Monday, October 23, 2017

Mazatlan sweeps Mochis, four-way logjam for first in MexPac

Hermosillo's Alejandro Flores leads LMP in batting
While the dreams of undefeated seasons were shattered for both Jalisco and Culiacan have been shattered, the Mazatlan Venados have won four straight games, including a three-game weekend sweep over Los Mochis.
The Charros took a perfect 5-0 record into Los Mochis last Tuesday, where the Caneros rode a three-run homer from Mitch Walding while Ramon Urias added three RBIs in an 11-2 pounding of Jalisco that marked Mochis’ first win of the Mexican Pacific League season.  Culiacan’s first loss after their own 5-0 start also came last Tuesday, delivered in more dramatic fashion as Ramon Rios’ bases-loaded single in the bottom of the tenth gave Mexicali an 8-7 walkoff win over the Tomateros.  Both Jalisco and Culiacan then lost three of their next five games, although the Tomateros did win two of three over the Charros in a home series over the weekend (including a 4-1 Sunday win that saw Culiacan starter Edgar Gonzalez toss six shutout innings for the win. Looks like we'll have to wait until at least the 2018-19 season for a team to go 68-0.
The Tomateros are joined atop the MexPac standings by Mexicali, Hermosillo and Mazatlan, all with 7-4 records.  The Venados have won four straight, including a three-game weekend sweep of Los Mochis at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal that was completed when Roberto Valenzuela singled in Jeremias Pineda in the bottom of the eleventh Sunday to send Mazaltecans in the stands home happy with a 5-4 win.  Mazatlan pitchers have been strong thus far, turning in a team 2.20 ERA.  Oscar Verdugo has won both his starts to go with an 0.89 ERA but the real story may be the Deer bullpen, where seven relievers have combined to hurl 28.1 scoreless innings in 38 total appearances (with three saves for closer Evan Marshall).
For their part, Hermosillo remains tied for first after briefly leading the LMP during the week before losing all three games in Obregon over the weekend.  The Naranjeros top the loop with 11 homers and 56 runs over eleven games as catcher Alejandro Flores has hit a league-leading .529 over his first nine games.  Third baseman Hunter Dozier has cracked three homers in nine contests but he’s also committed four errors in the field (the bat taketh, the glove giveth away).
At the other end of the standings, Los Mochis and Obregon are tied for last at 3-8 but the Yaquis swept Hermosillo at home after losing their first eight games out the starting gate.  That stumbling start led some Obregon fans to call for the firing of GM Manuel Velez, unusual because it’s typically the managers who fall on a sword, but the locals aren’t blaming Yaquis skipper Luis Sojo for the roster he’s working with this winter...yet.  It’s still only October.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of October 23, 2017)
Culiacan 7-4, Mexicali 7-4, Hermosillo 7-4, Mazatlan 7-4, Jalisco 6-5, Navojoa 4-7, Los Mochis 3-8, Obregon 3-8
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Alejandro Flores (HMO) .529, Runs-Randy Arozarena (NAV) and Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) 9, Homers-Jesse Castillo (NAV) 4, RBIs-Jesse Castillo (NAV) 12, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) 5
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Four pitchers tied at 2 each, ERA-Tyler Alexander (JAL) and Edgar Gonzalez (CUL)  0.00, Strikeouts-Akkem Bostick (MOC) 17, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 5, WHIP-Casey Coleman (HMO) 0.71


Mexican Winter League begins third season
The Liga Invernal Mexicana, or Mexican Winter League, has launched its third season of play with ten Mexican League parent clubs sharing six LIM teams in 2017-18.  While Alfredo Harp Helu’s two Liga teams, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros, will supply players and staff for single teams in each city and ballpark, the Celaya Cajeteros will be manned by owner Gerardo  Benavides’ Monclova and Puebla teams, brothers Juan Jose and Erick Arellano will send players from their Yucatan and Laguna teams to the Maravatio Leones Purepechas, the Salamanca Petroleros will feature players from Monterrey and Quintana Roo while the Moroleon Toros Bravos have Tijuana and Leon assignees.  Mexico City has won both previous LIM pennants.
The Invernaliga has three teams in the state of Guanajuato with single clubs in Michoacan, Oaxaca and the Federal District.  With the exception of Oaxaca’s 7,200-seat Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos, LIM ballparks seat between 3,000 and 5,200.  Moroleon’s Estadio Municipal features a manual scoreboard in right field with a man seated on the warning track hanging up numbers, including balls and strikes, while the game is on.  A charming sight for old-school fans to be sure, but what do you bet this guy gets involved in a play before the season is over?
The Mexican Winter League was started by the Mexican League in 2015-16 as a place for prospects and veterans alike to get in some offseason work under LMB auspices.  The LIM was originally considered one of Mexico’s two AA-level winter leagues along with the Veracruz Winter League, but the demise of the LIV after state subsidies followed former governor Javier Duerte into exile led to that league’s collapse, with the present-day Veracruz State Baseball League rising from the ashes.  The budget-conscious LEBV, overseen by former Brewers pitcher Narciso Elvira, plays weekends solely with young players from the baseball-rich state.  While they still send their champion to the Latin American Series every January, it would be a stretch to classify the LEBV as a AA circuit in quality.
Mexico City and Moroleon are tied for first in the current LIM standings with 8-2 records, one game ahead of 5-3 Oaxaca.


New Mexico City ballpark damaged by September quakes
The already-delayed opening of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos’ new 13,000-seat ballpark will be pushed back even further after last month’s devastating earthquakes centered near the nation’s capital damaged the facility.  According to Proceso’s Beatriz Pereyra, the temblors cracked and displaced a concrete platform on which a crane would install the ballpark’s unique trident-shaped roof above the main grandstand.  Instead, the platform has sunk into the ground in the wake of the quakes.  The new ballpark, which was said to be ready for occupancy last summer (the Diablos chose to finish the 2017 campaign at Estadio Fray Nano rather than move during the season), will now not be opened until at least mid-2018.
Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu (it will reportedly be named after the Diablos owner) has run into numerous problems since the team announced in December 2014 that it would be built for 800 million pesos (or US$52.2 million in December 2014 dollars).  The ballpark was supposed to be finished last February.  However, heavy rains in August led to an initial crack in the concrete because there weren’t adequate pilings to support the 3,400-ton crane that would put the roof in place, and the 7.1-degree quake on September 19 expanded the cracks greatly.  
The repairs and delays (Pereyra says the crane costs $30,000-40,000 per day whether it’s used or not) will drive up the ballpark’s construction cost to $1.7 billion pesos, or US$89 million at the current exchange rate.  Major League Baseball had originally planned to host an April regular season series between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers at the new ballpark, but that set appears to be Monterrey-bound while the Diablos return to Estadio Fray Nano for at least the start of a fourth season as the Liga’s smallest venue.  The Red Devils averaged 2,503 fans over 51 home games in 2015, ranking 14th in the 16-team circuit.