Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reyes shuts down TJ as Sultanes tie series; rainout in Puebla

The Monterrey Sultanes received another night of top-shelf pitching (this time from starter Jorge Reyes) and a clutch two-run homer in the seventh inning from Agustin Murillo in a 4-1 win over Tijuana Monday night.  The Sultanes evened their Mexican League Northern Division championship series with the Toros at two games apiece as 17,086 looked on at Estadio Monterrey.  In the LMB South title set, Monday's game between Yucatan and Puebla at Estadio Hermanos Serdan in Puebla was rained out.  The host Pericos lead that series, 2 games to 1.

Two contests are scheduled for Tuesday night.  The Leones and defending champion Pericos will try again to get Game Four in when Yucatan sends Jonathan Castellanos to the mound against Puebla starter Andres Meza.  Monterrey will host Tijuana in Game Five of their best-of-seven set.  Pitching matchups were not announced as of late Monday evening, but a rematch of last Thursday's series opener featuring Alex Sanabia of Tijuana and Monterrey's Javier Solano seems likely.  Sanabia and the Toros won Game One, 10-1.

MONTERREY 4-10-0, Tijuana 1-5-1
W-J. Reyes (1-0).  L-Mitre (0-1).  SV-Obispo (2).  A-17,086.  T-3:10.

Two-time Class AA All-Star Jorge Reyes won his second playoff contest for Monterrey, shutting Tijuana down for one run on four hits while striking out eight Toros in six innings as the Sultanes took a 4-1 Game Four victory over the Bulls at home Monday.  Nick Struck followed with two hitless innings of relief before closer Wirfin Obispo recorded his second save in as many nights.

Monterrey drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning after Agustin Murillo got on base after Tijuana opener Sergio Mitre handled Murillo's comeback tapper to the mound, only to have first baseman Jorge Cantu mishandle Mitre's throw to complete the 1-3 groundout.  Murillo took advantage of the miscue by moving to third on Leo German's line-drive double to left and coming in to score when Walter Ibarra grounded out to Cantu.

Reyes' only mistake came in the top of the fifth, when leadoff batter Cantu atoned for his bobble by launching a delivery into the left field stands for a homer, tying the score at 1-1.  The Sultanes regained the lead in the bottom of the frame when Ramon Rios grounded a single up the middle, moved to second on Zoilo Almonte's groundout to second and scored on a Jesus Montero single to right.  Murillo tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh by belting a two-out homer to left center off reliever Carlos Fisher, bringing in Montero from first to raise the Sultanes' lead to 4-1.

It was left to Struck and Obispo to close out the contest with no further scores by Tijuana, although Dustin Martin livened up the ninth by stroking a leadoff single against Obispo, stealing second without drawing a throw and taking third on a wild pitch to Alfredo Amezaga before Obispo struck out Amezaga swinging to earn the save for the second night in a row.  Struck, a 27-year-old righty from Mount Hood Community College in Oregon, has thrived as manager Felix Fermin's setup man in the postseason.  The ex-Cubs farmhand has tossed 9.2 scoreless innings in five playoff appearances, striking out ten and beating Monclova in the August 13 first round opener.

It was Reyes, however, who was the man of the match.  A Southern League All-Star in 2011 as a Padres minor leaguer and Texas League All-Star in 2015 while with the Braves organization, the 29-year-old Oregon State grad threw 59 of his 91 pitches for strikes and retired eleven straight Toros hitters before Cantu's homer.  Reyes had runners reach scoring position twice after that, but exited after the sixth with no further runs scored against him.  Pretty good performance for a guy that Sultanes part-owner Jose Maiz would have insulted for being Mexican-American had he pitched for Tijuana.

Mitre took the loss for Tijuana but the former Yankees reliever did not pitch badly, giving up one earned run and scattering eight hits over five innings, striking out two with no walks.  Mitre's control was even sharper than Reyes' as 55 of his 79 deliveries went for strikes, but that error by Cantu hurt him early and his own rocky fifth inning hurt later.