Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 BBM Summer Awards Most Valuable Player Cesar Tapia, Puebla

There were a number of Mexican League players who had exceptional seasons, per usual, but the BBM Summer Most Valuable Player choice really came down to two men.  One, Yucatan's Yoanner Negrin, certainly had a year for the ages in going 18-1 during the regular season for the Leones, becoming the first Liga hurler in 16 years to record that many victories in one campaign (and duly named BBM's Summer Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday).  However, there's one more player who we're giving our MVP award for having a career year in the batter's box as one of the linchpins of Puebla's league championship season under managers Matias Carrillo and Cory Snyder.

Veteran Pericos catcher Cesar Tapia led the LMB with a .383 batting average, beating out Laguna outfielder Ruben Sosa's .371 mark and the topping the .350 mark put in by Saltillo first baseman Eliezer Alfonzo by 33 points among players with 85 or more games in 2016.  Alfonzo was mysteriously released by Mexico City on July 8 despite hitting .342 for the Diablos Rojos over 69 games...the Saraperos signed him as a free agent six days later.

Tapia also launched 21 homers in 89 contests to finish tied for seventh in the loop during the regular season, poked 30 doubles (tied for fourth), drove in 94 runs (third) and even stole 13 bases in 17 attempts (remember, this is a 33-year-old who had never swiped more than five bags before this summer.  In all, Tapia had new single-season personal highs in eleven offensive categories.  Besides his first batting title, the Sonoran ranked in the Liga's Top Five for on-base percentage (.431 for fifth) and first in both slugging percentage at .662 and OPS with a 1.093 figure.

The 5'11" 200-pound right-handed batter did cool down in the postseason, going 17-of-62 for a .274 average over 16 playoff games.  Tapia did hit .412 in Yucatan's opening sweep of defending champion Quintana Roo and batted .333 with two homers and five RBI's in six games against Tijuana in the Serie del Rey, including a 3-for-4 night with a homer and two ribbies in Game Two.

Cesar Tapia Figueroa was born November 10, 1982 in Empalme, Sonora.  He made his pro debut with Puebla at age 21 in 2004, but after hitting just .225 for the Pericos in 2005, Tapia was dealt to the rival Angelopolis Tigres (who shared Estadio Hermanos Serdan with the Parrots for four years before moving to Cancun in 2007).  After Tapia hit .301 for the Tigres in 2006, the Pericos brought him back to the flock for 2007.  He batted .343 that season and has remained in green and gold since.

In twelve Liga seasons overall, Tapia has hit over .300 ten times (topping .340 in five seasons) for a career .331 batting average.  Although he has historically been more of a gap hitter than a longball threat until this year, Tapia now has 92 career home runs to go with his 233 doubles and 1,232 hits.  Tapia has also spent eight winters playing sparingly in the pitching-friendly Mexican Pacific League (the last five in Culiacan).  He's a career .230 batsman in 109 Mex-Pac games overall.

2016 BBM Summer Awards
MANAGER OF THE YEAR - Willy Romero, Yucatan
BATTER OF THE YEAR - Diory Hernandez, Aguascalientes
PITCHER OF THE YEAR - Yoanner Negrin, Yucatan
PLAYOFF MVP - Mauricio Lara, Puebla
MOSY VALUABLE PLAYER - Cesar Tapia, Puebla

Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 BBM Summer Awards Playoff MVP: Mauricio Lara, Puebla

The Mexican League presented their Playoff MVP award to Puebla pitcher Travis Blackley immediately after the Aussie MLB alum tossed eight innings of two-hit shutout ball in the Pericos' pennant-clinching 2-0 win at Tijuana on September 14.   However, a different conclusion has been reached for BBM's Summer Playoff MVP.

Blackley did indeed literally save his best for last, but was also touched by the Toros for three runs in 5.2 innings in his previous Serie del Rey start and the 33-year-old made just three starts over the three-round postseason, missing the opening series against defending champion Quintana Roo altogether.

A case could be just as easily made for Pericos closer Chaud Gaudin, another former big leaguer.  Following a regular season in which he saved 33 games (second in the LMB to Monclova's Arcenio Leon's 36) with a microscopic 1.64 ERA over 44 games, Gaudin won one game and saved seven more in the playoffs for the Parrots, three in the title series against Tijuana.  Gaudin had a couple rocky postseason outings that drove his playoff ERA up to 2.53 (still a very good number), making him anything but automatic.  After analyzing the numbers for all players who made significant postseason contributions during Puebla's pennant run, BBM goes with lefty starter Mauricio Lara.

Like Blackley, Lara posted three playoff wins for Puebla.  His only blemish in four starts was a no-decision after pitching seven strong innings in the Division Championship Series against Yucatan on September 4, a game that went 13 innings until the Leones pulled out a 4-3 win.  Lara won one game in each of the Pericos' three series, allowing just four earned runs over 27.1 frames for a sparkling 1.33 earned-run average.  While he wasn't as dominant as Blackley when the latter was on his game, Lara was rock-steady every time he took the mound en route to a playoff WHIP of 1.15 and gave his teammates a chance to win all four outings.  His final start of the year came September 10 in the Serie del Rey when he let in just one run over eight frames as the Pericos held on to win Game Three, 8-5, to take a 2 games to 1 lead in the set.

Mauricio Lara was born April 2, 1979 in Hermosillo, Sonora.  He was signed by the Boston Red Sox as an undrafted free agent at age 20 in early 2000 and assigned to Class A Augusta of the South Atlantic League, where he went 1-0 with a 1.41 ERA in 16 relief appearances before being shifted to Lowell of the Short Season Class A New York-Penn League and used as a starter (4-3, 2.12 ERA in 14 starts). He spent the entire 2001 campaign back in Augusta, where he was 7-6 and 3.02 over 107.1 innings, striking out 96 and showing good control for a lefty by walking just 24.  Lara put in one more year in the Sox system in 2002, turning in a 4-2 mark and a 4.35 ERA over 23 appearances, 19 from the bullpen, in his last season playing ball in the USA.

He made his Mexican League debut with Monterrey in 2003 as a reliever, going 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA for the Sultanes in 26 outings in which he only toiled 19.2 innings.  After missing the 2004 season for unknown reasons, Lara spent four more years in Monterrey togs with mixed results.  He was unsuccessful as a reliever in 2005 and 2006 (going 1-2 and 5.77 combined) but showed better after being converted into a starter in 2007.  He was 15-8 over two years for the Sultanes in that role, turning in a 3.68 ERA through 2008.

