Wednesday, August 31, 2016

LMB Division Championships results, highlights for Tuesday, August 30

This won't take long.

One Mexican League playoff game was scheduled for Tuesday, with the Yucatan Leones in Puebla to face the Pericos in the LMB South Championship Series (Puebla leads, 2 games to 0).

Pericos starter Travis Blackley escaped the top of the first inning unscored upon after inducing a two-out comebacker groundout by Luis Alfonso Garcia with runners on second and third.  In the bottom of the frame, Puebla pushed a run across the plate when LMB vet Jose Rodriguez doubled off Yucatan hurler Tomas Solis to bring in former big leaguer Nyjer Morgan from third. Solis got the final two outs of the inning to limit the damage, but he couldn't keep the rain from falling at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan and umpires halted play before the second frame could get underway.

Game Three in Puebla is scheduled to resume Wednesday at 1:00pm EDT.  In the LMB North Championship Series, the Tijuana Toros will host the Monterrey Sultanes at 7:35pm EDT Wednesday.  Monterrey leads that set, 2 games to 0. Sultanes pitchers are on an incredible postseason run, stringing 31 consecutive shutout innings together including four straight shutouts.  They defeated the Toros by identical 3-0 scores last weekend at Estadio Monterrey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LMB Division Championships result, highlights for Monday, August 29

MONTERREY 3-9-0, Tijuana 0-3-0 (Monterrey leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-Ma. Gonzalez. L-M. Pena. HR-Murillo (T). T-2:43. A-25,896.
Agustin Murillo's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning all but put the finishing touches on the Sultanes' 3-0 whitewash of Tijuana in their rain-delayed Game Two of the LMB North championship series in front of nearly 26,000 fans at Estadio Monterrey Monday.  The Sultanes had taken a 1-0 lead over the Toros at the bottom of the second frame Sunday afternoon when a cloudburst caused the umpires to suspend the contest for a day.  Five Monterrey pitchers combined on the three-hitter. with Mario Gonzalez credited with the win and Wirfin Obispo collecting the save.

Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermanos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

Monday, August 29, 2016

Puebla takes 2-0 lead in LMB South finals; Guadalajara lands WBC Pool D games

The Puebla Pericos won their second straight road game Sunday in the Mexican League's South Division Championship Series, shutting out the Yucatan Leones, 4-0, at Parque Kukulkan in Merida.  Mauricio Lara pitched seven innings of the shutout and got the win while onetime Yankees outfielder Ruben Rivera (pictured) cracked a two-run homer for Puebla.

While the Pericos were taking a 2-games-to-0 lead in their series, the Tijuana Toros and Monterrey Sultanes saw their Game Two at Estadio Monterrey suspended by rain with the home team leading 1-0 in the top of the third inning. That contest is scheduled to resume Monday afternoon.

Puebla 4-13-1, YUCATAN 0-5-2 (Puebla leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-M. Lara. L-Negrin. HR-Rivera (P). T-2:41. A-11,000.
The Pericos benefited from seven innings of strong pitching by starter Mauricio Lara, who scattered four hits and walked two batters to post his second win of the postseason.  Lara has now allowed one earned run in 13.1 innings pitched as his playoff ERA dropped to 0.68.  The Pericos took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second innings when Issmael Salas and Rudy Amador lofted back-to-back, two-out RBI singles to centerfield off Leones starter Yoanner Negrin, who suffered only his second loss of the entire season.  Ex-MLB outfielder Ruben Rivera, who turns 43 in November, launched a two-run homer with two out in the eighth to seal the win for Puebla, who'll host Game Three Tuesday.

Monterrey 1, Tijuana 0 (Game suspended by rain in third inning)
Rain halted play in Monterrey for the second time in the postseason Sunday.  The Sultanes had taken a 1-0 lead over visiting Tijuana in the bottom of the second inning when Zoilo Almonte, Chris Roberson and Agustin Murillo all singled to lead off the frame, followed by a one-out walk issued to Luis Flores by Toros starter Miguel Pena to bring Almonte home.  Monterrey pitcher Javier Solano struck out Edson Garcia to open the third inning and was preparing to pitch to Jose Guadalupe Chavez when the game was called. Game Two will be resumed Monday at 2PM Eastern time.

