Friday, January 20, 2017

Los Mochis, Mexicali win classic Game Sevens, will play for LMP pennant

Sebastian Valle's two-run double was the key blow in a three-run seventh inning as Los Mochis punched their ticket to the Mexican Pacific League championship series Thursday night with a 3-1 home win over Culiacan.  The Caneros will face Mexicali, who reached the title series thanks to a Herculean performance from closer Jake Sanchez (pictured), who pitched 7.2 innings of scoreless relief as the Aguilas outlasted Hermosillo, 4-3, in 16 innings.

LOS MOCHIS 3-6-1, Culiacan 1-8-2

This one was a pitcher's duel all the way, as Caneros starter Roy Merritt locked horns with his Culiacan counterpart, Zack Dodson as the two Texans traded zeros on the scoreboard through five innings. Tomateros rightfielder Joey Meneses led off the third with the game's first hit on a single, but died there as Merritt retired the next three batters in order.  Culiacan finally broke through with the first score of the night in the top of the sixth.  Veteran Jose Manuel "Manny" Rodriguez started things off with a one-out single, then moved to third when Ramiro Pena lashed a double to third.  After intentionally walking Eugenio Velez to load the bases, Merritt was replaced by Isaac Rodriguez, who plunked Issmael Salas with his first pitch to give Rodriguez an easy stroll home to put the Tomateros ahead, 1-0.  That was all it took for Mochis manager Luis Sojo to yank Salas and bring in Santiago Gutierrez.  After Gutierrrez got Oscar Robles to pop out in foul territory, Sojo then waved Jon Sintes in from the bullpen to end the inning on a Meneses fly out.

Dodson carried the lead into the bottom of the seventh, when the game turned.  After giving up a leadoff single to Leandro Castro on his 87th pitch of the night, Dodson was pulled by Cuiliacan skipper Che Reyes in favor of middleman David Goforth.  The Brewers righty was able to get Saul Soto to foul out to leftfielder Ryan Lollis but then walked Yosmany Guerra on five pitches to put two men on with Valle coming up.  The newly-acquired Mariners farmhand drilled a 2-and-1 Goforth offering into right field for a two-bagger to bring in Castro and Guerra, giving the Caneros the lead, with Valle advancing to third on a Rodriguez throwing error.  That was enough for manager Reyes, who called in MLB vet Oliver Perez to face pinch-hitter Sergio Garcia.  The Nationals right-hander struck out Garcia for the second out but was then tagged for a triple to right by Velez, with Valle crossing the plate to make it a 3-1 Mochis lead and that was all she wrote for the visitors.  Sergio Romo tossed two scoreless innings for his fifth playoff save to end the game and close the series for the Caneros.

Sintes was credited with the win for his perfect one-and-a-third innings of pitching, but the table was more than set by Merritt's 5.1 opening innings of work.  The seven-year Mets minor leaguer let up six hits with one runner scoring in a solid performance.  As good as the 31-year-old lefty was, Dodson may have been a little better as the one-time Pirates fourth-rounder allowed just two hits and two walks in six frames, allowing one run and striking out four.  Goforth took the loss for the Tomateros as another sellout crowd of 11,132 at Estadio Emilio Ibarra celebrated the Caneros moving one step closer to their first pennant since 2002-03.

MEXICALI 4-18-1, Hermosillo 3-12-1

The "other" semifinal was likewise a pitching-dominated matchup as Hermosillo and Mexicali took their fight into double overtime before the Aguilas finally shook off the Narajeros, 44-3, in 16 innings.  The contest looked like it might turn into a slugfest as both teams scored twice in the first inning.  Hermosillo  got on the board when O'Koyea Dickson singled in Jason Bourgeois and Carlos Gastelum came in on a Jose Amador safety, both off Aguilas starter Kameron Loe.  The Aguilas punched back when Chris Roberson led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on a Yuniesky Betancourt double one out later.  Betancourt subsequently moved to third on a C.J. Retherford single and scored when Luis Juarez hit a sacrifice fly to right.

The 2-2 score held until the top of the fifth, when Dickson lofted his third homer in two nights into the left field bleachers off a Barry Enright serving, but the hosts came back in the seventh on Yordanys Linares' two-out single to left that plated Ramon Rios.  Linares tried taking second on the hit but was thrown out by Dickson in left. After that, it was nothing but goose eggs on the board inning after inning as the game ended at 2:33AM local time.  The contest finally concluded in the bottom of the 16th, beginning with Roberson's leadoff single off Hector Galvan.  The ex-Phil then advanced to second on a Jon Del Campo sacrifice bunt, took third when Betacourt singled and eventually scored the semi-winning run when LMP bat champ Luis Suarez poked a bases-loaded single to right off Hermosillo reliever Wilmer Rios.

Loe was touched for five hits and two runs in the first, only getting one batter out.  One-time Braves prospect Edgar Osuna pitched 3.1 innings of one-hit shutout ball after relieving Loe, but it was closer Jake Sanchez who reached back for Mexicali with an outing that legends are made of.  The 2013 Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year entered the contest in the top of the eighth and pitched into the 15th, blanking the Orangemen over 7.2 frames on two hits and two walks while racking up eleven K's in a 116-pitch performance.  Javier Solano took over for Sanchez and was credited with the win, but the mound belonged to the Cal Baptist product Thursday night as 13,110 fans were in the stands at Estadio B'Air when the game began.

Enright had a fair start for Hermosillo, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with no walks.  Six relievers combined to held the Aguilas scoreless until the end.  Galvan suffered the loss despite 3.1 otherside good innings in which he let up only two hits and struck out two.  Betancourt and Juarez each had four of the Aguilas' 18 hits while Amador finished with four hits of his own.