The 5'11" 194-pound portsider found himself in Quintana Roo for the 2009 season, going 3-6/6.19 in 11 starts for the Tigres before being traded to Puebla that June. He's been a mainstay in the Pericos' starting rotation ever since.  Lara posted a so-so 37-34 record between 2011 and 2015 with a 5.02 in that timespan, but hit his stride this summer.  He went 13-3 for the Pericos with a 3.14 ERA to finished tied with Monclovas Josh Lowey for second in the LMB in wins behind the 18 of Yucatan's Yoanner Negrin.

While pitching almost exclusively for just two Mexican League teams since 2004, Lara has been constantly on the move during the winter in the Mexican Pacific League. Over the past ten LMP seasons, he's pitched for (in order) Navojoa, Obregon, Guasave, Los Mochis, Mazatlan and Mexicali, going 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 29 relief appearances for the Aguilas last winter.  Still, Lara has enough cache in the MexPac that he was the first overall selection by Culiacan in June's annual LMP draft of domestic players.  The Tomateros will host the 2017 Caribbean Series at their year-old ballpark in February.  The LMP regular season opens October 11.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 BBM Summer Awards Pitcher of the Year: Yoanner Negrin, Yucatan

The Yucatan Leones posted the best record in the Mexican League this summer with a 77-33 mark (winning 35 of 52 road games) before advancing to the LMB South Division Championship Series against eventual champions Puebla.  While BBM Manager of the Year Willie Romero had some timely hitters like in his everyday lineup like Jesus Valdez, Luis Alfonso Garcia and Corey Wimberly, the Leones were clearly a pitching-dependent team in 2016.  And no pitcher in the Liga was more dependable than starter Yoanner Negrin.

The 32-year-old Cuban righty registered one of the best campaigns for pitchers in recent memory, winning 18 of 19 regular season contests.  His lone loss came May 1 against Puebla at home in Merida, a 5-4 defeat in which Negrin allowed five runs on 10 hits and three walks over 5.1 innings.  Otherwise, he was as automatic as the sunrise, winning all but three no-decisions for his 21 other starts.  Negrin's 18 wins were the most since Danny Rios went 18-5 for Union Laguna in 2001 (throwing an incredible 19 complete games among his 26 starts that year).

Negrin ended the schedule with 141.1 innings pitched, striking out 92 batsmen (tied for ninth in the LMB) and walking 37.  He tossed four complete games, three of them shutouts (both league highs), and his 1.07 WHIP was third behind Monclova's departed Josh Lowey and hard-luck Acereros starter Hector Velazquez. Negrin kept it up in the postseason, winning three of four starts (including two wins over Campeche in the first round).  In 24.2 playoff innings, he flashed a 1.86 ERA with 15 strikeouts.

Yoanner Negrin Perez was born April 29, 1984 in Havana.  According to an August interview with the Merida-based Sipse website, Negrin said he loved baseball as far back as he could remember, crediting his father for helping him learn the game.  After first playing first base and shortstop, he tried pitching at age 13.  "I was rather bad," he laughed.  "I kept giving up walks.  I was on the team because my dad was the manager."  He improved to the point of beginning his Cuban National Series career at 17 with a Havana team and moving on to Matanzas at 20.  After a few seasons in the winter league, however, Negrin grew frustrated by his lack of opportunity to even try out for the powerful National Team and decided to leave the island and seek a better chance in baseball and life elsewhere, ending up in Miami.

The Chicago Cubs signed him as a 27-year-old free agent in 2011.  Negrin spent most of the next five summers in the Cubs' minor league system, with loans to Mexican League teams in Tabasco during the 2012 and 2014 seasons, showing well both times.  He suffered an elbow injury in 2015, however, and after rehabbing in Class A Eugene and AAA Iowa, Negrin was loaned to Yucatan in June and has remained since.

Similar to BBM Batter of the Year Diory Hernandez of Aguascalientes, nobody could have foreseen Negrin's incredible 2016 season.  His five-year MiLB career record after the 2015 season was a pedestrian 19-21 in 129 appearances (44 of them starts), although he had a respectable 3.67 ERA and was 8-for-12 in saves opportunities out of the bullpen.

If Lowey had remained in Monclova instead of signing in July with the Korean Baseball Organization's KT Wiz (where he's 3-5 with a 5.98 ERA after his 12th start Tuesday), he would have been in the running for this award.  Lowey was 13-3 with a LMB-leading 1.65 ERA when he departed and his 131 K's still led the loop. Puebla closer Chad Gaudin had a great year for the Pericos, saving 33 games and winning two more with a 1.64 ERA in 44 trips from the pen.  However, there's just no way you can choose anyone but a guy who goes 18-1 over a 110-game season (projecting to 26 triumphs over 162 contests) and wins two more in the playoffs to make it an even 20.  This one was easy.  Finally.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016 BBM Summer Awards Batter of the Year: Diory Hernandez, Aguascalientes

Although the Mexican League has held a well-deserved reputation as a hitter's league for decades, 2016 was a little quieter than usual.  Sure, you had your usual LMB clubs with team batting averages topping the .300 mark, but there were only two of them this year as both Mexico City and Monterrey finished at .303. Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia led the Liga with a .386 average, but the most remarkable offensive performance of the year came from a rarely-noticed shortstop on an even less-noticed team.

Baseball was first played in Aguascalientes in 1902, but pro ball didn't arrive until 1953, when the city hosted a team in the Class A Mexican Center League for the first of 22 seasons under several nicknames (but most often known as the Tigres, after their LMB parent).  Aguascalientes entered the Mexican League in 1974 and has had a spotty record since, winning the pennant in 1978 but leaving for Nuevo Laredo in 2008, only to return in 2012.  Aguascalientes is an industrial city and state capital of 1.27 million inhabitants, and the Rieleros' ballpark (the 9,000-seat Parque Alberto Romo Chavez) will turn 80 in 2018, making it the oldest ballpark in the Liga.  Attendance is usually middle of the pack or lower, with 153,058 clicking the turnstiles over 53 games this year to rank ninth of 16 teams in a down year at the gate in most cities.  Given what he was surrounded with, Diory Hernandez' year at the plate becomes even more of a miracle.