Guadalajara awarded 2017 WBC first round games

Major League Baseball has awarded Guadalajara, Jalisco with four days of Pool D first round games in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  The games will be played at Estadio Charros de Jalisco on March 9-12.  Other cities awarded first round play are Tokyo, Seoul and Miami.  Tokyo and San Diego will host second round action while Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles will be the site of the championship round.

Landing the WBC is another feather in the cap of Jalisco Charros owner Armando Navarro, who bought the Guasave Algodoneros in 2014 and moved the Mexican Pacific League franchise to Guadalajara.  There was some risk involved, as baseball had never really gained traction locally in previous forays in the summer Mexican League despite two LMB pennants.  One obstacle has been the phenomenal popularity of the CD Guadalajara soccer team, commonly known as Chivas.  Chivas is Mexico's most popular sports franchise, with 44 percent of the country surveyed counting themselves as supporters.  In addition, baseball facilities in Guadalajara had previously been lacking, to say the least.

However, Navarro has thrown himself into rebuilding baseball's image since bringing the LMP to town.  He purchased Estadio Telmex de Atletismo (an 8,000-seat ballpark built for US$28 million to host the 2011 Pan American Games) from the City, renamed it and expanded it twice to its current 13,000 capacity.  Unlike previous incarnations of the Charros, this edition has proven quite popular among local sports fans.  The team drew an average of 8,543 spectators during the MexPac regular season last winter.  Navarro has also looked into bringing the Caribbean Series to the Jalisco capital, but he'll certainly settle for the plum that is the WBC.

Mexico will be the host team for Pool D after qualifying for the WBC earlier this year in Mexicali.  The Verdes Grande have played in every WBC since its 2006 inception, but had to play qualifiers after finishing last during the 2013 WBC first round in Phoenix.  Despite holding home field advantage in the opening stage, manager Edgar Gonzalez' team won't have a cakewalk in Pool D, where they'll be joined by Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Italy.  Venezuela is currently ranked seventh in the world by the World Baseball & Softball Confederation, Mexico is eighth, Italy rates ninth and Puerto Rico holds the eleventh position.

LMP finalizing return of All-Star Game in November

Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales and LMP team owners met in Hermosillo to discuss, among other issues, the return of the MexPac All-Star Game this winter after an absence of nearly two decades.

The All-Star Game will be held Sunday, November 27 at Obregon's new 16,500-seat ballpark, which is being built at a cost of approximately US$28 million to replace Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan, which was built in 1971 but has become obsolete in recent seasons.  The new ballpark should open in time for the Obregon Yaquis' October 12 season opener against rival Hermosillo.

The All-Star format will include North and South teams, with the North squad consisting of players from Mexicali, Navojoa, Hermosillo and Obregon and the South lineup coming from among Mazatlan, Culiacan, Jalisco and Los Mochis.  Prior to the All-Star Game, a celebrity softball game will be held.  The LMP says invitations will be extended to past MexPac greats such as Adrian Gonzalez, Fernando Valenzuela, Teddy Higuera, Erubiel Durazo and Karim Garcia along with well-known Mexican entertainment figures.  Following the softball game, a Home Run Derby featuring players from the North and South teams will take place prior to batting practice and the All-Star Game itself.

The last LMP All-Star Game was played on November 24, 1997 in Navojoa.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monterrey, Puebla win Liga DCS opening games

The Monterrey Sultanes and Puebla Pericos have drawn first blood in their respective Mexican League Division Championship Series, winning opening games of their best-of-7 sets on Saturday.

Edgar Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings in Monterrey's 3-0 blanking of Tijuana in the Northern Division DCS while a 13th inning homer by Willy Taveras (pictured) was the difference in Puebla's 2-1 win at Yucatan.

All four teams will be back at it Sunday for Game Two.

