|Tijuana Toros catcher Juan Apodaca|
The Toros now lead by a 2-games-to-0 margin heading into Friday's battle in Puebla. Josh Outman is the likely starter for the Pericos while Tijuana manager Pedro Mere is expected to counter with Horacio Ramirez on Friday. Saturday's Game Four will feature the Toros' Miguel Pena going up against Andres Meza for Puebla.
TIJUANA 5-12-0, Puebla 3-10-0 (Tijuana leads series, 2 games to 0)
W-M. Serrano (1-0). L-H. Garcia (0-11). SV-Urquidez (1). A-16,231. T-3:03.
The Toros took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Jose Guadalupe Chavez led the frame off with a sharp single to right off Pericos starter Jaime Lugo, followed two outs later by a line-drive homer over the wall in left-center off the bat of Cyle Hankerd. Puebla responded with three runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead. Jesus Arredondo and Ricky Rodriguez hit back-to-back, one-out doubles, with Arredondo scoring on Rodriguez' two-bagger to put the visitors on the board. After Cesar Tapia grounded to Chavez at short for the second out, longtime second baseman Hector Garanzuay, in his first year with Puebla after being jettisoned from Monclova following eleven summers with the Acereros, lofted an Alex Sanabia delivery over TJ rightfielder Dustin Martin for a two-run homer to put Puebla up, 3-2.
Following a scoreless fifth for both teams, Tijuana tied the contest in the bottom of the sixth on Apodaca's solo homer to left, which would turn out to be Lugo's last pitch of the evening. The Toros added two more runs in the seventh. Roberto Lopez led off with a double and advanced to third on Corey Brown's groundout to Rodriguez at first. At that point, Puebla manager Tim Johnson replaced reliever Henry Garcia with Adrian C. Ramirez, who intentionally walked Hankerd to pitch to ex-MLBer Jorge Cantu. The former Marlin hit a sacrifice fly to Julio Borbon in center to score Lopez with the go-ahead tally. Ramirez then walked Dustin Martin (unintentionally) before letting up an Apodaca single that scored Hankerd from second to give the Toros a 5-3 advantage. Pericos closer Deunte Heath came in a little early, but got the final out to end the seventh with no further damages.
Tijuana setup man Juan Sandoval extended his string of scoreless playoff appearances to eight games with a 1-2-3 eighth inning (only allowing one single over 8.1 frames), but closer Jason Urquidez struggled in the ninth after the Toros went down runless in the bottom of the eighth. After getting Rodriguez looking for a leadoff strikeout, Urquidez gave up back-to-back singles to Tapia and Garanzuay to put the tying runs on base. Urquidez settled down after that, getting Sergio Perez to fly out to Roberto Lopez in left and slipping a third strike past Alberto Carreon to end the game with the save and a Toros win, putting Tijuana up in the series, 2 games to 0.
Lopez ended with a 4-for-5 night at the plate for TJ, doubling twice and scoring once, while Apodaca was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs. Garanzuay led the Pericos with three hits, including his two-run homer in the fourth. Middleman Mark Serrano pitched a scoreless seventh for the win in his sixth consecutive appearance without allowing a run. Garcia took the loss for Puebla after giving up the leadoff double in the seventh to Lopez, who eventually scored the game-winning run after Garcia had already exited. Interesting to note that Tijuana's win in Tuesday's opener marked the first time a home team had won a game when the Toros and Pericos met in 2017. During the regular season, the teams were 3-3 against each other after the Bulls swept a May three-game series in Puebla, with thee Pericos taking three in Tijuana in a mid-June set. A crowd of 16,231 attended Wednesday's contest at Estadio Gasmart for a two-day total attendance of 31,336 in the Baja California Norte city.
The two teams will take Thursday off as a travel day before playing Game Three on Friday at Puebla's Estadio Hermanos Serdan. One interesting subtext to this series has been the postseason attendance in the colonial city after owner Gerardo Benavides threatened to move the Pericos out of town for 2018. The Parrots finished ninth on the LMB attendance tables with 3,186 fans per opening over 48 home games for a total of 152,923. After averaging 7,226 for two wins during the first round sweep over Quintana Roo, Puebla fans came out in force for the LMB South championship series against Yucatan, with 33,623 attending the three home games against the Leones.
Benavides has played the role of carpetbagger owner after transferring over twenty players from last year's Pericos championship team to his hometown Monclova Acereros for 2017, but he'll have a harder time justifying a postseason move. Juarez has reportedly been considered, but battles involving drug cartels in cities along the Mexico-Texas border have made baseball a tough sell in places like Juarez and Nuevo Laredo (rumored to be a potential 2018 destination for the Veracruz Rojos del Aguila, although questions about who actually OWNS the Aguilas have put any future plans on hold).
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