Hernandez is the 2016 BBM Summer Batter of the Year after a remarkable season in which he hit over .400 in April before settling with a final .319 while leading the LMB with 97 RBIs.  His 23 homers tied Saltillo's Eliezer Alfonzo and Quintana Roo's Alex Liddi for third in the Liga while his 77 runs scored tied teammate Brian Burgamy for third.  Hernandez also finished in the Top Ten for hits (tied with Monterrey's Chris Roberson for 9th with 133), total bases (3rd with 224) and slugging percentage (10th at .537).  What makes those number so remarkable are the ones that preceded them.

The 32-year-old Hernandez is a native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, a city of 191,000 known as the "Cradle of Shortstops" and home to 76 future major leaguers, including Hernandez.  A shortstop (of course), the six-footer signed with Atlanta in 2003 and kicked around the Braves' system six years before making his big league debut in 2009.  Hernandez yo-yo'd between Atlanta and AAA affiliate Gwinnett for three summers (hitting .157 in 75 games in the bigs) before splitting the 2012 campaign between Oklahoma City and Iowa of the AAA Pacific Coast League.  By this time he'd evolved into a utility infielder with a little speed and pesky hitter who'd bat anywhere between .250 and .300 or a little higher, but never hitting more than seven homers or topping 68 RBIs in a single year.

Hernandez arrived in Mexico to play at Campeche in 2013, missed 2014 altogether and opened 2015 in Veracruz before coming to Aguascalientes with no discernible difference at bat. Going into the 2016 season, he was a career .270 hitter in the minors with just 46 homers and 382 ribbies over 914 games covering 13 seasons. His 2016 output with the Railroaders increased his career homer total by 50 percent and his RBI count by another 25 percent.

Aguascalientes missed the postseason as usual, coming in sixth in the LMB North at 53-58, 19 games out of first place and 9 out of the final berth with veteran catcher Saul Soto taking over down the stretch as the Liga's first player-manager since Willie Romero with Yucatan in 2012.  In other words, chaos as usual.  But none of that takes away from Diory Hernandez' miracle year.

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 BBM Summer Awards Manager of the Year: Willie Romero, Yucatan Leones

This may end up being the most difficult of all five 2016 Baseball Mexico Summer Awards to determine.  Not because there aren't a lot of worthy candidates, but because only 8 of the 16 Mexican League skippers in April's openers lasted throughout the season.

One could look at Puebla manager Cory Snyder, who led the Pericos to the Liga pennant earlier this month after taking over for Matias Carrillo during the All-Star Break with the team holding the best record in the circuit.  Pedro Mere deserves consideration for succeeding Luis Sojo in Tijuana at about the same time with the Toros in third place in the LMB North, then guiding the Border Bombers through the postseason to the Finals.  Likewise, Felix Fermin did a great job all year taking Monterrey to the best record in the North at 73-29 before being tripped up by Tijuana in the Division Championship Series.  But we're going to go with Yucatan helmsman Willie Romero.

Like Fermin with the Sultanes, Romero was able to avoid the axe (Carrillo's firing in Puebla was evidence that no LMB managerial job is safe) and led the Leones to a LMB-best record of 77-33, winning nine of their final ten regular season games to finish four games better than the Pericos' 73-38 mark. Yucatan then dispatched Campeche in six games to win their opening playoff series before losing to Puebla, 4 games to 2, in the South DCS.  Game Six was a 4-3 heartbreaker that went 13 innings on September 4 to end the Leones' season.

Romero was able to cobble such a strong season out of one of the LMB's lesser offenses, as Yucatan finished tenth in hits (1,042) and batting average (.278), twelfth in homers (66), eleventh in both on-base percentage (.346) and stolen bases (66).  As one may suspect, the Leones got it done with a longtime feature of teams in Merida: Pitching.  Yoanner Negrin went 18-1 to lead a staff that came in second to Quintana Roo in ERA at 3.16 (the next-best finisher, Laguna, clocked a 3.61 ERA in the hitter-firendly loop) with a 1.25 WHIP, also second to the Tigres.  Yucatan hurlers allowed just 47 homers, by far the lowest in the Liga.

The 42-year-old Wilfredo Andres Romero is a native of Maracay, Venezuela.  He signed as an undrafted outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993 and spent six years in their minor league system, topping out in AAA Albuquerque, where he hit .285 with 10 homers and 23 steals for the Dukes in 1998.  His Mexican League debut was two years later with Saltillo, and Romero adapted quickly by batting .334 with 21 homers for the Saraperos in 2000.  The 6'0" right-hander went on to play 13 seasons in the Liga before retiring at 38 after finishing the 2012 campaign as player-manager of the Leones.  Over 19 minor league seasons, Romero was a .318 career hitter, socking 172 homers, stealing 363 bases and either scoring or driving in 2,040 runs in 1,794 games.  He played on pennant-winning teams in both Merida (2006) and Cancun (2011) and represented Yucatan in five All-Star Games, winning the All-Star MVP in 2008.

After going 35-40 as the Leones' player-manager in 2012, Romero moved on to Monclova in 2013 and took the Acereros to a 32-27 record before being let go.  He spent the 2014 season as a coach with Quintana Roo before returning to Yucatan last year, when he managed the Leones to a 66-46 record and the LMB South regular season title.

Romero is a fiery sort who was suspended for two games as a Yucatan player in 2010 after shoving a plate umpire during an argument.  Some of that fire flared up in May when Romero and pitcher Danny Guterrez took a dugout argument into the clubhouse during a game.  Romero later said the two had hugged and made up but Gutierrez was dealt to Laguna in July.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MLB restricts 12 Mexicans from playing in MexPac, "extreme fatigue" cited

One of the banes of existence for winter baseball in Mexico and other Caribbean nations is the "extreme fatigue" clause in contracts between players and Major League Baseball organizations.  The clause allows MLB teams to determine which of their players are (in essence) too tired to play winterball after the major and minor league summer schedules are completed.  Twelve such Mexican players have been ruled out from competing in the Mexican Pacific League this winter, including four for Hermosillo.

The Naranjeros will be without pitchers Jorge de la Rosa (Rockies), Jaime Garcia (Cardinals), Cesar Vargas (Padres) and Adrian Rodriguez (Reds) this winter.  De la Rosa (pictured) has won 101 MLB games since his debut in late 2004, winning 16 contests for the Rockies in 2009 and 2013.  He's pitched 134 innings for Colorado this season, including 24 starts, and has an 8-9 record. Garcia is 10-2 for St. Louis over 170 innings in 2016.  The 24-year-old Vargas is 0-3 after seven starts for San Diego and has pitched a total of 46.2 innings this year.  Rodriguez, who turned 20 last month, tossed 33.2 frames for the Reds' Rookie affiliate in Billings, with his last pitch coming against Great Falls on July 29.