MONTERREY 3-5-0, Tijuana 0-5-0 (Monterrey leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-E. Gonzalez. L-Enright. HR-Murillo (M). T-2:22. A-21,214.
The Sultanes rode the strong pitching of Edgar Gonzalez to a 3-0 victory over Tijuana before 21,214 onlookers at Estadio Monterrey.  The former Diamondbacks hurler tossed seven innings of four-hit ball, striking out eight Toros batsmen.  He had to be sharp to counter Tijuana starter Barry Enright, who went seven innings and allowed just five hits himself.  However, two of those hits were a Chris Roberson RBI single in the bottom of the second frame to put Monterrey on the board and a two-run Agustin Murillo homer with two out in the fourth that gave the Sultanes their final margin of victory.

Puebla 2-9-0, YUCATAN 1-6-0 (13) (Puebla leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Barradas. L-Barraza. HR-Taveras (P). T-4:02. A-12,000.
In another pitcher's duel, it took a homer by former Astros and Rockies outfielder Willy Taveras in the top of the 13th inning to put Puebla ahead and a 1-2-3 performance by Pericos closer Chad Gaudin to give the visitors a 2-1 win over Yucatan in Merida Saturday night.  Hector Gimenez put Yucatan ahead with an RBI single off Puebla starter Orlando Lara in the second, but a Taveras double served up by Jonathan Castellanos scored Nyjer Morgan all the way from first to tie things up.  The two teams then traded zeros for six innings before Taveras' late heroics.

Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

Friday, August 26, 2016

LMB division title sets to open Saturday

After making short work of their respective Mexican League Division Semifinals playoff series (going a collective 16-2 with three sweeps), the Liga's Final Four gets underway Saturday. The LMB North Division Championship Series opener will feature Tijuana at Monterrey while the South finals will begin in Merida, where the Yucatan Leones will host Puebla in Game One of that series.  Game Two for both sets will be played Sunday, followed by a Monday travel day and three more games scheduled between Tuesday and Thursday in Tijuana and Puebla. Games Six and Seven (if needed) are back in Monterrey and Yucatan next weekend.

The Toros won their season series against Monterrey, 5 games to 4, but six of the nine games were in Tijuana as LMB teams did not play balanced schedules.  All three Tijuana-Monterrey sets saw the home team win two of three games. Yucatan likewise won 5 of 9 games against Puebla this summer, but the dynamics of that rivalry were different.  After the Pericos won two of three games over the Leones at home the first time the two sides met, Puebla later went on the road and took three straight from Yucatan in Merida.  Two months passed before the third trifecta was played in Yucatan, with the Leones sweeping all three games from the Pericos at Kukulkan Park, site of Saturday's opener.

Yucatan won the LMB South regular season crown with a Liga-best 77-33 record, four games ahead of the 74-39 Pericos in second.  The Leones beat Campeche in six games while the Pericos swept defending champion Quintana Roo in the first round.  Monterrey topped the North standings at 72-39 while Tijuana was third with a 64-48 mark (trailing 69-43 Monclova by five games).  The Sultanes swept Laguna in the Division Semifinals and the Toros did the same against the Acereros.

2016 LMB Division Championship Series schedule

SATURDAY, August 27
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm ET
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 8:05pm ET

SUNDAY, August 28
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

TUESDAY, August 30
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermandos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

WEDNESDAY, August 31
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermanos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

THURSDAY, September 1
Monterrey at Tijuana (Estadio Gasmart) 10:35pm EDT
Yucatan at Puebla (Estadio Hermanos Serdan) 8:00pm EDT

SATURDAY, September 3
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 8:05pm EDT

SUNDAY, September 4
Tijuana at Monterrey (Estadio Monterrey) 6:05pm EDT
Puebla at Yucatan (Parque Kukulkan, Merida) 7:05pm EDT

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals result, highlights for Tuesday, August 23

