Friday, October 6, 2017

Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta: Day One Report

Hermosillo DH Jose Amador
The Mexican Baseball Fiesta kicked off its final weekend of play in 2017 Thursday night with a pair of games at Tucson's Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium featuring three Mexican Pacific League teams.  The Obregon Yaquis opened the four-day, eight-game event with a convincing 9-1 win over Mexicali in the seven-inning first contest while a team of Cincinnati Reds prospects pulled off a 5-3 comeback win over the Hermosillo Naranjeros in the nightcap.

Former Phillies outfielder Cedric Hunter lofted a solo homer with two out in the top of the first as his Obregon Yaquis went on to pull away from the defending MexPac champion Aguilas.  Felix Pie led off the game getting plunked by Mexicali starter Francisco Rodriguez, but was cut down at second when Obregon centerfielder Yordanys Linares made a diving catch of an Irving Falu Texas Leaguer and threw a strike to second baseman Paul Leon, who calmly tagged Pie to complete the double play.  Hunter then took Rodriguez deep into the right field bullpen.

Pie got a measure of revenge one inning later by lashing a two-run single off Rodriguez to give the Yaquis a 3-0 advantage, to which Falu added another run by rapping a sharp single to right that brought Armando Araiza in from third.  Mexicali scored their lone run in the bottom of the fourth when former Yankees farmhand Josh Romanski drilled a liner off Obregon reliever David Reyes' right leg, scoring C.J. Retherford from third as the ball rolled into foul territory. Romanski is a former pitcher who hit .324 for Winnipeg last summer in the independent American Association.  Reyes was taken out of the game after that play and his status is unknown.

The Yaquis essentially put the game in their hip pockets in the top of the sixth when Paul Leon stepped up with the sacks loaded and belted a bases-clearing double against Mexicali reliever Edgar Gomez that rattled high off the center field wall, bringing the Obregon lead to 7-1.  The Tribe concluded the night's scoring in the top of the seventh inning when Alex Liddi rapped a two-run double to left that brought in subs Jonathan Aranda and Andres Martin.  It was left to Edwin Fierro to hold the Aguilas scoreless in the bottom of the frame to seal the win.

Wily veteran Pablo Ortega looked anything but 40 years old in tossing three scoreless innings on two hits to earn the win for the Yaquis.  Rodriguez took the loss for Mexicali after getting touched for three runs on four hits in the first two entradas.  Aguilas reliever Edgar Osuna was razor-sharp by retiring all nine batters he faced over three innings.  Osuna struggled to an 0-5 record last summer for Yucatan in Mexican League play after being shipped to the Leones from Union Laguna (for whom he was 5-4) as part of the Ricky Alvarez trade, so the 29-year-old lefty from Mazatlan is seeking some redemption this winter.  Alvarez is a teammate of Osuna's in Obregon.

The nightcap between Hermosillo and a team of Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers was much closer, if not quite as interesting until the end.  The Reds manufactured a run in the top of the first when Stuart Fairchild drew a walk from Naranjeros starter Hector Galvan, stole second without a throw from catcher Alejandro Flores and then motored in on Taylor Trammell's single.  Trammell was cut down trying to advance to second when Flores took the wide throw from the outfield and burned another throw to Carlos Gastelum, who tagged Trammell for the second out of the inning.  Cincinnati's 2015 first-round draft pick, Tyler Stephenson, struck out swinging to end the threat.

Hermosillo tied the game back up in the bottom of the first when speedy rightfielder Norberto Obeso tripled off the wall in right center and scored on Gastelum's groundout to short to make it a 1-1 contest.  The Orangemen regained the lead in the top of the second the old-fashioned way, when 2016-17 LMP Most Valuable Player Jose Amador blasted a Jonathon Crawford offering off the top of the 18-foot wall in back of the Hermosillo bullpen in left.  Hermosillo went up 3-1 later in the inning when a Jorge Flores groundout to third brought in Jose Cardona with a run.

And that's how the score remained until the top of the seventh and final inning, when the Reds erupted for four runs on as many hits and an error as Cincinnati batted through the order against reliever Rafael Cordova.  After Cassidy Brown led off with a groundout to short, the Reds got three consecutive hits:  A Miles Gordon single, a Joe Sansone double and a two-run single by Carlos Rivero to tie the score at 3-all.  The Naranjeros ran into more trouble when Jorge Flores mishandled a Shed Long grounder to short to put runners on the corners.  Fairchild then singled Rivero home to give Cincy a 4-3 lead and Long scooted in from third to make it 5-3 when Trammell's lazy fly ball to left was dropped.  Cordova got the final two outs of the inning but the Naranjeros went down in order in the bottom of the seventh with pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez striking out swinging to end the game.

Amador finished the night 2-for-3 with his homer but no other Naranjero batter had more than one hit.  Gordon and Rivero led the Reds with two singles apiece as the visitors collected nine hits to Hermosillo's two.  Dauri Maureta earned the win out of the bullpen for Cincinnati with a perfect sixth and seventh while Cordova took the loss.

Day Two of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta on Friday will feature the Reds taking on Mexicali at 5:30PM while the nightcap has Hermosillo and Obregon tangling in a renewal of the MexPac's version of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.