Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pena, Aguilas top Hermosillo, 6-1, to take LMP semifinal series lead

Mexicali 6-11-1, HERMOSILLO 1-6-2

The Mexicali Aguilas knocked Hermosillo starter Juan Pablo Oramas out of the game in the second inning and went on to beat the Naranjeros, 6-1, Tuesday to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series.  A near-sellout crowd of 15,932 watched the contest at Hermosillo's Estadio Sonora as Mexicali pitcher Miguel Pena (pictured) turned in a strong 6.1 innings of work on the mound, throwing 67 of his 88 pitches for strikes.

The Aguilas staked Pena an early 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the top of the first inning.  Chris Roberson and Ramon Rios led the game off with back-to-back singles off Oramas, with Robo moving to third on Rios' safety.  After Oramas struck out Yuniesky Betancourt and got C.J. Retherford to pop out to first, MexPac batting champ Luis Juarez singled up the middle to bring Roberson in from third.  Agustin Murillo then lifted a fly ball to center that dropped in for a single to plate Rios from second, giving Pena a cushion before ever taking the hill.

Pena, a Texan who spent four years in the Red Sox system, recorded a 1-2-3 bottom of the first before his teammates provided him an added pillow by scoring twice more in the second.  Yordanys Linares led off with a bunt toward the mound and was able to reach second when Oramas threw the ball past first sacker Efren Navarro. After Pena walked Roberson with one out, Naranjeros manager Lorenzo Bundy replaced him with Pablo Ortega, a 40-year-old veteran who was the Mexican League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 with Quintana Roo.  Rios greeted Ortega by lining a first-pitch single to left that brought Linares in and moved Roberson to second.  After a Betancourt single loaded the bases, Retherford sent a sacrifice fly to right that allowed Roberson to score from third, giving the Aguilas a 4-0 advantage.  O'Koyea Dickson led off the bottom of the second with a homer to right that put the Naranjeros on the scoreboard, but that was the only mistake Pena would make all night.

Hermosillo's Tim Torres made things interesting in the bottom of the fifth by protesting a called third strike, which earned him an early shower courtesy of home plate umpire Jaime Gutierrez, but that proved to be the last time the Orangemen would be heard from.  Mexicali scored insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, including a Retherford homer to straightaway center, but they weren't really needed as Pena and three relievers combined to scatter six Hermosillo hits, walking none and registering a combined seven strikeouts.  Aguilas closer Jake Sanchez whiffed Dustin Martin swinging to end the tilt and give the visitors the lead in the series, which now shifts back to Mexicali for Game Six.

Pena earned his second win of the playoffs (and first of the series) while Oramas, who just missed winning the regular season ERA title, was tagged with the loss as his postseason ERA ballooned to 9.64.  Ortega settled down to put in 6.2 innings for Hermosillo, allowing no earned runs on five hits while striking out six. Betancourt finished with three hits for the Aguilas while Roberson and Rios each chipped in with two.  Hermosillo had two-hit nights from Jose Amador and Sergio Burruel.

Since the series had been pushed back one day due to Saturday's rainout in Hermosillo, there will be no travel day break as the two teams play tonight in Mexicali.  Los Mochis hosts Culiacan for Game Six of their Final Four series with Culiacan Wednesday, with the Caneros holding a 3-games-to-2 edge in that set.