YUCATAN 7-10-0, Campeche 1-6-0 (Yucatan wins series, 4 games to 2)
W-T. Solis (2-0). L-Campos (0-2). HR-none. T-2:54. A-12,000.
Tomas Solis allowed 1 run in 7 innings; Jesus Valdez was 3-5 with 1 run, 1 RBI for Leones

Division Championship Series
North: Monterrey Sultanes (1) vs. Tijuana Toros (3)
South: Yucatan Leones (1) vs. Puebla Pericos (2)

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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals results, highlights for Sunday, August 21


Yucatan 6-10-0, CAMPECHE 5-15-2 (Yucatan leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Negrin (2-0). L-J. Castillo (0-2). HR-E. Beltre (C), Gurerra (C). T-4:05. A-5,811.
Jose Aguilar led Leones with 2 singles, 1 run, 1 RBI; Luis Alfonso Garcia had RBI double for Yucatan


Monterrey 2-7-0, LAGUNA 0-5-0 (Monterrey wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Carrillo (1-0). L-S. Valdez (0-1). HR-none. T-2:28. A-7,367.
Sultanes' Cesar Carrillo scattered 5 hits over 6.1 IP; Ramon Rios, Alex Valdez had RBI singles in 6th

No games

Campeche at Yucatan in Merida

Campeche at Yucatan in Merida (if necessary)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals results, highlights for Saturday, August 20


CAMPECHE 11-13-4, Yucatan 7-7-1 (Series tied at 2 games apiece)
W-Yan (1-0). L-J. Gutierrez (0-1). HR-Retherford 2 (C), M. Leon (C), H. Rodriguez (C), E. Beltre (C), Sosa (Y). T-3:33. A-5,893.
C.J. Retherford cracked 2 homers; Engel Beltre and Henry Rodriguez each hit 2-run homers for Piratas in 8th to break 7-7 tie

Puebla 7-10-0, QUINTANA ROO 5-9-1 (Puebla wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Bustamante (1-0). L-Judy (0-1). HR-Barton (P). T-3:15. A-6,490.
Nyjer Morgan's bases-loaded walk in 4-run 8th pushed across Pericos' game-winning run


TIJUANA 2-5-0, Monclova 1-7-0 (Tijuana wins series, 4 games to 0)
W-Sanabia (1-0). L-Caldera (0-1). HR-A. Romero (T), Marques (M). T-2:26. A-15,989.
Alex Romero's 2-run homer in 6th was enough for Toros to complete sweep of Acereros

Monterrey 9-14-1, LAGUNA 4-12-1 (Monterrey leads series, 3 games to 0)
W-M. Gonzalez (1-0). L-Silva (0-1). HR-J. Pena (L), A. Rodriguez (M). T-2:56. A-9,185.
Arturo Rodriquez' 3-run homer keyed 7-run 4th inning in Sultanes win

Yucatan at Campeche
Monterrey at Laguna in Torreon

Saturday, August 20, 2016

LMB Division Semifinals results, highlights for Friday, August 19

CAMPECHE 3-9-0, Yucatan 1-6-1 (Yucatan leads series, 2 games to 1)
W-Rivera (0-1). L-Castellanos (0-1). HR-Serrano (Y). T-3:14. A-5,771.
Oscar Rivera pitched 6.2 innings of 1-run ball; Jesus Arredondo hit 2 doubles, scored and had 1 RBI

Puebla 4-10-2, QUINTANA ROO 2-4-1 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 0)
W-Torrez (1-0). L-Bueno (0-1). HR-none. T-2:50. A-6,972.
Willy Taveras had 3 singles, 1 run and 1 RBI for Leones; Wes Torrez 3 shutout innings in relief for win

TIJUANA 6-14-0, Monclova 4-7-0 (Tijuana leads series, 3 games to 0)
W-Ramirez (1-0). L-Delgado (0-1). HR-none. T-3:13. A-15,024.
Dustin Martin RBI single in 4th broke 4-4 tie; Olmo Rosario was 3-5 with run and RBI for Toros

Yucatan at Campeche
Puebla at Quintana Roo in Cancun
Monclova at Tijuana
Monterrey at Laguna in Torreon (Monterrey leads series, 2 games to 0)

