Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monterrey, Tijuana, Puebla complete sweeps; Leones up 3-2 vs. Campeche

The first round of the 2016 Mexican League playoffs were smooth sailing for three team who've punched tickets to the two Division Championship Series.  Puebla, Monterrey and Tijuana all completed sweeps of their four-game Division Semifinals against Quintana Roo, Laguna and Monclova, respectively, last weekend. Yucatan leads Campeche, 3 games to 2, in the remaining quarterfinal set.

In the Northern Division Semifinals, Monterrey seemingly had a tougher time with the weather than they did Laguna, as last Tuesday's opening home game against the Vaqueros was suspended by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.  Umpires halted play shortly after the Sultanes overcame a 1-0 deficit by plating five runs in the bottom of the frame.  Monterrey finished the win Wednesday afternoon and went on to cop the next three contests, the final two in Torreon last Friday and Saturday.

The Sultanes will face Tijuana in the LMB North Championship Series.  The Toros had to fight Monclova all four games.  The tone in that series was set last Tuesday when the Acereros stretched Tijuana before the Toros won, 5-4.  The following night in Monclova, it took TJ eleven innings before finally vanquishing the Steelers, 4-2.  Things didn't get much easier when the series shifted to the border city, as the Toros battled to 6-4 and 2-1 triumphs to send the Acereros to the golf course.  Monclova had defeated Tijuana six of nine games during the regular season.

In the LMB South semis, Puebla dispatched the defending champion Tigres with surprising ease, sailing to 9-0 and 6-1 wins over Quintana Roo at home before working a little harder to score 4-2 and 7-5 victories in Cancun to close things out.  The Pericos kept up the solid batting they had during the regular season by scoring 26 runs over the four games, but it was Puebla's pitchers who really stepped up by allowing just two runs per game after posting a 4.38 ERA during the season.  Quintana Roo had won the season series between the two teams, 5 games to 4.

The Pericos will face the winner of the Yucatan-Campeche quarterfinal.  The Leones finished the season with the best record in the LMB at 77-33, but the Piratas have given them all they can handle in the postseason.  Yucatan took the first two contests in Merida, 4-0 and 3-1, and looked like they might wrap things up when the series shifted to Campeche.  However, the Piratas are no pushovers and while their 57-51 record was the weakest of the eight Liga playoffs teams, they won five of nine games from Puebla heading into the postseason.  The Piratas won Games Three and Four, 3-1 and 11-7, to knot the series up at two games apiece.  Yucatan snuck away with a 6-5 road win Sunday to take a 3 games to 2 series lead.

Games Six and Seven (if needed) will be back in Merida, where the Leones were 42-16 this year. Game Six will be Tuesday night.  Should Campeche prevail, Game Seven is set for Wednesday at Parque Kukulkan.