Saturday, September 9, 2017

Meza recovers after shaky first, Puebla alive with 6-3 win

Puebla starting pitcher Andres Meza found himself in an early hole after coughing up three Tijuana runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batsman in the top of the first inning, but settled down to allow just two more singles before being replaced in the sixth as the Pericos scored the final six runs of the game in a 6-3 win over the Toros Saturday in Puebla.  The Game Four victory prevented the visiting Toros from sweeping the Mexican League's Serie del Rey championship finals as a sellout crowd of 12,112 jammed Estadio Hermanos Serdan to see their defending champs live to fight another day (in particular, Sunday's Game Five in Puebla).

PUEBLA 6-10-0, Tijuana 3-7-0 (Tijuana leads Serie del Rey, 3 games to 1)
W-Meza (1-0).  L-Mitre (0-1).  SV-Heath (1).  A-12,112.  T-2:59.

Tijuana jumped on Meza right off the bat, as leadoff hitter Jose Guadalupe Chavez poked a single to right field and moved to second when Roberto Lopez followed with a safety into left.  Meza then issued his only walk of the night to Corey Brown to load the bases, then gave Chavez a free stroll to home plate from third by plunking Toros cleanup batter Cyle Hankerd, putting TJ up, 1-0.  With the sacks still juiced and nobody out, Jorge Cantu strode to the plate and lofted a double to left that scored both Lopez and Brown to make it 3-0.  Hankerd rounded third too far on the play and got caught in a pickle before being tagged out by Meza while Cantu continued to third.  Dustin Martin and Juan Apodaca both popped out to shortstop Alberto Carreon (the latter in foul territory) to end the inning with Cantu stranded on third.

The Pericos got one run back in the bottom of the second when Sergio Perez punched a one-out single through the right side of the infield off Toros starter Sergio Mitre to score Cesar Tapia from second, but it was the bottom of the fourth when Puebla took the lead with a four-run outburst.

After Ricky Rodriguez flew out to open the inning, Tapia singled up the middle and soon advanced to second when Mitre sent a wild pitch to Hector Garanzuay. Garanzuay, who has hit .385 over twelve playoff games, then sent a double to left, bringing in Tapia from second to bring the Pericos a run away from tying the game.  Perez then sent a slow roller to Chavez at short for an infield single as Garanzuay stayed put on second.  Carreon then cracked a ground-rule double bounding over the right field wall, scoring Garanzuay with the tying run and sending Perez to third.

By then, Carlos Hernandez had thrown enough warmup pitches in the bullpen to be brought in by TJ skipper Pedro Mere, replacing Mitre.  Things started well enough for Hernandez, who got Julio Borbon to hit into a 6-3 groundout to short for the second out, but ex-MLBer Endy Chavez lashed a double to left that scored Perez and Carreon to put the Parrots ahead, 5-3.

Meza had retired 11 of the last 13 batters he faced before Puebla's four-run fourth and he sat down the next four hitters after that before manager Tim Johnson pulled him for Mario Morales with one out in the sixth.  Morales held the fort through the top of the seventh before closer Deunte Heath came on for the final two frames.  The Pericos scored one more insurance run in the bottom of the eighth off Toros reliever Carlos Fisher.  Rodriguez hit a one-out single up the middle and stole second before scoring on a Garanzuay single to give the hosts a 6-3 advantage.  Heath then held Tijuana scoreless in the top of the ninth to preserve Puebla's first win of the series, earning the save.

Meza finished with 5.1 inning pitched, giving up those three first-inning tallies before locking the door.  The 31-year-old righty from Culiacan struck out four and walked one on 80 pitches.  Mitre took the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk in 3.1 innings of work.  The Pericos outhit the Toros by a 10-to-7 margin, as Rodriguez, Garanzuay and Perez each had two hits while Garanzuay and Perez each drove in two runs.  Chavez, Cantu and Alex Liddi each had two of the Toros' seven hits but the visitors were unable to advance a runner past second base following the opening inning.

 The two teams will play Game Five Sunday in Puebla at 1PM local time before the series shifts back to Tijuana for the final two games, if necessary.  The Pericos will send Josh Roenicke to the mound against the Toros' Miguel Pena.  Roenicke, who pitched for four major league teams between 2008 and 2013, was reached for four runs on six hits and four walks over 5.1 innings in Tijuana's 8-2 Serie del Rey opener win on September 5.  Pena started for the Toros that night, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks in five innings, but did not get the decision.