|Puebla Pericos starting pitcher Josh Roenicke|
Roenicke, an MLB middleman between 2008 and 2013 prior to becoming an LMB South All-Star as a starter this past June in his first Liga campaign, found himself locked in a duel with Yucatan's 2016 LMB Pitcher of the Year Yoanner Negrin. The Leones scored once in the bottom of the fifth when Leo Heras sped all the way in from first on Diego Madero's double, but the Pericos knotted the score up in the top of the sixth when Issmael Salas doubled in Alberto Carreon, but it was their three-run eighth that provided the defending champion Pericos their eventual margin of victory.
Jesus Barraza came in from the bullpen to replace Negrin to start the inning and immediately found himself in trouble when first batter Borbon dragged a bunt single down the third base line that Yucatan third sacker Yuniesky Betancourt threw into right field territory, allowing Borbon to advance all the way to third. After Chavez popped out to Betancourt, Salas doubled to Mustelier in left to score Borbon with the go-ahead run. After Barraza intentionally walked Jesus Arredondo to set up a force at any base, he was replaced on the mound by closer Ronald Belisario. The ex-Dodger induced Ricky Rodriguez to ground a 1-3 comebacker to the hill for the second out as both runners moved 90 feet, but 2016 batting champion Cesar Tapia drilled a double to the busy Mustelier in left to score both Salas and Arredondo, putting the Pericos ahead, 4-1. Puebla closer Deunte Heath came on in the bottom of the eighth and retired the last four Yucatan hitters (three on strikeouts) to end the game and earn the save.
Salas had a 3-for-4 night with two RBIs and one run scored for the Pericos while Madero collected three hits for Yucatan. Roenicke, son of former MLBer Gary and nephew of ex-Brewers manager Ron (as well as brother-in-law to Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond) was the winner after giving up one run and scattering seven hits in as many innings for the visitors and Barraza absorbed the loss after giving up three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning. Negrin looked good over his seven frames, allowing one run on four hits.
The two teams will lock horns in Merida again Friday night for Game Two in their rematch of last year's LMB South division chamnpionship series. Josh Outman will get the start for Puebla while James Russell will open for Yucatan.
Puebla 4-7-0, YUCATAN 1-8-1
W-Roenicke (1-0). L-Barraza (0-1). SV-Heath (1). A-12,000. T-2:55.
The Tijuana Toros sent 13 batters to the plate in a seven-run seventh innings en route to a 10-1 blowout win over visiting Monterrey in Game One of their LMB North championship series Thursday night. An Estadio Gasmart crowd of 13,685 watched the Toros earn a leg up in their rematch from 2016 with the Sultanes.
That series concluded with loud complaints from Monterrey owner Jose Maiz about the Toros' large number of Mexican-American players (who are exempt from the Liga's roster limit of six foreigners), leading to last winter's split among owners over the issue that required the intervention of Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Connor to save the 2017 season. Maiz, who was feted at the Little League World Series this week as a member of the 1957 LLWS champions from Monterrey, fanned the flames Tuesday with a comment calling the Tijuana team the "PochoToros." The term pocho is an equivalent to words like sellout, traitor or even Uncle Tom among Mexicans, and Maiz' incorporation of it (which was widely reported across the country) has generally been panned by baseball columnists south of the border, especially since O'Connor ruled that there would be no limit to Mexican-American players on LMB rosters.
The Toros broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off Sultanes starter Javier Solano. Cyle Hankerd followed Corey Brown's leadoff single with a two-run homer to left field to put TJ up, 2-0. Hankerd had been drilled by Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo in an August 4 game, putting him out of the lineup for the final ten games of the regular season and doing nothing to relieve tensions between the two teams in what has become the most intense rivalry in the Liga. Dustin Martin added an RBI double later in the frame to put the Toros three ahead.
Monterrey got on the board in the top of the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Luis Flores and Chris Roberson, but the Toros put the game away two innings later. In that entrada, Alex Liddi led the procession off with a line-drive single to left in an ugly frame that ended with seven Tijuana runs off a total of six singles, one Jorge Cantu double, two walks, two hit batsmen and three wild pitches (two by reliever Isaac Jimenez to Cantu prior to the latter's two-bagger). Liddi also singled his second time up to become the eighth consecutive Toros hitter to reach base.
San Diego native Alex Sanabia pitched seven innings of five-hit, one-run baseball for Tijuana to earn the win while Solano allowed nine hits and five earned runs to take the loss for Monterrey. Martin (Corpus Christi, Texas) had three hits for the winners while Roberto Lopez (San Diego), Cantu (McAllen, Texas), Liddi (San Remo, Italy) and Hankerd (Covina, California) each had two hits as the Toros finished the night with 16 hits. Luis Juarez (a proud son of Culiacan, Sonora) had two singles for the Sultanes while Roberson (Oakland) and Flores (San Diego) contributed their doubles. There were no reported comments from Maiz on the ethnic makeup of the two lineups after the rout, but this was only Game One.
Game Two is scheduled for Friday night in Tijuana. Dominican Angel Castro gets the start for Monterrey while Horacio Ramirez (Carson, California) earns the nod for the Toros.
TIJUANA 10-16-0, Monterrey 1-5-0
W-Sanabia (1-0). L-Solano (0-1). A-13,685. T-3:02.
NOTE: BBM will be in Tucson along with four Mexican Pacific League clubs and a Cincinnati Reds select team for the seventh annual Mexican Baseball Fiesta from October 5 to October 8 at Kino Stadium. More later.