Obregon will have to make do without three players: pitchers Dallas Martinez (Yankees) and Samuel Zazueta (Rangers) plus third baseman Christian Villanueva (Cubs).  All three missed the 2016 season with injuries.  The Yaquis will particularly miss Villanueva, who was BBM's Most Valuable Player last winter after hitting .322 with nine homers in 64 games and playing good defense at the hot corner.

Other players sitting out the winter will be Los Mochis pitchers Marco Estrada (Jays) and Luis Niebla (Yankees); Culiacan hurlers Rafael Ordaz (Yankees) and Carlos Torres (Brewers); and Jalisco reliever Roberto Osuna, who has had an outstanding year with AL East-leading Toronto and wasn't too fatigued to strike out all four Seattle batters he faced on 19 pitches Wednesday night.

While there was no assurance that the likes of de la Rosa, Villanueva or Osuna would've played ball in Mexico this winter, MLB has made that decision for them (something MLB never gets fatigued from doing).

Diablos, Oaxaca to field Mexican-only nines in 2017

The Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros have announced their intentions to play the 2017 Mexican League season with teams consisting entirely of Mexican players.  The Puro Beisbol website has posted a press release from the Diablos stating that the two teams will be relying on homegrown talent next year, with a large number of players having spent time at the Alfredo Harp Helu Baseball Academy in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca.

The academy, named after the Diablos' billionaire owner and a longtime proponent of developing domestic baseball talent in Mexico, opened its doors on November 12, 2009.  Since then, more than 600 prospects have attended the academy, with 38 of them now toiling with Major League Baseball organizations (including Toronto closer Roberto Osuna and Dodgers wunderkind pitcher Julio Cesar Urias, who was rated the #4 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the current season).

Mexico City currently has 77 graduates on their reserve list, with 13 who played at Estadio Fray Nano during the recently-concluded season.  One, pitcher Alexandro Delgado, went 11-1 with a 2.83 ERA for the Red Devils while shortstop Juan Carlos Gamboa batted .321 with 9 homers.  Oaxaca has a total of 36 ABAHH products in tow, including ten Guerreros in 2016.  Nineteen-year-old pitcher Erick Casillas was 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA as a reliever last summer while 21-year-old Luis Medina played three infield positions and hit .259 for Oaxaca.

The change in team policies means that some foreign players would need to find new teams in Mexico next spring.  Californian first baseman Cyle Hankerd, member of Mazatlan's Caribbean Series title team last winter, batted .322 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs for Mexico City this season while veteran Venezuelan catcher Eliezer Alfonso hit .342 with 14 homers in 69 contests for the Diablos.

This would not be the first time all-Mexican teams take the field in the LMB.  For years, Tigres' owner Alejo Peralta, who played for Veracruz in the Thirties before going on to become one of the richest men in the country, took considerable pride in his team winning Liga pennants primarily using home-grown talent.  Playing in Puebla, the Tigres celebrated their 50th anniversary season with an all-Mexican roster in 2005 and went on to win the franchise's ninth (of twelve) championship that year.

Summer BBM Awards next week, "Golden Greats" book taking shape

While Baseball Mexico has been taking a breather since last week's conclusion of the Mexican League season with Puebla's win over Tijuana in the Serie del Rey, things have been moving forward behind the scenes.

Our revived annual Summer Award winners will be announced next week.  There were no Bammys given during BBM's hiatus from 2012 through 2015.  For a trip down Memory Lane, here are the 2011 Summer Bammy winners:

Manager of the Year:  Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz Rojos Aguilas
Newcomer of the Year:  Doug Clark, Quintana Roo Tigres
Pitcher of the Year:  Francisco Campos, Campeche Piratas
Most Valuable Player:  Luis Terrero, Mexico City Diablos Rojos
Playoff MVP:  Pablo Ortega, Quintana Roo Tigres

Also coming in October, there will be wraps for all Mexican summer leagues, from the Liga through the Academy League near Monterrey.

BBM's planned "Golden Greats of Mexican Baseball" book commemorating fifty top players in the history of Mexican baseball is also coming together.  The preliminary format for "Golden Greats" will include two pages devoted to each player, with two photos, career MLB and/or LMB stats (and hopefully LMP stats, too), biographical data and 500-word profiles.  A draft list of fifty players has been put together to feature five players each at catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop, ten outfielders and fifteen pitchers.  Up to ten more non-players will be featured, there'll be a history of Mexican baseball and a four-page chapter on Hector Espino, easily the nation's most beloved and respected ballplayer.  The hope is that "Golden Greats" will be ready for release in time for Christmas.  That's the HOPE.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blackley, Pericos shut out Tijuana for LMB flag

Travis Blackley tossed eight shutout innings and Chad Gaudin closed out both the game and season as the Puebla Pericos defeated Tijuana, 2-0, Wednesday night in TJ to win the Mexican League Championship Series and claim Puebla's fifth LMB pennant.  A packed house of 17,893 was on hand at Estadio Gasmart to witness Game Six of the Serie del Rey.

Blackley, a former major league hurler from Australia, only allowed singles by Dustin Martin and Roberto Lopez while striking out six and walking two to post his third playoff win of 2016.  He was named Playoff MVP by the Liga following the contest.  This might not even be the highlight of the 33-year-old lefty's past year...Blackley married American model Jenna Cecil in the offseason, with no apparent deleterious effect on his stamina (football coaches, take note).

The game was a pitcher's duel from the onset, as Tijuana starter Barry Enright matched Blackley, zero for zero, until serving up a two-out homer to Puebla first baseman Daric Barton to center field in the top of the sixth inning.  Enright lasted 6.2 innings, scattering seven hits and walking one while striking out five Pericos batsmen in absorbing a loss he really didn't deserve.  After Jose Meraz replaced Enright (who'd thrown 103 pitches) to record the final out of the seventh, Juan Sandoval took the hill for the Toros and pitched a scoreless eighth.

