Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mexicali pounds Navojoa, Mazatlan stays alive

The Mexicali Aguilas routed top-seed Navojoa, 14-1, Friday to take a 3-games-to-1 lead in their Mexican Pacific League first round playoff series.  Also Friday, the Mazatlan Venados prevented a Los Mochis sweep with a tight 7-6 win in the Pearl of the Pacific while Hermosillo evened up with Culiacan at two games each by doubling up the Tomateros, 8-4.  Game Five action is slated for Saturday in Mazatlan, Mexicali and Hermosillo before the series shift locales on Sunday as needed.

MEXICALI 14-16-0, Navojoa 1-3-1
Believe it or not, the Mayos led this one early.  After a scoreless first inning, Navojoa went up 1-0 in the top of the second when Christian Zazueta drilled a two-out double to left field off Mexicali starter Miguel Pena, scoring Niko Vazquez from third base. The roof promptly caved in for the visitors as the Aguilas scored five runs in the bottom of the second and three in the third to go up 8-1.  The two teams swapped zeros from the fourth frame until the bottom of the sixth, when the Eagles erupted for four more runs to make it a 12-1 game.  The hosts added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth as 15,577 people watched at  Estadio B'Air in the border city.

Key scoring plays for the Aguilas were Yuniesky Betancourt's three-run double in the second inning, RBI doubles by Ramon Rios and C.J. Retherford in the third, Jon Del Campo's three-run homer in the sixth and Rios' two-run longball in the eighth.  In all, Mexicali collected 16 hits and 6 walks off five Navojoa pitchers, with Mayos starter Fabio Castro (1 IP, 5 R, 5 H, 4 BB) taking the loss after allowing the first Mexicali batters to reach base in the second, including a leadoff homer from Mets farmhand Xorge Carrillo (pictured).  The bottom third of the order did the most damage for the winners as Carrillo, Del Campo and Rios combined for 11 hits (including three homers and two doubles), 9 runs scored and 8 RBIs.

All that offense made life easy for Aguilas starter Pena, who lasted seven innings and gave up just three hits and one run, walking none and whiffing three for the win.  Yair Lozoya and Francisco Rodriguez each turned in 1-2-3 innings in relief against the shellshocked Mayos.

MAZATLAN 7-5-2, Los Mochis 6-9-5

It wasn't pretty, but Mazatlan manager Daniel Fernandez wasn't in the position to be choosy about how his team won.  The defending LMP and Caribbean Series champion Venados parlayed five hits, two walks and five Los Mochis into a 7-6 home win over the Caneros Friday night.  In doing so, the Deer stayed alive by bringing their series deficit to 3 games to 1.  A crowd of just 8.572 was on hand at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, the lowest attendance of all twelve postseason encounters involving six cities.  It's been a season-long puzzle for Mazatlan, the only MexPac team to draw fewer than 200,000 fans during the regular season (albeit barely below that number).

Mazatlan went up 2-0 on Jesus Fabela's RBI single in the second inning and Drew Maggi scampering home on a double-play grounder in the third entrada.  Los Mochis roared back with three runs in the fourth, taking the lead when Sebastian Valle lumbered in from third on a Jesus Sanchez wild pitch, and racked up three more scores in the fifth (key blow: two-run double from Fernando Inzunza) to take a 6-2 lead.  The Venados got one run back in the bottom of the fifth when Fabela scored on a double-play grounder, ironically topped by Maggi, to cut Mochis' lead to three.  Mazatlan drew even with three runs in the seventh, tying the score when Caneros reliever Jon Sintes uncorked a wild pitch to Cyle Hankerd, allowing Roberto Valenzuela to come in from third.  The Venados won in walkoff fashion when Fabela opened the bottom ninth by beating out an errant throw to first by Mochis shortstop Isaac Rodriguez, moved to second on a Valenzuela sacrifice bunt and scored on Maggi's line drive single to right, ending the contest.

Arturo Barradas went a third of an inning in the ninth as the last Mazatlan pitcher and his one out was enough for him to be the winning pitcher.  Ernesto Zaragos started for the Venados and struck out six in 3.1 innings, but he also let in three runs on four hits and three walks over 76 pitches before skipper Fernandez had finally had enough (conversely, home plate umpire Oswaldo Meza had finally had enough of Fernandez in the eighth and tossed him.  Sintes both blew a save opportunity and took the loss despite 20 of his 29 pitches going for strikes.  The real story for Mochis pitchers was that of seven runs allowed by three pitchers, only two were earned as the trio otherwise combined on a five-hitter.

HERMOSILLO 8-7-2, Culiacan 4-7-2

Outfielder Jason Bourgeois scored three runs on two hits (including a homer) and a walk as the Hermosillo Naranjeros topped the Culiacan Tomateros, 8-4, Friday with a standing-room-only crowd of 16,302 at Hermosillo's Estadio Sonora.  The first-round series is now tied at two games apiece.

The contest was tied ar 2-2 when Bourgeois led off the bottom of the third inning with a single and sped to third on Carlos Gastelum's single to left.  Bourgeois then scored on a sacrifice fly, Gastelum took second when Culiacan reliever Jose Sanchez balked with O'Koyea Dickson batting.  Clearly rattled, Sanchez then walked both Dickson and Dustin Martin to load the bases for Jose Amador.  At this point, Tony Cordova came in for Sanchez and induced Amador to ground into a fielder's choice, with Gastelum coming in from third to make it a 4-2 Hermosillo lead.  The Naranjeros added two more runs during another crazy inning in the fourth (two singles, three walks, two wild pitches) and were never threatened again.  In all, Culiacan pitchers issued nine walks, hit a batter and allowed seven base hits for a total of 17 baserunners.  Amazingly, the Naranjeros were only 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position yet still scored eight times.  Ryan Lollis and Oscar Robles each had two singles for the Tomateros.

The recipient of all the Culiacan mound staff largesse was Naranjeros starter Pablo Ortega, who turned 40 in November.  The ageless righty struck out seven in five innings but it was anything but smooth sailiing.  Ortega let in four runs on five hits and a pair of free passes, but still got the win.  Gerardo Sanchez was tagged with the loss for the Tomateros but it was a group effort by the eight pitchers who saw duty.  Victor Marte did toss 2.2 hitless innings in relief with four strikeouts, but Marte also let fly with a bases-loaded wild pitch that brought Bourgeois in from third.

It was that kind of night.