Friday, August 19, 2016

LMB Division Semifinal result, highlights for Thursday, August 18

MONTERREY 13-12-0, Laguna 5-7-1 (Monterrey leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-Solano (1-0). L-Gutierrez (0-1). HR-Valdez (M), Almonte (M), Mendez (L). T-3:35. A-16,941.
Javier Solano pitched 5 innings of shutout ball, Alex Valdez hit 3-run homer for Sultanes

Weekend Schedule
FRIDAY, August 19: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monclova at Tijuana
SATURDAY, August 20: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monclova at Tijuana, Monterrey at Laguna
SUNDAY, August 21: Yucatan at Campeche, Puebla at Quintana Roo, Monclova at Tijuana, Monterrey at Laguna

Thursday, August 18, 2016

LMB Division Semifinal results, highlights for Wednesday, August 17

YUCATAN 3-8-0, Campeche 1-7-1 (Yucatan leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-Solis (1-0). L-Campos (0-1). HR-none. T-2:56. A-11,321.
Corey Wimberly had two RBI singles for Leones.

PUEBLA 6-7-2, Quintana Roo 1-6-1 (Puebla leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-Lara (1-0). L-Ortega (0-1). HR-none. T-2:39. A-12,102.
Cesar Tapia doubled, singled and drove in 2 runs for Pericos.

Tijuana 4-10-1, MONCLOVA 2-7-1 (11) (Tijuana leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-Barreda (1-0). L-Leon (0-1). HR-Lamas (M). T-3:35. A-4,777.
Dustin Martin and Miguel Torrero hit RBI singles in top of eleventh to give Toros lead.

MONTERREY 8-11-0, Laguna 2-5-2 (Monterrey leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Torres (1-0). L-Horst (0-1). HR-German (M), Sappelt (M), Rios (M), Vasquez (L). T-2:31. A-3,473.
Sultanes held on for win after game was suspended by rain Tuesday, completed Wednesday

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

LMB Division Semifinal results, highlights for Tuesday, August 16

Tijuana 5-11-0, MONCLOVA 3-11-0 (Tijuana leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Serrano (1-0). L-Oyervides (0-1). HR-Rosario (T), Peguero (M). T-3:26. A-6,508.
Dustin Martin doubled twice, scored 3 runs and drove in 3 for Toros.

PUEBLA 9-14-1, Quintana Roo 0-2-1 (Puebla leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Lara (1-0). L-Arballo (0-1). HR-Barton (P), Tapia (P). T-2:53. A-10,418.
Orlando Lara scattered 2 hits in 7 innings pitched, Cesar Tapia hit HR and drove in 3 for Pericos.

YUCATAN 4-8-0, Campeche 0-5-1 (Yucatan leaders series, 1 game to 0)
W-Negrin (1-0). L-Castillo (0-1). HR-none. T-2:39. A-10,982.
Kevin Flores singled, tripled and had 2 RBIs for Leones as Yoanner Negrin tossed 7 shutout innings.

MONTERREY 5, Laguna 1
Sultanes scored 5 runs in bottom of 4th before game was postponed by rain until Wednesday

Monday, August 15, 2016

Yucatan finishes 77-33 for LMB best record, playoffs start Tuesday

The Yucatan Leones dispatched the defending champion Quintana Roo Tigres, 5-2, Sunday in Merida to end the regular season with a Mexican League-best 77-33 record and number one seed throughout the playoffs.  The postseason gets underway Tuesday night with four games.

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

#6 TUE, 8/16:  Campeche at Yucatan, Quintana Roo at Puebla, Laguna at Monterrey, Tijuana at Monclova
#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

Monday, August 8, 2016

LMB regular season to end Friday, Laguna seeks final playoff berth

The Mexican League's regular season schedule will end Friday night with seven of eight playoff teams determined heading into the final week.  Torreon's Laguna Vaqueros are 59-49 after Sunday's 11-0 pasting of Saltillo at home and have a four-game lead over the 54-52 Mexico City Diablos Rojos.  The Red Devils are in danger of missing the postseason after turning in the Liga's best record last year and winning their 16th LMB pennant since 1956 two years ago.  The Vaqueros need just one win to clinch the final playoff berth as they open a three-game series at last-place Reynosa Monday night while the Diablos travel to Aguascalientes for a trio of games.