Sandoval, a 35-year-old Dominican righty who pitched well for Tijuana after being released by Mexico City in late June, opened the top of the ninth by letting up a leadoff double to Sergio Perez, who lined a 1-1 pitch into left field.  It looked like the Toros might escape their predicament when Alberto Carreon grounded out and Rudy Amador struck pout swinging, but Nyjer Morgan's sharp grounder up the middle into center scored pinch-runner Oscar Sanay from second to make it a 2-0 Puebla lead.  The threat ended one pitch later when Morgan lit out to steal second but was nailed by a perfect throw from Toros catcher Juan Apodaca to second sacker Carlos Valencia for the third out.

It was then left to Gaudin, who pitched for nine MLB teams between 2003 and 2013, to close out the game and season for Puebla in the bottom of the ninth, but it didn't go as smoothly as Pericos manager Cory Snyder hoped.  After Oscar Robles led off for Tijuana by lining out to Carreon at shortstop, Olmo Rosario legged out a bunt single down the third base line to keep the Toros' hopes alive.  Gaudin then faced the dangerous Dustin Martin, who'd already had a pocketful of postseason plate heroics for Tijuana.  After working the count to 3-2, Gaudin got Martin swinging for the second out. During the at-bat, Rosario broke for second to steal the bag, drawing a throw from Tapia.  Umpire Jesus Lopez ruled Rosario safe, causing Pericos skipper Snyder to come out of the dugout to protest the decision, but the call was upheld.  Gaudin then took matters into his own hands by whiffing Apodaca on five pitches to pick up his seventh playoff save and clinch the title for Puebla.

Ex-MLB outfielder Willy Taveras had an outstanding Serie del Rey for the Pericos, batting .458 over the six-game set, while Barton and Tapia each hit two homers for Puebla.  This series was decided by pitching, however, as the Pericos staff held Tijuana to a .199 average.

Puebla 2-10-0, TIJUANA 0-3-1 (Puebla wins series, 4 games to 2)
W-Blackley. L-Enright. SV-Gaudin. HR-Barton (P). T-3:02. A-17,893.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Toros stay alive; Serie del Rey moves to Tijuana

Roberto Lopez had a sub-.200 playoff batting average entering Monday night's Mexican League Championship Series Game Five in Puebla, but the Tijuana first baseman broke out of his slump in a big way to lead the Toros to a 9-2 win over the Pericos, staying alive in the Serie del Rey and sending the series back to the border city for Game Six on Wednesday.  The Toros trailed 2-1 before pushing eight runs across the plate in the top of the ninth, silencing the packed stands at Estadio Hermanos Serdan.

Lopez (pictured) cracked a double and homer in the ninth inning to the plate for the Toros, driving in three runs and scoring twice as Tijuana shaved Puebla's series lead to 3-games-to-2.  The Pericos had won the first two of three games played in Puebla, all before sellout crowds of 12,112.

Starting pitchers Horacio Ramirez of Tijuana and Orlando Lara of Puebla traded zeros until the top of the third inning, when Roberto Lopez crashed a solo homer to center off Lara to give the visitors a 1-0 nod.  The score stood until the bottom of the fifth, when Willy Taveras slashed a triple off Ramirez and later came in on Daric Barton's two-out single up the middle to tie things up for the host team.  The Pericos took the lead one frame later when Ruben Rivera led off the sixth with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Rudy Amador's seeing-eye single into center to give Puebla a 2-1 advantage.

The score held until the crazy top of the ninth, during which the visitors sent twelve batters to the plate and put those eight runs on the scoreboard.  Dustin Martin, who's having a Playoff MVP-worthy finals for Tijuana, led off the inning against Puebla closer Chad Gaudin with a triple past a diving Nyjer Morgan in left field  Martin scored on third baseman Amador's throwing error on a Carlos Valencia grounder to knot the game at 2-2 and the Toros eventually filled the bases for Lopez, whose two-run double broke the deadlock for good.  Gaudin registered his first out of the inning when the sixth batter faced, Miguel Torrero, grounded out to second.  After Gaudin got Jose Guadalupe Chavez to ground into a fielder's choice out as Puebla shortstop Alberto Carreon threw Alex Romero out at the plate for the second out, the bottom really fell out for the eleven-year MLB vet.

Throwing to pinch-hitter Emmanuel Valdez, Gaudin uncorked a wild pitch that brought Lopez rumbling in from third to make it a 5-2 Toros lead, then let up a Valdez double to center that scored Chavez.  Puebla skipper Cory Snyder deduced that Gaudin maybe just didn't have it after eight batsmen and four runs and brought in Benny Suarez.  It only took nine pitches and consecutive walks to Olmo Rosario and Martin for Snyder to figure that Suarez might not have it either, calling in Julio Felix from the bullpen to face Edson Garcia, who'd pinch-run earlier and stayed in the game defensively in center field.  While working on Garcia, Felix unleashed a wild pitch of his own to move Valdez in from third to bring the score to 7-2.  Garcia then drilled a liner into right to bring in Rosario and Martin, making it a 9-2 TJ  lead before Valencia mercifully ended the onslaught by grounding out to second.  It was then left to Toros closer Jason Urquidez to post a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth against the shell-shocked Puebla batsmen to end the game and send the Serie del Rey back to Estadio Gasmart.

Urquidez pitched the last 2.1 innings, allowing no hits and whiffing three Pericos for the win.  Gaudin was tagged with both a blown save and the loss for Puebla.  Both teams put up eleven hits on the night, with Chavez and Lopez each contributing two hits for Tijuana while Taveras and Amador split six hits for Puebla, five of them singles.  Lara scattered seven hits but let in just one run over 6.2 innings for the Pericos; Ramirez lasted into the sixth and had a tougher time, coughing up all 11 hits and both Puebla runs but five relievers (including Urquidez) allowed no hits or runs the rest of the way.  The game was delayed by rain for over an hour, stretching the contest past 12:30am local time.

After a travel day Tuesday, the two teams will convene Wednesday night in Tijuana at 10:30pm ET.  Game Seven, if needed, would be played Thursday, after which many players won't have time to either celebrate or drown their sorrows.  Training camps in the Mexican Pacific League are already opening for the coming winterball season...another reason to love baseball in Mexico.

