 12.0 for both Mexicali and the San Luis Rio Colorado Algodoneros, who finished at 36-35. The Tecate Toritos picked up 10 points for the fifth playoff seed and the Puerto Penasco Tiburones copped the final berth with 9 points, two ahead of the last-place Caborca Rojos.
Currently, both San Luis and San Quintin are one win away from meeting in the LMN Championship Series. The Algodoneros lead Tecate, 3 games to 2, in their series while the Freseros have a 3-to-2 advantage over Mexicali in the other semifinal set. San Luis, San Quintin and Tecate all won their first round series while Mexicali earned the fourth and final wild card berth for putting up the best performance among the three teams who lost in the opening round. All three first round sets were decided in six games.
Randy Arozarena of Tecate won the batting title with a .377 average. The 21-year-old Cuban exile, who also led the LNM with 42 stolen bases, was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals to a $1.25 million contract last week, likely more than he used to earn playing in Pinar del Rio. Puerto Penasco Karexon Sanchez led the loop with 11 homers and San Quintin's Yordani was tops in RBI's with 47. Yeiper of San Quntin led all pitchers with eight wins and 105 strikeouts.
Mexican Baseball Fiesta returning to Tucson for sixth year
Five Mexican Pacific League teams will converge on Tucson, Arizona in late September for the sixth annual Mexican Baseball Fiesta. Two teams of prospects from as-yet-named Major League Baseball organizations will also take part in the four-day, eight-game event between September 29 and October 2 at Kino Stadium. The Fiesta was held at venerable Hi Corbett Field in downtown Tucson last year.
Play will open Thursday, September 29 when the Hermosillo Naranjeros and Obregon Yaquis each take on teams with MLB farmhands. Hermosillo and Obregon have taken part in all five previous Fiestas and will play all four days while Culiacan, Los Mochis and Mexicali will play two games apiece. The Naranjeros and Yaquis will meet head-to-head in nightcap games both Friday and Saturday in a matchup that has drawn over 5,000 fans each of the past five years, according to event organizer Mike Feder. Feder was GM of Tucson's Pacific Coast League teams from 1989 through 2000 and again between 2011-13, earning the PCL's Executive of the Year award in 2013, the last year The Old Pueblo had a AAA franchise before the parent Padres moved their top affiliate to El Paso.
The two MLB-affiliated teams will likely come from among the 15 organizations with Cactus League training facilities in Arizona, with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres arguably the two franchises that have been the most proactive at marketing south of the border.
Prior to the Tucson event, Hermosillo and Mexicali will play single games against each other in Round Rock, Texas on September 24 and 25, then move west to El Paso for games September 25 and 26. The Naranjeros and Aguilas will play an afternoon game in Round Rock before playing that evening nearly 600 miles away in El Paso on September 25.