Monday, June 12, 2017

Generales' Mayora hitting streak reaches 32 games

While the surprising Durango Generales have climbed past Saltillo out of the Mexican League's Northern Division cellar, the team has cooled down a bit by winning 5 of their past 10 games.  One Durango player who remains hot is third baseman Daniel Mayora, who singled in a 4-3 loss at Tijuana Sunday to stretch his current hitting streak to 32 games, putting the Venezuelan four games away from tying the LMB record of 36.

Mayora (pictured) is a 31-year-old in his 13th season of pro ball, making his LMB debut this year after toiling in the Rockies, Rays, Giants and Dodgers system since 2005.  He's played in five All-Star Games and been a postseason all-leaguer twice (Northwest League in 2006, South Atlantic League in 2007), reaching as high as AAA Durham in 2011.  He spent last summer batting .311 with Rimini in the Italian League.  Like the rest of his Generales teammates, not much was expected of Mayora in 2017 before he began his run by singling in a game at Laguna on May 6.  Since then, he's gone 49-for-125 (.392) at the plate to raise his season batting average from .328 to 360, good for eighth in the Liga table.  

Mayora hasn't necessarily overwhelmed LMB pitchers, collecting one hit in 19 contests during his 32-game skein, but he has homered six times since the streak began.  The current Mexican League single-season record hitting streak of 36 was set by Saltillo's Luis de los Santos in 2000 and tied by Carlos Gastelum of Quintana Roo in 2012.  Puebla first baseman Willis Otanez hit safely in 37 consecutive games, but that was spread over two seasons: The former MLBer ended the 2009 season with a 15-game hitting streak and began the 2010 campaign with a 22-game run en route to winning BBM's Summer MVP Award that year.

By sweeping Durango in their weekend home series (attended by 39,688 fans over three games), Tijuana extended their winning streak to five games and closed the gap on LMB North-leading Monterrey, who dropped two of three to Aguascalientes at Estadio Monterrey.  The Sultanes still hold the Liga's best record at 41-20, but the Toros are now just two-and-a-half games back at 39-23 while Monclova scored 32 runs in their three-game sweep of Saltillo to solidify their hold on third with a 37-25 mark.  Aguascalientes and Union Laguna are tied for fourth at 34-29, one game ahead of 33-30 Mexico City.  Durango and Saltillo are six and seven games behind the Diablos, respectively.

There's little drama to report from the LMB South, where Yucatan is running away with things at 39-21, ten games ahead of second-place Puebla (30-32).  The defending champion Pericos added to what's become a season of intrigue for Gerardo Benadives' two LMB teams by firing manager Von Hayes last Monday and replacing him with another ex-MLBer Tim Johnson, who'd been managing Benavides' Northern Mexican League team in San Luis Rio Colorado.  Johnson, who managed the Toronto Blue Jays to an 88-74 record in 1998, was rumored to be the eventual skipper in Monclova (Benavides' other LMB team) after Wally Backman was fired last month, but Jorge Loredo led the Acereros to eight wins in his first nine games as interim helmsman to make another change unnecessary.  As for Backman?  He was brought to Puebla as a bench coach under Hayes and presumably holds the same role for Johnson.  However, the Pericos website still lists Hayes as manager with no mention of the former Mets infielder.

Quintana Roo is in a virtual tie with Puebla at 28-30, ahead of Veracruz (28-33), Oaxaca (27-33) and Campeche (26-35) as four games separate five teams between second and sixth place.  Four teams will reach the postseason in the LMB South and at this point, three will be there by default.  Mexico City, whose ownership fought to remain in the North (relegating Leon to the South even though Leon sits farther north than the capital city), would have been two-and-a-half games ahead of Puebla and the Tigres in second if geography had won the alignment debate.  Instead, the Diablos sit in sixth place in the LMB North.

Yadir Drake of Durango continues to lead the league in batting with an even .400 average, but Monterrey centerfielder Chris Roberson has gone an incredible 19-for-36 (.528) over his last nine games to lift his average up to .398.  Roberson, a 37-year-old Oakland native who became a naturalized Mexican citizen over the past year, is having an MVP-worthy season thus far.  He's the first Liga player in 2017 to reach double figures in both homers (12) and stolen bases (11).  Tijuana teammates Corey Brown and Alex Liddi are tied for the lead in homers with 15 each, one ahead of Durango's Drake.  Laguna first baseman Ricky Alvarez continues his productive campaign with 66 RBIs in 63 games, eight more than Brown.  One player who probably deserves to join Roberson and others in the MVP conversation at the midway point of the season is Saltillo outfielder Justin Greene (pictured).  The South Carolinian had a pair of 4-hit games last week en route to raising his batting average to .361 with 9 homers and he continues to terrorize opposing pitchers and catchers alike with 33 steals to easily top the circuit in that category.  He's also been caught stealing 12 times, tying Laguna's Welington Dotel for the LMB lead.  For his part, Dotel is terrorizing his third base coach by going 11-of-23 in steals attempts, which says something (most likely "STAY!").

Mexican League pitchers haven't had the easiest time of it in 2017, with three teams hitting .300 or better and another four in the .290's.  Conversely, three teams have ERAs below 4.00 while another five clubs are above 5.00.  Leon's Mitch Lively is back in the starting rotation after working his way back from an apparent injury suffered in May and leads the circuit with a 1.82 average.  A closer last year when the team labored in Reynosa, Lively has walked just 9 hitters in 49 innings while building a 6-1 record.  Oaxaca lefty Irwin Delgado beat Campeche Sunday to win his fifth consecutive start and take the Liga lead with 9 wins on the season.  Delgado struck out only two Piratas batsmen over seven frames and has been overtaken by Monclova's Josh Lowey, 77 to 76, in the LMB whiff wars.  Lowey has struck out 10 batters in each of his last two starts, including a loss at Aguascalientes last Wednesday during which he allowed one run in seven innings.  Durango's Tiago da Silva continues to excel for the Liga's worst-pitching team, topping the loop with 20 saves in 21 opportunities to go with a 1.89 ERA.  The Generales team ERA is 5.85, which tells you how much the Brazilian has meant to them.  In a curious roster move last week, Yucatan released closer Jairo Asencio (who spent time in MLB with four teams between 2009 and 2013) even though he was second with 16 saves and had a 2.42 ERA.  The 34-year-old Dominican hadn't allowed an earned run since May 14.

With the All-Star Game in Campeche scheduled for next weekend, this will be a short week for regular season games.  The biggest midweek series looks to be in Tijuana, where the Toros will host Monclova in a battle of teams that many preseason prognosticators had going 1-2 in the LMB North.  The top series in the South may be when Oaxaca visits Puebla.  The Guerreros swept a Sunday home doubleheader against Campeche to pull within a half-game of fourth place.  Raymundo Torres' two-run walkoff homer won the opener for Delgado's ninth victory while Samar Leyva's walkoff two-run single capped a Oaxaca comeback win in the nightcap.

MEXICAN LEAGUE STANDINGS
North Division: Monterrey 41-20, Tijuana 39-23, Monclova 37-25, Aguascalientes 34-29, Union Laguna 34-29, Mexico City 33-30, Durango 27-36, Saltillo 25-36.
South Division: Yucatan 39-21, Puebla 30-32, Quintana Roo 28-30, Veracruz 28-33, Oaxaca 27-33, Campeche 26-35, Tabasco 23-38, Leon 20-41.