Tijuana 9-11-1, PUEBLA 2-11-2 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Urquidez (1-0). L-Gaudin (0-1). HR-Lopez (R). T-3:30. A-12,112.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Big inning propels Pericos to win, 3-1 title series lead

A four-run outburst in the fourth inning put Puebla ahead for good and starter Hector Galvan (pictured) and three relievers combined to toss shutout ball over the final eight frames as the Pericos went on to beat Tijuana, 5-1, Sunday in the Mexican League Championship Series at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan with a sixth consecutive sellout crowd of 12,112 looking on.  With the win, the Parakeets took a 3-games-to-1 lead in the Serie del Rey in their quest for their hometown's first LMB pennant in 30 years.

The Toros took a 1-0 lead in a crazy top of the first inning.  After walking leadoff batter Jose Guadalupe Chavez and inducing Alex Romero to foul out to Pericos left fielder Nyjer Morgan, things started getting weird when Olmo Rosario stepped up to the plate for Tijuana.  Galvan threw a wild pitch to Rosario that allowed Chavez to scamper to second, then a delivery that eluded catcher Cesar Tapia gave Chavez the green light to advance to third.  It was left to Rosario to loft a fly ball that fell to earth in front of center fielder Willy Taveras for a single, bringing in Chavez with what turned out to be the Toros' only run.  Dustin Martin and Carlos Valencia also singled to load the bases before Oscar Robles grounded out to second to end the inning.

The Pericos knotted the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Jose Rodriguez' grounder found its way to left field to bring Morgan in from third, but it was the fourth inning that effectively put the game away for Puebla.  Rodriguez opened the inning by being plunked Tijuana starter Miguel Pena, moved to third on a Daric Barton double and (after Pena walked Tapia to load the bases) came in on an infield single by Ruben Rivera.  Alberto Carreon then stroked a two-run double to give Puebla a 4-1 lead.  Rudy Amador grounded out on a comebacker to Pena on the mound with no more runs coming in, but that was enough for Tijuana manager Pedro Mere.  Mark Serrano was brought in to face Oscar Sanay, who nubbed an infield single to third that brought Rivera in from third before Morgan ended the inning by lining to first sacker Roberto Lopez for an unassisted double play to end the inning and (in effect) the game, as nobody scored the rest of the way.

Taveras went 3-for-5 to lead the Pericos' nine-hit effort while Carreon recorded his third straight two-hit game to raise his playoff batting average to .360.  Rosario collected two of Tijuana's six hits.  Galvan ended up allowing the Toros' lone run on five hits over his five innings of work to take the win, scattering five safeties.  Pena absorbed the defeat to fall to 0-2 in the playoffs, giving up six hits, hitting two batters and walking another in 3.1 frames.  He was charged with all five Puebla runs.  One day after the two teams combined for six homers in Game Three, neither side hit one out Sunday.

The Pericos will try to clinch Puebla's first Liga pennant since 1986 and fourth since 1925 on Monday while the Toros try to keep the Serie de Rey alive and send the proceedings back to Tijuana for Games Six and Seven.  Lefty Horacio Ramirez will be on the hill for the Toros while fellow portsider Orlando Lara will start for Puebla.  The first pitch is scheduled for 8:00pm ET.

PUEBLA 5-9-0, Tijuana 1-6-0 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 1)
W-Galvan. L-M. Pena. T-2:46. A-12,112.

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.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Pericos outlast TJ, 6-3, title series tied at 1 game each

Dustin Martin hit his second homer in as many nights, a two-run shot that brought his Tijuana Toros to within a run of Puebla, but the Pericos added a pair of late runs and went on to beat the host team, 6-3, Thursday night to tie the Mexican League Championship Series at one game apiece.  An overflow crowd of 17,399 attended Game Two of the Serie el Rey at Tijuana's Estadio Gasmart.

Puebla got on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning when LMB batting champ Cesar Tapia, who's had a fairly quiet postseason, jolted a full-count delivery from Toros starter Barry Enright over the left field wall for a solo homer. The 1-0 score held until the top of the fourth, when the Pericos plated three runs. Daric Barton led the frame off with a triple, with Tapia singling him in. Subsequently, Alberto Carreon singled and Nyjer Morgan walked to load the bases with two out, bringing up Willy Taveras.  After Enright got him to whiff on the first pitch, Taveras lined the Pepperdine product's next offering to center field to bring in both Tapia and Carreon to make it a 4-0 lead for the Pericos.

Up to that point, Puebla starter Travis Blackley (pictured) was sailing along and the Aussie carried a one-hitter into the bottom of the fifth, when he walked Oscar Robles, wild-pitched Robles to second and then let up a run-scoring, ground-rule double to Carlos Valencia, who bounced a liner past Morgan and over the left field fence to ruin Blackley's shutout bid.  Things got a little warmer for Blackley and the Pericos in the sixth, when Martin followed up an Alex Romero single with his fourth homer of the playoffs to close the gap to 4-3.

That was as close as TJ would get, however, as Morgan singled in Tapia with a Puebla run in the top of the eighth off reliever Juan Sandoval and Barton touched Jason Urquidez with an RBI single in the ninth, driving in Jose Rodriguez with the final score of the game to clinch the win for the Parrots.  It was the first postseason run allowed by Urquidez in eight appearances after the Arizonan had saved 26 regular season games in 27 opportunities for the Toros.  The former Diamondbacks minor leaguer also pitched a scoreless inning for the victorious North in June's LMB All-Star Game at Estadio Monterrey.

Blackley got the win, allowing three runs over 5.2 innings on four hits and three walks, while Chad Gaudin picked up his fifth postseason save.  Enright took the loss, his second defeat in three playoff decisions, after giving up four runs on eight hits in 3.2 frames.  Tapia had three of Puebla's 13 hits, scoring three times and driving in two runs.  Tijuana collected just four hits on the night and now have just seven safeties over the first two games of the title tilt.

The two combatants will have the day off Friday before resuming the Serie el Rey with three games at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Puebla is seeking its fifth Liga pennant since first fielding an LMB team in 1942 and their first since 1986.  Former big leaguer Cory Snyder has managed the Pericos since the All-Star Break, when the team shockingly fired Matias Carrillo even though the team had the best record in the league at the time.  Carrillo is now a member of the Toros coaching staff under skipper Pedro Mere, who himself assumed the reins July 4 after Luis Sojo was canned.  This is the first time Tijuana has played for a Mexican League title.

Puebla 6-13-0, TIJUANA 3-4-0 (Series tied at 1 game each)
W-Blackley. L-Enright. SV-Gaudin. HR-Martin (T). T-2:46. A-17,399.

