Veteran hurler Jonathan Castellanos (pictured) gave the Leones five innings of one-hit shutout pitching before leaving with a 5-0 lead. Although the Tigres scored singletons in both the seventh and eighth frames, Yucatan closer Pedro Hernandez tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to finish with his 18th save of the campaign. The 34-year-old Castellanos' record rose to 11-3 as the righty has reached double-digit win totals in four of his last five LMB summers. Leones left fielder Jesus Valdez cracked his 18th homer, a two-run shot off Tigres starter Fernando Miranda (7-7) in the third. Quintana Roo left fielder Roman Pena doubled and plated a run in the eighth to end the game's scoring.
Puebla won, 6-1, at Oaxaca Sunday to finish four games behind Yucatan in the South Division at 74-38. Quintana Roo dropped to 68-45 with the loss but had already wrapped up third place while Campeche cruised to the fourth and final LMB South berth with a 57-51 mark. Tabasco, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Carmen finished out of the money in that order.
In the Liga's Northern Division, Monterrey won five of their last ten games to end the regular season with a 72-39 record, three-and-a-half games up on second-place Monclova (69-43). The Sultanes put five runs on the scoreboard in the fifth inning and went on to beat Laguna, 10-6, Sunday before a crowd of 21,649 at Estadio Monterrey. Second sacker Ramon Rios socked a solo homer for the Sultanes, who were trailing 6-4 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Monterrey drew an average attendance 12,783 over 54 home games, easily leading all of Minor League Baseball.
Laguna's loss to the Sultanes meant a fourth-place finish for the Vaqueros (63-50), who came in a game-and-a-half behind 64-48 Tijuana. Mexico City, Aguascalientes, Saltillo and Reynosa all get first dibs at the golf course. The last-place Broncos in particular endured a forgettable 24-88 season (dropping a 4-3 game at Monclova Sunday) while drawing fewer than 2,000 fans per home game at Estadio Adolfo Lopez Mateos.
The playoffs get underway Tuesday night with four games. In the LMB North semifinals, Laguna will be at Monterrey while Tijuana visits Monclova; in the LMB South semis, Quintana Roo travels to Puebla and Campeche heads east to Merida to face the Leones. Seventh games (if needed) will be played on Wednesday, August 24.
Baseball Mexico will provide daily scores and highlights throughout the Mexican League playoffs. Check back often.
Final 2016 Mexican League Standings
NORTH DIVISION: Monterrey 72-39, Monclova 69-43, Tijuana 64-48, Laguna 63-50, Mexico City 57-54, Aguascalientes 53-58, Saltillo 50-61, Reynosa 24-88.
SOUTH DIVISION: Yucatan 77-33, Puebla 74-38, Quintana Roo 68-43, Campeche 57-51, Tabasco 44-67, Veracruz 43-67, Oaxaca 42-70, Carmen 31-78.
Mexican League 2016 Playoffs
Division Semifinals schedule
#1 TUE, 8/16: Campeche at Yucatan, Quintana Roo at Puebla, Laguna at Monterrey, Tijuana at Monclova
#2 WED, 8/17: Campeche at Yucatan, Quintana Roo at Puebla, Laguna at Monterrey, Tijuana at Monclova
#3 FRI, 8/18: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monterrey at Laguna, Monclova at Tijuana
#4 SAT, 8/19: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monterrey at Laguna, Monclova at Tijuana
#5 SUN, 8/19: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monterrey at Laguna, Monclova at Tijuana
#7 WED, 8/19: Campeche at Yucatan, Quintana Roo at Puebla, Laguna at Monterrey, Tijuana at Monclova
Games in italics scheduled if necessary
Negrin finishes 18-1, Tapia wins batting title
Following his 2-1 win over Puebla on August 7, Yucatan pitcher Yoanner Negrin had one start remaining with an opportunity to bring his season wins total to 19 last Friday at home against Quintana Roo. However, Leones skipper Willie Romero shuffled his rotation to give Jonathan Castellanos the final regular season start and rest Negrin for the playoffs. As a result, Negrin finished 18-1 for 2016 to lead the Mexican League in wins. The 33-year-old Cuban lost only one of 22 starts, a 5-2 decision to Puebla in Merida on May 1, over three months ago. Negrin went 15-0 the rest of the way and complied a 2.29 ERA with three shutouts to lead the loop in that category (nobody else had more than one whitewash).
Former Monclova ace Josh Lowey built insurmountable leads in ERA (1.65) and strikeouts (131) before signing a $200,000 contract with Korea's KT Wiz in mid-July to win both Triple Crown titles. Lowey has found the going tougher across the Pacific, lasting just one-and-one-third innings in his most recent start last Thursday against the SK Wyverns and coughing up three earned runs to see his record fall to 2-3 while his ERA in the KBO rose to 10.26 in five starts. Lowey's former Acereros moundmate, Arcenio Leon, picked up five saves in the final week to end the regular season with 36 in 42 opportunities.
Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia became the first backstop to win the LMB batting title since 1987 by going 7-for-15 over his last four games to finish at .383. Orlando Sanchez of the old Puebla Black Angels turned in a .415 mark 39 years ago, one year after former big leaguer Willie Mays Aikens hit a modern Liga record .454 for Puebla in 1986. Monterrey third baseman Alex Valdez led the circuit with 30 homers, Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez held on to win the RBI crown with 97 (his previous high was 68 ribbies in a career that began in 2003) while Saltillo outfielders Justin Greene and Christian Zazueta shared stolen base honors with 39 swipes apiece.
Mexican League Individual Statistical Leaders
Games: 112 Emmanuel Avila, Mexico City
Hits: 145 Justin Greene, Saltillo
Doubles: 31 Ricky Alvarez, LAG; Cyle Hankerd, MXC; Chris Roberson, MONT
Triples: 10 Ruben Sosa, Laguna
Homers: 30 Alex Valdez, Monterrey
Runs: 80 Chris Roberson, Monterrey
Runs Batted In: 97 Diory Hernandez, Aguascalientes
Batting Average: .383 Cesar Tapia, Puebla
On-Base Percentage: .459 Ruben Sosa, Laguna
Slugging Percentage: .662 Cesar Tapia, Puebla
On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage: 1.093 Cesar Tapia, Puebla
Stolen Bases: 39 Justin Greene, Saltillo; Christian Zazueta, Saltillo
Games: 65 Fabian Williamson, Monclova
Innings Pitched: 141.1 Yoanner Negrin, Yucatan
Complete Games: 4 Yoanner Negrin, Yucatan
Shutouts: 3 Yoanner Negrin, Yucatan
Wins: 18 Yoanner, Negrin, Yucatan
Saves: 36 Arcenio Leon, Monclova
Holds: 24 Mario Meza, Yucatan; Fabian Williamson, Monclova
Hits Allowed: 162 Demetrio Gutierrez, Aguascalientes
Strikeouts: 131 Josh Lowey, Monclova
Bases on Balls: 57 Michael Nix, Aguascalientes
Earned Run Average: 1.65 Josh Lowey, Monclova
Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched: 0.93 Josh Lowey, Monclova