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.