Friday, February 3, 2017

Mexicali tops Licey, 7-2, pull into lead in CS standings

Chris Roberson went 4-for-5 and scored twice, Jason Bourgeois (pictured) blazed his way to two triples, one of them a two-run three-bagger, and scored once while Mexicali starter Hector Velazquez (recently named the Mexican Pacific League Pitcher of the Year after leading the loop in wins and strikeouts) gave the Aguilas their second straight solid start after Hector Daniel Rodriguez dominated Caguas on Wednesday to lead Mexico's winterball champs to a 7-2 victory over Dominican pennant winners Licey Thursday at Culiacan's Estadio Tomateros in Day Two of the 2017 Caribbean Series.  A crowd of 19,177 watched the Aguilas rise to 2-0 for the tournament with a clear claim to first place in the round robin standings while the ten-time CS champion Tigres dropped to 1-1.

Mexicali (MX) Aguilas 7-15-2, Licey (DR) Tigres 2-6-1

Chris Roberson led off the game for Mexicali by rapping a single to right on a 2-2 pitch from Tigres starter Cesar Valdez, taking second on Jason Bourgeois' groundout to Valdez on the mound and steaming home on C.J. Retherford's line drive single to right.  Ronny Rodriguez likewise reached first leading off for Licey on a throwing error by Aguilas shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, then came in all the way from first to score on Zoilo Almonte's double off Velazquez to tie the game.

The Dominicans regained the lead in the bottom of the third when the pesky Rodriguez drew a walk to open the inning, followed by a flight around the basepaths on Leury Garcia's long single to right.  Mexicali went back on top with a pair of scores in the top of the fifth, chasing Valdes in the process.  The entrada opened with Xorge Carrillo geting hit by a Valdez pitch and moving to second on Ramon Rios' sacrifice bunt.  Roberson then laid down another bunt and beat the throw on a disputed play at first as Carrillo made his way to third.  Bourgeois stepped up and ripped a Valdez delivery past Licey centerfielder Mel Rojas Jr. for a two-run triple, giving Mexicali a 3-2 advantage.

Bourgeois also played a prominent role in the Mexicali seventh by larruping his second triple of the night off reliever Ramon Ramirez with two out and nobody on, then plating a run when Tigres shortstop Sergio Alcantara mishandled a Betancourt grounder.  The nine-year big leaguer was safe on third when Retherford rang up Ramirez for a two-run homer, smoking a 2-1 pitch into the left field bleachers to extend the Aguilas lead to 6-2.  Mexicali scored again in the top of the eighth when Rios doubled off Phils' minor leaguer Ulises Joaquin and pinch-runner Isaac Rodriguez ran in on Roberson's fourth single of the game.  With a five-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, Aguilas manager Roberto Vizcarra gave co-closers Jake Sanchez and Sergio Romo the night off in favor of middleman Fautino De Los Santos and the former Oakland A's reliever responded by retiring Licey without a hit to earn the save and end the contest.

Velazquez, who was selected LMP Pitcher of the Year after leading the league in wins and strikeouts for Navojoa during the regular season, went five innings and allowed one earned run on four hits and three walks for the win, whiffing seven Licey batsmen along the way.  Valdez gave up three runs on six hits in 4.1 frames with two strikeouts to absorb the loss.  Besides Roberson's four-hit, two-run night for Mexicali, Bourgeois' two triples netted a pair of RBIs and a run scored and Retherford finished with two hits and three RBIs.

Mexicali will be back in action Friday with a game against Venezuelan champs Zulia at 8:00pm MST (0300 UTC) at Estadio Tomateros.

Zulia (VZ) Aguilas 4-8-0, CAGUAS (PR) Criollos 3-9-2

Jesus Flores cracked a two-run homer and starter Omar Bencomo gave Zulia five strong innings as the Aguilas defeated Caguas, 4-3, in Thursday's opening CS game in Culiacan.  The Venezuelans are now 1-0 after a Wednesday bye whiie the Puerto Ricans fell to 0-2 after dropping their Wednesday opener to Mexicali.

Flores' blast off Caguas opener Adalberto Flores capped a three-run second for the Aguilas and a lead Zulia would never relinquish.  The Criollos got one run back in the bottom of the second when David Vidal scored on Ivan De Jesus Jr.'s single off Bencomo for the only counter the 27-year-old Twins farmhand would allow before being replaced by Brazilian Tiago Da Silva in the sixth.  Zulia added another run in the fourth to make it a 4-1 game when Flores doubled and later came in on a Ronny Cedeno single.  Vidal knocked out a two-run homer off Leonel Campos in the eighth to bring Caguas to within a run, but closer Hassan Pena held the Criollos scoreless in the ninth for the save and Aguilas win.

Cedeno, Jesus Flores and Freddy Galvis each had two hits for the winners while Vidal and De Jesus did the same for the Criollos.  Bencomo got the win for his five innings of four-hit shutout work for Zulia, striking out six.  Adalberto Flores took the loss after giving up four runs on five hits in four frames.

Caguas will try to stay alive Thursday with a game against Cuba's Granma who lost their Wednesday game to Zulia of Venezuela.

Caribbean Series standings
1-0  Zulia (VZ) Aguilas
1-1  Licey (DR) Tigres
0-1  Granma (CU) Alazanes
0-2  Caguas (PR) Criollos

Friday's schedule
Caguas (PR) at Granma (CU), 3:00pm MST (2200 UTC)
Zulia (VZ) at MEXICALI (MX), 8:00pm MST (0300 UTC)
Licey bye