Monday, January 16, 2017

Culiacan ties series, Hermosillo gets first semi win

Issmael Salas had two run-scoring singles and longtime MLBer Oliver Perez (pictured) retired all four batters he faced to earn the win in relief as Culiacan defeated Los Mochis, 4-1, Sunday in front of 16,675 aficionados at Estadio de los Tomateros, evening their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series with the Caneros at two games apiece.  In the other MexPac Final Four contest, Barry Enright gave up one run on six hits over eight innings to pitch Hermosillo to a 2-1 knucklebiter win over Mexicali at Estadio Sonora as 16,572 looked on.  The Naranjeros now trail Mexicali, 2 games to 1, after Saturday's game in Hermosillo was rained out.

Game Four between the Tomateros and Mochis is set for Monday night in Culiacan while Game Three of the Naranjeros-Aguilas matchup will be held in Hermosillo.

CULIACAN 4-11-0, Los Mochis 1-7-2

Tomateros starter Edgar Gonzalez gave manager Enrique "Che" Reyes a few anxious moments after retiring the first seven Caneros batters he faced. Gonzalez allowed a Sebastian Valle solo homer and a Juan Carlos Gamboa double in the third inning, then served up a leadoff two-bagger to former Twins outfielder Lew Ford in the fourth before issuing subsequent one-out walks to J.C. Linares and Saul Soto. That was enough for skipper Reyes to bring his hook to the mound, replacing the ex-Diamondbacks hurler with Dennys Reyes (no relation).  The latter, who pitched for eleven MLB teams from 1997 to 2011, has a ballpark named after him in his hometown of Higuera de Zaragoza, Sinaloa

After Reyes and Hector Navarro combined to stop the bleeding, Culiacan got the run back in the bottom of the fourth when Salas singled in Jose Manuel Rodriguez from third to tie things up at 1-1.  The score remained unchanged until the Tomateros took the lead in the seventh when Ramiro Pena poked a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Maxwell Leon from second.  Culiacan posted a pair of insurance runs in the eighth as Salas singled in Rodriguez off reliever Jon Sintes and Ali Solis lofted a Santiago Guerrero pitch to Linares in right field for a sac fly to plate Sebastian Elizalde from third, bringing the score to 4-1.  It was left to Derrick Loop to finish things up in the ninth, which he did to earn his third playoff save and even the series at 2 games to 2.

Oliver Perez came in for the Tomateros to get the final out of the sixth inning, then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to pick up the win.  The 34-year-old Culiacan native appeared in 64 MLB games for the Nationals last summer, going 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA in a middleman role.  After Gonzalez was lifted, six pitchers combined to hold Mochis scoreless on four hits from the fourth inning on.  Julian Arballo took the loss for the Caneros in a hard-luck outing.  The former Yankees minor leaguer pitched well enough to win, allowing two runs in seven innings, but it's hard to get the W when your teammates score only one run and go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

HERMOSILLO 2-6-1, Mexicali 1-6-1

After allowing 24 runs over two losses in Mexicali, the Naranjeros needed a good pitching performance to keep from falling behind 3-0 in their series with the Aguilas and Barry Enright provided the tonic.  The former D-backs and Dodgers hurler turned in a sparkling eight-inning start, letting in just one Mexicali run while scattering six hits and striking out five as Hermosillo pulled off a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

Enright and the Orangemen fell behind, 1-0, in the top of the fourth when Yuniesky Betancourt stroked a leadoff double, eventually moved to third when Hermosillo centerfielder Jason Bourgeois misplayed Efren Navarro's fly ball, and then scored the first run of the night when Agustin Murillo grounded out to Naranjeros shortstop Jorge Flores.  It looked like that one run might hold up, as Mexicali starter Kameron Loe pitched beautifully, retiring eleven batters in a row before giving up a Tim Torres double in the fifth.  The Naranjeros were able to load the bases with two out against Loe in the bottom of the sixth, but manager Lorenzo Bundy replaced Loe with Jose Meraz, who induced Dustin Martin to tap a comebacker to the mound for an inning-ending groundout.  The Naranjeros finally tied the game in the bottom of the eighth when Bourgeois hit a leadoff single up the middle off Fautino De Los Santos, stole second, took third on a Carlos Gastelum single and scored when Aguilas closer Jake Sanchez (who may be human after all) allowed an O'Koyea DIckson single.  Sanchez allowed another single to Jose Amador to score Gastelum, giving the Naranjeros a 2-1 advantage.  Rafael Martin, who spent some MLB time with Washington last year, was brought in and got the final three outs, as pinch-hitter Adan Munoz struck out swinging to end the game.

It was a pitcher's night on both sides, with Gastelum collecting two singles for the only multiple-hit game for either team.  Enright ran his playoff record to 3-0 with the win and Martin earned his third save in the postseason.  Loe ended up going 5.2 innings and giving up just two hits and three walks.  Neither run Sanchez allowed was charged to him, keeping his season-long total of earned runs allowed at one (1), while throwing 10 of his 11 pitches for strikes.  For one night, though, the native of Brawley, Calfornia (as are Los Mochis' Julian Arballo and Sergio Romo, who has yet to pitch in the other semi) couldn't seal the deal.