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 Mexican League Championship Series schedule

Game 1: Wednesday, Sept. 7, Puebla at Tijuana, Estadio Gasmart, 10:30pm ET
Game 2: Thursday, Sept. 8, Puebla at Tijuana, Estadio Gasmart, 10:30pm ET

Game 3: Saturday, Sept. 10, Tijuana at Puebla, Estadio Hermanos Serdan, 5:00pm ET
Game 4: Sunday, Sept. 11, Tijuana at Puebla, Estadio Hermanos Serdan,   2:00pm ET
Game 5: Monday, Sept. 12, Tijuana at Puebla, Estadio Hermanos Serdan,   8:00pm ET

Game 6: Wednesday, Sept. 14, Puebla at Tijuana, Estadio Gasmart, 10:30pm ET
Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 15, Puebla at Tijuana, Estadio Gasmart, 10:30pm ET

Games in italics played as necessary

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

LMB Division Championships result, highlights for Monday, September 5

The home team won every game of the Mexican League's North Division Championship Series until the last one.

The Tijuana Toros put together a three-run sixth inning to break a 1-all tie and went on to win, 5-2, Monday night at Monterrey to take Game Seven and the LMB North crown to advance to the Serie del Rey against Puebla.  Tijuana had finished the regular season in third place in the division, eight-and-a-half games behind the Sultanes in the standings.  However, manager Pedro Mere (who replaced ex-Yankee Luis Sojo at the helm on July 4) led the Toros to series wins over higher seeds Monclova and Monterrey to give the border city a shot at its first Mexican League pennant.

Tijuana 5-13-0, MONTERREY 2-9-1 (Tijuana wins series, 4 games to 3)
W-A. Sanabia. L-C. Carrillo. SV-Urquidez. HR-Martin (T). T-3:05. A-25,621.
TJ starting pitcher Alex Sanabia (pictured) did his part by tossing six-and-two-thirds innings of one-run baseball, scattering six hits to raise his playoff record to 3-0.  The game got off to a perilous start for the one-time Marlins hurler, however, as he gave up an RBI double to Alex Valdez in the bottom of the first to put Monterrey on the scoreboard.  Sanabia had to pitch out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam that frame to stop the bleeding, then faced the minimum number of Sultanes batters the next five innings.
Tijuana tied it up in the top of the fourth when Carlos Valencia singled in Olmo Rosario, but it was the sixth when the roof finally fell in on Sultanes starter Cesar Carrillo.  Dustin Martin led off the entrada with a first-pitch homer to right to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. That was followed by a Rosario single, an RBI double by Oscar Robles and a single by Edson Garcia that drove in Robles from second to make it a 4-1 Tijuana lead.  Then Roberto Lopez homered in the top of the seventh to give Sanabia a four-run lead. The San Diego native combined with three relievers combined to limit the Sultanes to one eighth-inning score on Alex Valdez' RBI single to ice the win and send the Toros on to the LMB championship series against Puebla.

Monday, September 5, 2016

LMB Division Championships results, highlights for Sunday, September 4

Puebla has won the Mexican League South Division Championship Series over Yucatan to clinch a berth in the Serie del Rey, but it'll take one more game to determine who represents the LMB North.

The Pericos knocked out the Leones, 4-3, in 13 innings in Game Six Sunday at Merida's Parque Kukulkan to win the set, 4 games to 2.  In the other DCS, the Monterrey Sultanes held off Tijuana, 5-3, Sunday as more than 20,000 fans watched at Estadio Monterrey.  That tied things after six games between the two sides, so they'll go at it again Monday night in Monterrey for the LMB North crown and a shot at Puebla for the Liga pennant.

Puebla 4-8-0, YUCATAN 3-9-2 (13) (Puebla wins the series, 4 games to 2)
W-C. Gaudin. L-A. Barraza. HR-Barton (P). T-4:47.  A-12,000.
LMB batting champion Cesar Tapia swatted a double off Yucatan reliever Jesus Barraza to drive in Ruben Rivera with the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th inning and Puebla held on to beat the Leones, 4-3, to win the LMB South title and a shot at the city's first pennant since 1986.  The two teams were tied at 2-2 before each adding a run in the 12th.  Rivera drew a one-out walk off Barraza and scored from first one out later on Tapia's two-bagger to right.  Pericos closer Chad Gaudin then retired the side in nine pitches in the bottom of the frame for the win and the Serie del Rey slot.

MONTERREY 5-9-1, Tijuana 3-12-0 (Series tied at 3 games apiece)
W-Mar. Gonzalez. L-R. Diaz. SV-Obispo. T-3:40. A-20,603.
Ramon Rios lined a fourth-inning, two-run single up the middle to give Monterrey the lead for good as the Sultanes held on for a 5-3 win over Tijuana Sunday night to tie their LMB North title series after six games. Rios added a two-run double in the sixth.  Mario Gonzalez relieved starter Marco Tovar in the first and pitched 5.1 strong innings for the win. Wirfin Obispo went the final 2.2 frames for his fourth playoff save for Monterrey. Rios finished 3-for-5 with four ribbies. Vet infielder Oscar Robles had 3 hits and an RBI for the Toros.  Game Seven is Monday night in Monterrey.

Monday's Schedule
Tijuana (A. Sanabia 2-0, 0.75) at Monterrey (C. Carrillo 1-1, 0.82), 8:05pm EDT

Saturday, September 3, 2016

LMB Division Championships results, highlights from Friday, September 2

Pitching was the name of both games Friday night in Mexican League Division Championship Series Game Five action in Puebla and Tijuana.

Yoanner Negrin rebounded from a pair of substandard playoff starts to carry a shutout into the seventh inning as his Yucatan Leones completed their three-game road sweep in Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan, beating the Pericos, 9-1, to overtake the series lead, 3 games to 2.  The visiting team has won all but one game in the South DCS.

Meanwhile, in the LMB North DCS, Tijuana's Barry Enright (pictured) was just a little better than Monterrey's Edgar Gonzalez as the Toros blanked the Sultanes, 2-0, Friday to take a 3-to-2 lead in that series.  Dustin Martin scored twice for Tijuana, contributing a fourth inning solo homer.  Unlike the other set, the home side has won every game in this series.

Saturday will be a travel day with action resuming Sunday night in Merida and Monterrey.