Monterrey has won 10 of their last 12 games to seal the top seed in the LMB North.  The Sultanes are currently 70-36, five-and-a-half games ahead of second-seed Monclova (65-42) and 8.5 games up on 62-45 Tijuana in third.  Aguascalientes, Saltillo and Reynosa have all been eliminated.

Things are a little tighter in the LMB South.  Yucatan (73-32) is in the driver's seat with the best record in the Liga, but Puebla (70-32) is just three-and-a-half games back in second.  The Leones helped themselves greatly over the weekend by sweeping the Pericos in a three-game set at home in Merida.  Yoanner Negrin (pictured) raised his LMB-best record to 18-1 Sunday by pitching 6.2 innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win over Puebla.  Twelve thousand fans were on hand Sunday at Parque Kukulkan, with 32,000 clicking the turnstiles over the series.  A 32-year-old Cuban, Negrin's 18 wins are the most in a single season by a Mexican League pitcher since Danny Rios went 18-5 for Union Laguna in 2001.  He's scheduled for one more start, Friday's season-ending home game against Quintana Roo.

Yucatan will try to clinch the South title with three games in Carmen while Puebla welcomes Veracruz to Estadio Hermanos Serdan for a series.  Defending champion Quintana Roo (65-43) has clinched third place in the South and Campeche (56-48) has a 13-game bulge over Tabasco (42-64) for the fourth and final postseason slot.  Veracruz, Oaxaca and hapless Carmen bring up the rear.  The hapless Delfines haven't won since July 24, their ten-game losing skid interrupted for three days during a home series with Veracruz after an August 3 rainout was followed by two night game cancellations due to power problems at Carmen's Estadio Resurgimiento.

The batting race has been all but settled, with Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia (.375) holding a commanding lead over Vercruz outfielder Carlos Lopez (.356).  Monterrey third baseman Alex Valdez' 29 homers appear to be insurmountable, with Laguna infielder Ricky Alvarez five longballs behind at 24.  Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez has led the loop in RBI's nearly all season, and his 93 are four up on Valdez, Alvarez and Quintana Roo third sacker Alex Liddi.  Justin Greene, a Saltillo outfielder, enters the final week with 38 stolen bases to carry a three-swipe advantage over Seraperos outfield mate Christian Zazueta's 35.

Among pitchers, departed Monclova starter Josh Lowey has two of the three Triple Crown titles in the bag with a 1.65 earned-run average and 131 strikeouts, well ahead of Tijuana's Miguel Pena at 2.13 ERA and Acereos hurler Jose Oyervides' 119 whiffs.  Lowey is 2-2 with a 9.39 ERA for the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after getting racked for six runs in four innings by the LG Twins last Friday.   Monclova closer Arcenio Leon (33) and former big leaguer Chad Gaudin (32) are neck-and-neck for the saves crown with five games left.

Guadalajara rumored as host site for 2017 WBC games 

According to Puro Beisbol's top writer, the Jalisco Charros and the city of Guadalajara appear to have the inside track on Major League Baseball's selection of a Mexican city to host first-round games of next spring's World Baseball Classic.

In his August 8 Zona de Contacto column, Fernando Ballesteros reports that Charros owner Armando Navarro and his partners are spending time in New York to quietly lobby on behalf of Guadalajara and the ballpark he bought from the city two years ago after purchasing the Guasave Algodoneros and moving them to Guadalajara in 2014.  Estadio Charros was built for $28 million to host the 2011 Pan American Games.

