Friday, January 6, 2017

Caneros blank Venados, 3-0; defending champs facing elimination

Luis Niebla and MLB vet Sergio Romo combined to spin a five-hit shutout as the Los Mochis Caneros defeated the Mazatlan Venados, 3-0, Wednesday night in Mazatlan to take a commanding 3-games-to-0 lead in their Mexican Pacific League first round playoff series.  One more loss would close out a first-round loss for the defending league and Caribbean Series champions.  Elsewhere in LMP playoff action, Culiacan outlasted Hermosillo, 8-7, to take a 2-games-to-1-lead in their best-of-7 set while Mexicali went one up in their series with top seed Navojoa by slipping past the Mayos, 2-3, Wednesday in the border city.  Game Four for all three series will be played Thursday night.

Los Mochis 3-10-0, MAZATLAN 0-5-2

Former Twins and Orioles outfielder Lew Ford's third inning double plated Eugenio Velez with the only run Los Mochis would need as the Caneros went on to whitewash the defending champs, 3-0, in front of 9,761 fans at Mazatlan's Estadio Teodoro Mariscal.  The Venados now face the daunting task of winning four straight games to win the series, although a couple of wins might be enough to advance them to the semifinals as the so-called "lucky loser" entry.

The 40-year-old Ford (pictured), who's spent most of the past four summers playing independent ball with Long Island of the Atlantic League since he last appeared in MLB with Baltimore in 2012, went on to put up a 4-for-5 night at the play for Mochis, added an RBI in the top of the ninth one inning after Saul Soto's single brought in J.C. Linares with the Caneros' second score of the night.  Soto and Jesus Arredondo each had two singles for Mochis.  Catcher Erick Rodriguez, not known for his bat, had three of Mazatlan's five hits while Cyle Hankerd and Carlos Munoz each singled but only one Venados baserunner reached second base all game.

It was a game for pitchers, however, as Niebla and Romo combined for eight strikeouts and walked only two Venados batsmen.  Niebla went eight innings for the win, allowing four hits and whiffing seven, while Romo picked up his second save of the series by pitching a scoreless ninth in his effort to draw an offer from an MLB organization as a free agent after nine years, three World Series titles and an All-Star Game appearance with the San Francisco Giants.  Walter Silva pitched in lard luck for Mazatlan, letting in no earned runs (Velez reached base on an error in the third) and scattering six hits and two walks over six innings of work in a very creditable start.

Culiacan 8-11-0, HERMOSILLO 7-9-2

Unlike the Los Mochis-Mazatlan game, pitchers didn't have a lot of say in Culiacan's 8-7 win in Hermosillo Wednesday night with a sellout crowd of 16,329 clicking the turnstiles at Estadio Sonora.  Not that there weren't a lot of pitchers involved, as the two teams combined to send 14 hurlers to the mound while 15 runs and 20 hits were piled up on the night.

A Joey Meneses single off Hermosillo starter Juan Pablo Oramas drove in Maxwell Leon (son of former MLB pitcher Maximino Leon) with the game's first run for Culiacan in the top of the first inning, followed by a Ramiro Pena sacrifice fly that brought Ryan Lollis in from third for the Tomateros' second run.  Efren Navarro's homer off Culiacan's Patrick McCoy put the Naranjeros on the board, but Culiacan scored twice in the third on Issmael Salas' two-run homer and three more in the top of the fifth when Jose Manuel Rodriguez socked a two-run homer of his own and Salas singled in Meneses to make it a 7-1 Tomateros lead.  Then things got interesting, as Hermosillo batted around the order and scored five runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth, with O'Koyea Dickson's three-run longball off reliever Juan Ramon Noriega's third pitch the key blow.  Pena singled in Lollis in the top of the sixth to make it an 8-6 Culiacan lead and while Hermosillo scored once more in the bottom of the seventh, they couldn't draw even as the Tomateros hung on for the win to go up 2-games-to-1 in the series.

David Goforth pitched two scoreless innings in relief for Culiacan and was credited with the win.  McCoy was pulled after allowing the first three Hermosillo batters reach base in the fifth (all scored).  Goforth was one of seven relievers trotted out by Tomateros manager Che Reyes.  Oramas, who led the LMP in earned-run average much of the regular season, absorbed the loss for the Naranjeros by giving up five runs in 4+ frames himself.  Culiacan now leads the series, 2 games to 1.

MEXICALI 3-7-0, Navojoa 2-6-2

Veteran centerfielder Chris Roberson's three-run homer in the second inning held up as Mexicali went on to a 3-2 win over regular season champ Navojoa with 12,387 onlookers at La Nida (The Nest) in the border city.  The win puts the Aguilas up 2-games-to-1 in their first-round series.

MexPac batting champ Luis Juarez opened the bottom of the second with a double off Navojoa starter Zack Dodson, who then got Xorge Carrillo to line out to second and struck out Jon Del Campo to come to within one out of escaping the frame unscathed.  Dodson walked Ramon Rios, however, sending Roberson to the plate.  After watching the first pitch for a called strike, Roberson lofted a fly ball over the head of Mayos left fielder Christian Zazueta that landed in the seats to put the Eagles up 3-0.  It was an atonement of sorts for Roberson after the 2014 Caribbean Series MVP committed two errors on one fly ball in Mexicali's 7-6 knucklebiter win in Navojoa on Monday.  Navojoa came back in the top of the fifth when Alan Sanchez doubled in Quincy Latimore for one run and Fernando Flores scored from third on Zazueta's groundout, but that would be all the scoring for the night as five relievers would follow Mexicali starter Efren Delgado to post zeros over the Mayos' final four innings.

Delgado ended up with the win after going five frames and allowing both Mayos runs on three hits, striking out seven batters and walking just one.  Dodson took the loss for Navojoa, throwing 91 pitches over 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits (including Roberson's dinger) and walking three.  Jake Sanchez' dominance from the bullpen during the regular season has carried over into the playoffs as well, with the Californian sealing the win with 1.1 unblemished innings for his second save of the series.  Sanchez has now allowed one earned run (and four walks) in 34 innings over 32 combined trips from the pen for manager Roberto Vizcarra's Aguilas.