Thursday, September 8, 2016

Martin walkoff homer hands Tijuana win in Serie del Rey opener

Dustin Martin has hit 130 home runs over his eleven-year pro baseball career, but none of them may have been bigger than the one he hit to end Wednesday's Mexican League Championship Series Game One.

The 6'2" Texan was 0-for-3 when he led off the bottom of the ninth inning for Tijuana, who were deadlocked in a 0-0 tie with Puebla.  With the count at 1-1, Martin launched a Carlos Bustamante pitch over the wall in left-center field for a walkoff homer to hand the Toros a 1-0 win over the Pericos in front of 17,399 delirious spectators at Tijuana's Estadio Gasmart.

As befits the score, the game was a pitcher's duel between Puebla starter Orlando Lara and Tijuana's Horacio Ramirez for six innings before Ramirez was replaced by Gerardo Sanchez after the ex-MLBer held Puebla scoreless on four hits.  Lara, whose playoff ERA was lowered to 0.67, sparkled over eight innings and let up just two singles and walked five until Bustamante came on to pitch to Martin in the fateful ninth frame.  Juan Sandoval pitched the final two innings in relief to earn the win for the Toros.

It's already been quite a year for Martin, who began 2015 with Sugar Land of the independent Atlantic League before landing in Tijuana for the last month of the Liga season, hitting .375 with 7 homers for the Toros in 26 games.  He then played winterball with Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League, turning in a .301 average for the Yaquis and playing a key postseason role in their ascension to the LMP title series against eventual champion Mazatlan.

This summer went even better for the former Mets/Twins/D-backs farmhand as he reached career highs in several offensive categories, including batting (.325), homers (19), RBI's (88) and even stolen bases (32) during the regular season.  That production has carried over into the playoffs, where he's hitting .302 with three homers and several key hits, including a go-ahead longball in Monday's LMB North Championship-clinching game at Monterrey.  And now this.

The two teams will lock horns for Game Two at 7:35pm local time Thursday night in the border city before the Serie el Rey moves to Puebla for Game Three on Saturday.

TIJUANA 1-3-0, Puebla 0-5-0 (Tijuana leads series, 1 game to 0)
W-Sandoval. L-Bustamante. HR-Martin. T-2:46. A-17,399.