Yucatan 9-14-0, PUEBLA 1-8-3 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Negrin. L-O.Lara. HR-Serrano (Y). T-3:01. A-12,112.
Yoanner Negrin pitched 6.2 innings of shutout ball, allowing five hits and striking out four to post his third playoff win Friday to raise his overall season record to 21-2 as Yucatan copped their second straight game in Puebla, 9-1.  Jose Aguilar went 3-for-4 for the Leones, scoring once and driving in another run, while Ricardo Serrano socked a two-run homer in the second off Puebla starter Orlando Lara for his third longball of the postseason. Ruben Rivera had a pair of hits for the Pericos, including an RBI single in the eighth to drive in Jose Rodriguez with Puebla's lone run.

TIJUANA 2-6-0, Monterrey 0-7-0 (Tijuana leads series, 3 games to 2)
W-Enright. L-Ed. Gonzalez. SV-Urquidez. HR-D. Martin (T). T-2:56. A-17,362.
Tijuana starter Barry Enright carried a shutout into the sixth inning and three relievers took it from there as the Toros held off Monterrey, 2-0, with 17,362 looking on at Estadio Gasmart.  Enright scattered five hits and struck out three batsmen for his first playoff win of 2016.  Dustin Martin had a hand in both TJ runs, scoring on an Oscar Robles sacrifice fly in the second frame and clouting a solo homer off Sultanes starter Edgar Gonzalez in the fourth.  Gonzales went seven innings and pitched well enough to win, but his teammates took the night off at the plate.

Saturday's Schedule
No games

Sunday's Schedule
Tijuana (M. Pena) at Monterrey (M. Tovar), 6:05pm EDT
Puebla (M. Lara) at Yucatan (T. Solis), 7:05pm EDT

Friday, September 2, 2016

LMB Division Championships results, highlights for Thursday, September 1

The Tijuana Toros registered their second win in as many nights, beating Monterrey, 2-1, to tie their North Division Championship Series with the Sultanes at two games apiece in Mexican League playoff action in the border city.  In the LMB South DCS, visiting Yucatan pulled away from Puebla, 5-1, at Estadio Hermanos Serdan to avoid being swept in their second-round series after posting the Liga's best regular season record at 77-33.

Game Five in both series are slated for Friday night in Tijuana and Puebla, respectively, before Saturday's travel day.

TIJUANA 2-6-0, Monterrey 1-12-0 (Series tied, 2 games to 2)
W-H. Ramirez. L-J. Solano. SV-Urquidez. HR-none. T-2:42. A-15,891.
Carlos Valencia (pictured) singled Juan Apodaca in with the tying run with two out in the fifth inning, then scored the go-ahead run on Edson Garcia's double as the Tijuana Toros topped Monterrey, 2-1, at Estadio Gasmart in front of 15.891 fans to tied their series at two games apiece.  It was a tough loss for Sultanes starter Javier Solano, who went the distance and scattered six Toros hits while striking out 12 batsmen in eight frames.  Ex-Atlanta hurler Horacio Ramirez got the win for Tijuana as Monterrey failed to help themselves, scoring just one run on 12 hits and a walk.

Yucatan 5-11-1, PUEBLA 1-5-0 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 1)
W-J. Castellanos. L-H. Garcia. HR-Serrano. T-2:43. A-12,112.
Jonathan Castellanos pitched 6.1 innings of four-hit, one-run ball and Ricardo Serrano belted a two-run homer in the eighth for insurance as the Yucatan Leones staved off elimination with a 5-1 win at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan Thursday night.  Jesus Valdez' groundout scored Corey Wimberly in the top of the first with the game's first run for the Leones, who never looked back.  Wimberly and Kevin Flores each had three hits for Yucatan, who avoided the series sweep. Daric Barton had two hits for Puebla, who will try again tonight to clinch a berth in the Serie del Rey.

Friday's Schedule
Yucatan (Negrin) at Puebla (O. Lara) 8:00pm EDT
Monterrey (E. Gonalez) at Tijuana (Enright) 10:35pm EDT

Thursday, September 1, 2016

LMB Division Championships results, highlights for Wednesday, August 1

Travis Blackley (pictured) picked up where he left off when rain delayed Tuesday night's game and went on to pitch seven strong innings as Puebla defeated Yucatan, 5-3, Wednesday at Estadio Hermanos Serdan extend the Pericos' Mexican League South Division Championship Series lead over the Leones, 3 games to 0.  In the LMB North DCS, Olmo Rosario had a big night for Tijuana as the Toros broke Monterrey pitchers' 33-inning shutout streak in a big way, pounding the Sultanes, 9-1, in Estadio Gasmart to hand the visitors their first loss of the postseason.

PUEBLA 5-12-0, Yucatan 3-7-1 (Puebla leads series, 3 games to 0)
W-Blackley. L-T. Solis. SV-Gaudin. HR-J. Valdez (Y). T-2:56. A-12,112.
Former big leaguer Travis Blackley returned to the mound after tossing one scoreless inning Tuesday night and put in six more frames of work Wednesday, allowing one run on four hits to pick up his first win of the playoffs.  Tomas Solis, who allowed the first run of the game Tuesday, did not reappear but was handed the loss for the Leones.  Ruben Rivera had three hits for the winners while Nyjer Morgan singled and scored twice while driving in another run for Puebla.  Jesus Valdez cracked a solo homer for Yucatan, who face elimination by the Pericos in Thursday's tilt in the colonial city.

TIJUANA 9-11-0, Monterrey 1-5-3 (Monterrey leads series, 2 games to 1)
W-Sanabia. L-O. Villareal. HR-Rosario (T), Sappelt (M), Apodaca (T), R. Lopez (T). T-2:45. A-15,018.
Olmo Rosario went 3-for-5 with a grand slam as Tijuana doused Monterrey, 9-1, in front of 15,018 home fans at Estadio Gasmart Wednesday night.  Sultanes pitchers had extended their playoff shutout string to 33 innings (including four straight shutouts) into the third inning, when Alex Romero's single off Cesar Carrillo drove in Edson Garcia with the game's first run.  Tijuana had a 3-1 lead when Rosario's quad shot put the game out of reach four entradas later.  Toros starter Alex Sanabia allowed one run in six innings for the win.  The two teams meet again tonight in TJ.

Yucatan (J. Castellanos) at Puebla (H. Garcia), Estadio Hermanos Serdan, 8:00pm EDT
Monterrey (J. Solano) at Tijuana (H. Ramirez), Estadio Gasmart, 8:35pm EDT