Sunday, January 8, 2017

Defending champs ousted; Mayos, Tomateros win

Less than a year after fighting their way to a Mexican Pacific League pennant and the Caribbean Series championship, the Mazatlan Venados have been eliminated from this winter's LMP playoffs in five games after Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Los Mochis Caneros. Elsewhere, Culiacan pulled ahead in their series with Hermosillo after topping the Naranjeros, 6-2, while Navojoa staved off a first-round series loss to Mexicali by besting the Aguilas, 8-6, as all three visiting teams won Saturday.  Culiacan will host Hermosillo in Game Six on Sunday and Navojoa will return home to welcome Mexicali.

Los Mochis 4-5-3, MAZATLAN 3-15-1

The Venados put plenty of men on base via 15 hits, two walks, a hit batsmen and three Mochis errors, but only went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and ended up leaving 13 of them stranded in Saturday's season-ending 4-3 loss before 9,267 spectators at Mazatlan's Estadio Teodoro Mariscal.

The Caneros drew first blood in the top of the first inning when Eugenio Velez scored on Lew Ford's sacrifice fly off Mazatlan starter Jeremy Kehrt, then made it a 3-0 lead in the third on RBI singles from Isaac Rodriguez (pictured) and J.C. Linares.  The Venados tied the contest with three tallies in the fifth as Heber Gomez and Jesus Fabela contributed run-scoring singles, but Mochis pulled ahead in the top of the seventh when Sebastian Valle plated the game's final run on Velez' sac fly to center.  Mazatlan loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame but failed to score and the game ended in the ninth when Samar Leyva was sent in by Venados manager Daniel Fernandez as a pinch-runner for Hector Paez, then was cut down stealing second on a throw by Valle to Mochis second baseman Jesus Arredondo.

Guillermo Trujillo pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief for the Caneros to pick up the win after Mochis starter Roy Merritt struggled through five innings, allowing three runs on nine hits.  MLB free agent Sergio Romo got the final four outs of the game for his third save of the series.  Rodriguez had two of the Caneros' five hits, scoring one run and driving in another.  Drew Maggi and Brian Hernandez each had three hits for Mazatlan but neither figured in any scoring.

Culiacan 6-8-0, HERMOSILLO 2-5-1

Culiacan scored a single run in six of their nine innings to deliver a death-by-a-thousand-cuts deafeat to Hermosillo, 6-2, Saturday in front of an overflow throng of 16,581 at the Naranjeros' Estadio Sonora.  The win edges the Tomateros ahead, 3 games to 2, in their first-round matchup with Hermosillo in a battle between two franchises with 26 MexPac pennants between them.

The Tomateros got a run in the first when Jose Manuel Rodriguez singled in Ryan Lollis.  After three scoreless innings, Culiacan scored a run in each frame from the fifth through the ninth: Ali Solis scored on a Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the fifth, Ramiro Pena scored on a Jose Guadalupe Chanvez single in the sixth, Lollis scored on a Pena sac fly in the seventh, Sebastian Elizalde scored on a Lollis single in the eighth and Joey Meneses scored on a Issmael sac fly in the ninth.  Culiacan was up 4-0 when Dustin Martin whacked a two-run homer for the Naranjeros in the bottom of the seventh, but that was all the scoring the Orangemen could muster against Tomateros starter Hector Daniel Rodriguez and three relievers.

Rodriguez went to 2-0 in the playoffs by pitching six innings and allowing two runs on three hits, striking out seven with one walk.  Derrick Loop struck out three of Hermosillo's final four outs for his second save.  The Naranjeros' Travis Blackley suffered his second loss in as many head-to-head starts against Rodriguez, going five innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits and striking out three.  Blackley had control issues, however, giving up five walks and throwing two wild pitches.

Navojoa 8-11-2, MEXICALI 6-9-0

The Navojoa Mayos blew open a scoreless game by pushing six runs across the plate in the top of the fourth inning and went on the outlast Mexicali, 8-6, Saturday before 15,813 witnesses at La Nida in the border city.  Navojoa pulled to within a game of the Aguilas, who lead the series, 3 games to 2.

The Mayos batted through the order in that fateful fourth, picking up four hits and two walks after Mexicali starter Javier Solano had retired the first two batters he faced in the inning.  The key Navojoa hits were a two-run single by Jesus Castillo that was immediately followed by a three-run Quincy Latimore homer. The 6-0 cushion was more than enough for Mayos starter Hector Velazquez to hold the fort before being pulled with one out in the seventh, leaving the game with a 8-4 lead. Another Mexicali run charged to Velazquez came in, but it was too little, too late for the home team, who must now beat the top seeded Mayos Sunday in Navojoa to close out the series.

Velazquez ended up allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks for his second postseason win in what was not one of his stronger outings of the season.  Solano was yanked with two out in the fourth and took his second playoff loss, giving up six runs on seven hits and four walks.  Castillo led the Mayos with three hits and three RBIs while scoring a run.  Chris Roberson had a single and double for Mexicali, scoring twice and driving in a run while batting champ Luis Juarez doubled in Yordanys Linares and then scored on an Agustin Murillo in the fourth inning, but it was not to be the Aguilas' night.