Monday, May 1, 2017

Pitchers Osuna, De La Cruz, Crenshaw each record 5th wins

Although April only ended Sunday and the Mexican League is just over four weeks into its 2017 season, three Liga pitchers have already attained their fifth wins of the young campaign.  Union Laguna moundmates Edgar Osuna (pictured) and Dustin Crenshaw are joined by Saltillo starter Frankie de la Cruz as the LMB's co-wins leaders heading into the month of May.

Osuna and Crenshaw are two reasons the Vaqueros  are in a virtual three-way tie with Monterrey (17-8) and Tijuana (18-9) for first place in the LMB North with an 18-9 record.  Although Laguna's battering-ram offense led by 1B Ricky Alvarez (.390 with 8 homers and 40 RBIs) and 2B Anderson Hernandez (.390) has given their pitching staff a lot of cushion, the 5-0 Osuna has more than held up his end of the bargain by winning all five of his starts and leading the LMB with an ERA of 1.61 over 28 innings.  The 29-year-old lefty from Mazatlan won his most recent start last last Thursday by holding the potent Monclova offense scoreless on five hits in five innings in a 6-5 win at Estadio Monclova during which rookie manager Ramon Orantes left Vaqueros closer Esmailin Caridad in for the entire bottom of the ninth as the Acereros posted all five of their runs on six hits and had a man on first with one out before Antonio Lamas tapped into a game-ending 1-6-3 double play.

Crenshaw has needed the Union Laguna offensive support more in compiling his 5-1 record in six starts, although he did toss a five-hit shutout against visiting Durango last Friday in a 9-0 whitewash in Torreon, of course (since the fading Generales still have yet to play a home date).  Crenshaw's season ERA of 4.74 isn't the most impressive but when you have a lineup averaging .315 and 7.85 runs per game, you've got some elbow room to work with.  Crenshaw has exhibited good control by issuing just five walks in 38 innings.  The 6'5" righty attended South Alabama and spent four years in indy ball and was 14-2 for St. Paul of the American Association before joining the Vaqueros last season (going 8-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 12 starts).

Meanwhile, de la Cruz has spun his magic for a Saltillo team that was 13-12 before Sunday's game in Aguascalientes.  The 33-year-old Dominican right-hander is in his 16th year of pro ball, spending MLB time along the way with Detroit, Florida, San Diego and Milwaukee between 2007 and 2011.  The well-travelled de la Cruz has also pitched in Japan and Italy (turning in a 3-4 record and 2.65 ERA in Nettuno last summer) before signing with the Saraperos one day before their season opener.  He put together five quality starts out the chute for Saltillo and his 2.08 ERA was eighth on the Liga table before he was pounded for eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits in five innings in a 10-5 loss in Aguascalientes.  He's now at 3.40 per nine.

While three teams are locked into the LMB North lead, 16-10 Yucatan has opened a two-and-a-half game advantage over 14-13 Puebla in the LMB South while 13-13 Oaxaca is three games back.  Both Liga newcomers have struggled of late, as Durango has lost seven of their last ten games to fall to last in the North at 11-16 while Leon's 2-8 mark over their most recent 10-game stretch dropped the Broncos into seventh place in the South with a 10-17 record.

Monterrey centerfielder Chris Roberson has regained the Mexican League batting table lead with a .443 average, two points up on Saltillo second baseman Luis Borges.  Tijuana outfielder Corey Brown has homered in five straight games and six of his last seven to take the Liga lead in that category with 10 on the season, just ahead of Toros teammate Alex Liddi's nine longballs.  Brown is also second in the circuit with 38 RBIs, trailing only Laguna first baseman Ricky Alvarez' 41.  Saltillo outer gardener Justin Greene still leads the LMB with 10 stolen bases (Laguna outfielder Ethan Chapman and Tijuana's Dustin Martin both have seven), but Greene hasn't swiped a bag in his last five contests.

As mentioned, Osuna, Crenshaw and de la Cruz each have five wins going into the May calendar while Osuna tops the loop in ERA.  Oaxaca's Irwin Delgado, a 5'9" lefty from Mexicali, struck out eight Quintana Roo batters over 6.2 innings in a Friday night win at home against the Tigres to surpass Monclova's Josh Lowey for the strikeouts lead by a 39-35 margin (de la Cruz is third with 31).  Durango closer Tiago da Silva saw his string of eleven saves in as many appearances at the start of the season snapped, but his eleven saves still top the list by three over Jairo Asencio of Yucatan.

Among the eight month-opening series scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday, the biggest will take place in Torreon when Union Laguna hosts Monterrey in a battle of LMB North co-leaders.  The Sultanes then return home to Estadio Monterrey for a weekend set with the other current co-leader, the Monclova Acereros.  The most-anticipated series of the week may be in Durango, where the vagabond Generales may finally play their home opener against Monclova Tuesday after spending the entire first month of the season living out of their suitcases while renovations on Estadio Francisco Villa have lurched on.  Manager Joe Alvarez' showed much pluck at the schedule's outset but have shown signs of road wear recently.  Here's hoping the Generales finally get to play in front of fans in Durango and start living normal lives (in a baseball sense).  As easy as it's been to poke fun of the people running the team, it's been hard to watch players and coaches endure the odyssey they've faced through no fault of their own.  How do you not root for these guys?

Mexican League standings as of May 1, 2017
NORTHERN DIVISION: Monterrey 17-8, Tijuana 18-9, Laguna 18-9, Mexico City 15-12, Monclova 14-13, Saltillo 13-13, Aguascalientes 13-14, Durango 11-16
SOUTHERN DIVISION: Yucatan 16-10, Puebla 14-13, Oaxaca 13-13, Campeche 11-16, Veracruz 11-16, Quintana Roo 10-15, Leon 10-17, Tabasco 8-18

LMB Schedule for May 2-4, 2017
Monclova at Durango, Monterrey at Laguna, Mexico City at Saltillo, Tijuana at Aguascalientes, Puebla at Tabasco, Veracruz at Quintana Roo,  Campeche at Leon, Oaxaca at Yucatan

LMB schedule for May 5-7, 2017
Aguascalientes at Mexico City, Laguna at Durango, Monclova at Monterrey, Saltillo at Tijuana, Campeche at Puebla, Oaxaca at Quintana Roo, Veracruz at Yucatan, Tabasco at Leon