Monday, April 24, 2017

Yucatan holds off Monterrey, leads LMB South by 2 games

Alejandro Soto (pictured) tossed six innings of three-hit shutout ball and Ronnier Mustelier punched a two-run single to lead the Yucatan Leones to a 3-2 win over the Monterrey Sultanes Sunday night in Merida.  A near-sellout crowd of 11,142 at Estadio Kukulcan watched the Leones win the rubber match of the three-game set to raise their record to 12-8, good for a two-game lead over Oaxaca in the Mexican League Southern Division standings.  Monterrey dropped to 12-7 to fall a game off the pace behind Tijuana and Union Laguna in the LMB North.

Soto, a 6'5" lefty, came to Yucatan in a midseason trade with Oaxaca last summer in the midst of his ninth season with the Guerreros, struck out five without giving up a walk to earn his first win of the 2017 season after he'd been battered for nine runs on 13 hits in 7.2 innings over his previous two starts.  The Leones broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Jesus Valdez whacked a leadoff double against Monterrey starter Alfonso Sanchez and later scored on an Ivan Araujo sacrifice fly to put the hosts out in front. Mustelier's two-out singleton an inning later plated Kevin Flores and Leo Heras made it a 3-0 ballgame.

As it turned out, Yucatan eventually needed those two fifth-inning runs.  Reliever Jairo Asencio entered the game for the Leones in the top of the ninth needing three outs to close the win, but instead allowed two runs  by dishing up a Zoilo Almonte single that drove in Chris Roberson with the visitors' first run of the ninth.  Asencio got Luis Juarez to send a grounder to Flores at short for a 6-4-3 double play that scored Gilberto Carrera from third to bring the Sultanes to within a score, but Felix Perez' grounder to Leones first baseman Humberto Sosa ended the contest with no further damage done by the Monterrey order.

Roberson fell behind Oaxaca's Alan Sanchez in the LMB batting race over the week.  Sanchez ended the weekend with a .446 average in 20 games, with Robo six points back at a cool .440 and Saltillo's Luis Borges in third at .426.  Union Laguna's Ricky Alvarez socked four homers in three midweek games to pull into the Liga lead with eight longballs, one ahead of Tijuana's Alex Liddi and Mexico City's Jorge Vazquez.  The injury-plagued Vazquez is in his first year with the Diablos Rojos and so far, his acquisition from Quintana Roo in the offseason is paying dividends for Miguel Ojeda's team.  Alvarez also leads the loop with 34 RBIs in 21 games as the Vaqueros are winning games in the time-honored Liga tradition: Battering opponents into submission by scoring 168 runs over 21 games for an average of 8 runs per outing.  With batting like that, a pitching tee has a chance to earn a win.

Speaking of pitching, Mitch Lively of Leon, Laguna's Edgar Osuna and Saltillo starter Frankie De La Cruz all have perfect 4-0 records and ERAs under 2.00, with Lively's 0.72 mark leading the circuit.  Dustin Crenshaw of the Vaqueros has four wins in five decisions, but his ERA of 6.21 pretty much proves the last point made in the previous paragraph.  Josh Lowey of Monclova is tops in strikeouts with 35 over 32 innings, four up on Oaxaca's Irwin Delgado.  Durango closer Tiago Da Silva has continued his lights-out season for the Generales.  The Brazilian righty has converted saves in all eleven of his appearances out of the bullpen thus far, giving up just one earned run on April 13 in Campeche (but still getting the save).

Among the upcoming midweek series, perhaps the biggest will be in Oaxaca, when the Guerreros try to close the gap against Yucatan in a three-game set.  Next weekend will see the Monclova Acereros visit Torreon to battle Union Laguna.  The Durango Generales STILL have yet to play a home game this season after their scheduled series last week against Veracruz was moved to the port city because Estadio Francisco Villa is still not ready for occupancy.  The Leon Bravos had to wait one extra day after a power outage short-circuited their April 18 home opener against Mexico City.  The two teams split a doubleheader one day later as 4,852 fans filed into Parque Domingo Santana for Leon's first Liga home game since 1991.

Postscript to last Friday's BBM: Mom passed away shortly after 5AM PDT this (Monday) morning after two weeks in a coma. I was in the hospital with her all night and she went quietly, peacefully and with dignity...quintessential Mom.  Thanks for all your prayers.  Glad I wrote this last night while sitting next to her.  I'm not sure if I'll post again before next Monday, but don't count against it.  I love baseball and I love Mexico and its great people and writing about the Mexican League will be good for my sanity and peace of mind.  Did you ever think you'd see the words "sanity" and "peace of mind" in the same sentence as "the Mexican League?"