Ballesteros says the effort has been hush-hush because Navarro doesn't want to say or do anything to jeopardize the effort, but Jalisco governor Aristoteles Sandoval has been enlisted as a supporter to bring both the WBC and Caribbean Series to the city of 1.5 million (4.3 million live in Guadalajara's metropolitan area).   The WBC will be an expensive proposition for any city seeking to host it.  According to Ballesteros, it'll cost US$2 million just for approval from MLB, plus there are a number of added requirements that appear to be scaring off other viable sites for the opening round.  The Mexicali Aguilas reportedly looked into applying to host the WBC while they were hosting a four-team qualifier last winter, but owner Dio Alberto Murillo backed off after adding the costs and determining that ticket prices would have to be set too high for many local fans to attend.  As well, Ballesteros says the Hermosillo Naranjeros were invited by MLB to send in a bid but have not yet been heard from.

Should Navarro succeed in bringing either event to town, it would seemingly complete what has been a fairly amazing turnaround of baseball's status there.  The original Jalisco Charros spent 21 interrupted seasons in the Mexican League from the 1960's through 1995, winning pennants in 1967 and 1971 (Navarro was team VP during the 1971 title run, during which the Charros overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Saltillo in the championship series) but otherwise drawing tepid support while playing home games at rickety 4,000-seat Estadio Tecnologico, which was demolished in 2003.  The enormous local popularity of the Chivas pro soccer team seemingly pushed baseball in Guadalajara to extinction, but Navarro thought otherwise and two years after bringing the Mexican Pacific League to Jalisco, he appears to be on the precipice of bringing international baseball's prime showcase to his ballpark.

"El Titan" cracks 300th career MLB home run

Mexican National Team star Adrian Gonzalez whacked the 300th homer of his major league career Sunday as his Los Angeles Dodgers went on to beat the Boston Red Sox, 8-5, in an interleague game at Dodger Stadium.  Gonzalez hit his historic roundtripper off reliever Junichi Tazawa in the bottom of the seventh, a solo shot that extended Los Angeles' lead to 7-5 at the time.

Gonzalez was picked by the Florida Marlins on the first round of the 2000 draft, but was traded to Texas midway through the 2003 minor league season.  He made his MLB debut with the Rangers on April 18, 2004 against Seattle, but it wasn't until he was dealt to San Diego in 2006 when he broke through as an impact player, batting .304 with 24 homers and 82 RBI's for the Padres as a 24-year-old rookie.  He went on to play five seasons for his hometown team, earning three All-Star Game berths and winning a pair of Gold Gloves at first base before being dealt to Boston in a multiplayer deal after the 2010 season.

The 6'2" lefty-swinging "El Titan" thrived over the next two seasons at Fenway Park, hitting .321 with 42 homers and 203 ribbies for the Sox in 282 games and earning another Golden Glove and All-Star appearance before he was sent packing to Southern California once more, going to the Dodgers with a month to go in the 2012 campaign as part of a salary dump in Boston (where he'd signed a seven-year, $154 million contract with the Bosox in the offseason).

The younger brother of Mexican National Team manager Edgar Gonzalez (the two have played side-by-side in both San Diego and during the winter in Mazatlan), Adrian has remained a solid hitter during his second National League stint.  Although his 300th homer was only his tenth of the current season, he's hit .284 with 90 homers and 381 RBI's since coming to the Dodgers four years ago, winning a Golden Glove in 2014 and playing in his fifth All-Star Game last summer.  He hit his 400th career double in 2015, and became the seventh active big leaguer with 300 homers and 400 two-baggers Sunday, joining Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and the retiring Alex Rodriguez.

In all, Gonzalez (whose father David has been a longtime baseball figure south of the border and is still active in the family's baseball businesses) is a career .290 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 99 RBI's in eleven seasons as a regular player.  He's batting .291 in the current campaign.  A dual citizen of the USA and Mexico, "El Titan" played for the latter in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic while joining brother Edgar's Mexican squad at the WBC Qualifier in Mexicali earlier this year.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Umpire fined, suspended following argument in Monterrey

A reversed umpires' call in Monterrey Saturday resulted in a protracted on-field dispute, with several fines and suspensions later handed down by the Mexican League, including one of the umpires.

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.