Sunday, September 11, 2016

Puebla top Tijuana, 8-5, to take Serie del Rey lead

Pitcher Mauricio Lara (pictured) allowed one run on four hits over seven innings and Puebla batters bashed four homers as the Pericos held off a late Tijuana surge to post an 8-5 win over the Toros Saturday in Game Three of the Mexican League Championship Series. The Pericos took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the Serie del Rey as a crowd of 12,112 watched at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan, marking the fifth consecutive playoff sellout in the colonial city.

Lara actually fell behind briefly in the top of the third inning, allowing one TJ run on back-to-back doubles by Isaac Rodriguez and Jose Guadalupe Chavez.  The Pericos came back with two of their own in the bottom of the frame, courtesy of solo homers off Toros starter Alex Sanabia by Daric Barton and Ruben Rivera, with Rivera's circuit clout to left putting the Pericos ahead for good.  Puebla rang up two more runs in the fourth (keyed by a Jose Rodriguez RBI double), two in the fifth on Rudy Amador's two-run single and one more tally in the sixth when Rodriguez socked a homer off reliever Manny Bareda.  Lara pitched a scoreless seventh before leaving the game with a 7-1 lead and a seeming lock for his third postseason triumph.

To their credit, Tijuana refused to lay down and die by ringing up four runs in the top of the eighth against Pericos relievers Jaime Lugo and Benny Suarez, three of them coming off a Dustin Martin homer to straightaway center field, his third bomb in as many Serie del Rey contests and fifth overall in the playoffs.  Suarez replaced Lugo after Martin's blast and, after getting one out, served up a solo shot to Carlos Valencia to narrow the Pericos' lead to two runs before recording the final two outs of the entrada.  

Puebla got one run back in the bottom of the eighth when Cesar Tapia went deep off Gerardo Sanchez (the Toros' sixth pitcher of the night) and it was left to Pericos closer Chad Gaudin to record a 1-2-3 ninth, getting Alex Romero swinging for the final out of the game and his sixth playoff save to seal the 8-5 win.

Rodriguez, Amador and Alberto Carreon each had two of Puebla's 11 hits while Martin contributed three hits for the Toros, who put 16 batters on base via hit, walk or error but were only 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position while hitting into five Puebla double plays.  With the win, Lara goes to 3-0 in the playoffs while the 37-year-old Hermosillo native lowered his postseason ERA to 1.32.  Sanabia suffered his first playoff loss for Tijuana, and it's a testament to how dominant he'd been in the first two rounds to note that even after coughing up five Pericos runs in 4.1 innings, his postseason ERA only went up to 1.96.

Game Four of the best-of-seven series is slated for Sunday afternoon in Puebla at 2:00pm Eastern Time.  Miguel Pena (0-1, 5.40) is the likely Tijuana starter while Hector Galvan (0-0, 9.64) is expected to throw the first pitch for Puebla. Galvan went 9-3 during the regular season for manager Cory Snyder's Pericos, but has only made one postseason appearance with a forgettable August 20 first-round start against Quintana Roo (his only outing in over a month).

PUEBLA 8-11-2, Tijuana 5-11-1 (Puebla leads series, 2 games to 1)
W-M. Lara. L-Sanabia. SV-Gaudin. HR-Valencia (T), D. Martin (T), R. Rivera (P), Barton (P), Tapia (P), J. Rodriguez (P). T-3:07. A-12,112.