Monday, October 30, 2017

Venados win 2 of 3 in Jalisco, four-way tie for MexPac lead

Mazatlan Venados outfielder Garin Cecchini
The Mazatlan Venados posted two wins in an important early-season road series at Guadalajara to pull into a four-way tie for the Mexican Pacific League lead with the host Jalisco Charros, Hermosillo and Culiacan.  All have identical 10-7 first-half records.
Mazatlan won Friday’s opener, 9-8, as Carlos Munoz’ two-run homer keyed a four-run seventh in the comeback effort. The Charros came back Saturday night with a 6-1 triumph behind Manny Rodriguez’ third-inning grand slam and Manuel Al Flores’ 4.2 innings of two-hit shutout pitching.  The Venados copped Sunday’s rubber match, 12-8, behind Garin Cecchini’s three-run homer.  Cecchini, who hit .268 last summer for the Royals’ AAA Omaha affiliate, finished a double away from hitting for the cycle.  Jalisco was coming off a sweep of defending champion Mexicali in a midweek home series.
Culiacan likewise won a three-game home set with Navojoa to take their place in the logjam on top.  Lefty Danny Rodriguez registered a brilliant 8.1 innings, allowing one hit in the Tomateros’ 1-0 win.  Culiacan earned a similar 1-0 victory Saturday behind Aldo Montes’ six goose-egg frames.  The Mayos offense finally woke up in Sunday’s 5-0 conquest.  This time it was Navojoa starter Tyler Kane who contributed six shutout innings while Alan Sanchez cracked a two-run homer for the visitors.  The trifecta of games was well-attended, with more than 46,000 fans in the Estadio Tomateros stands.
Hermosillo lost two of three in Los Mochis to fall into a tie for the lead.  The Naranjeros took Friday’s opener, 8-5, with Domonic Brown’s three-run homer highlighting a four-run top of the ninth.  The Caneros won the next two: Leandro Castro’s three-run walkoff homer ended Saturday’s 6-3 game in the thirteenth while Noel Cuevas’ three-run blast in the fourth was Sunday’s difference-maker in a 6-4 Mochis series-clincher.
The four upcoming MexPac midweek series will include matchups of the four co-leaders: Hermosillo will host Culiacan Tuesday through Thursday while Culiacan visits Mazatlan for three games.  Next weekend’s biggest encounter looks to be in Hermosillo, where the Naranjeros will host Mexicali from Friday through Sunday.  The Aguilas sit one game behind the leaders and hope to gain some ground at home against Los Mochis before heading south to Hermosillo.  An interesting note is that Mexicali has a total of two stolen bases as a team through their first 17 games.  In comparison, eleven individual players have three or more steals, led by the six apiece of Mazatlan’s Jeremias Pineda and Billy Burns of Jalisco.  Pineda’s six swipes have come in just nine games after going 25-of-26 on steal attempts over 25 games for Veracruz in the Mexican League last summer.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of October 30, 2017)
Culiacan 10-7, Hermosillo 10-7, Mazatlan 10-7, Jalisco 10-7, Mexicali 9-8, Navojoa 7-10, Los Mochis 7-10, Obregon 5-12.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) .400, Runs-Jose Aguilar (MAZ) and Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 15, Homers-Bruce Brentz (HMO) 5, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 20, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) and Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 6.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Thirteen pitchers tied at 2 each, ERA-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.89, Strikeouts-Cesar Vargas (HMO) 25, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 7, WHIP-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.64.


Japhet Amador returns to Jalisco, season debut Friday vs. Mayos
Rakuten Golden Eagles DH Japhet Amador
Slugging first baseman-designated Japhet Amador will return from Japan to Guadalajara this week and is expected to be in Jalisco’s lineup Friday when the Charros open a home series against Navojoa.
The 6’4” and 330-pound “Mulege Giant” had a largely successful second Nippon Professional Baseball season, where he hit .237 with 23 homers and 65 RBI’s for the Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.  The 23 roundtrippers eclipsed the old single season record for a Mexican player of 21, set by Orix’ Karim Garcia in 2005.  Garcia became the only player in NPB history to belt three homers in two consecutive games, turning the trick August 10-11, 2005 (somewhat ironically against Rakuten, an expansion team that year).
Amador has played professionally since 2007, breaking into the Mexican League with Minatitlan as a 20-year-old.  After playing sparingly for the Petroleros for two years, Amador got off to a hot start in 2009 prior to a midseason trade to Veracruz (finishing with 21 homers and 74 RBIs that year), but it was when he debuted with Mexico City in 2010 that the hulking right-handed batter would really hit stride, batting .366 with 14 homers and 63 ribbies in 79 games for the Diablos Rojos.  In nine LMB seasons, Amador has batted .330 with 167 homers and 599 RBIs over 693 games.
He’s also done well in the Mexican Pacific League over the years, starting in 2009-10 when he hit .270 with eight homers in 44 contests for Gusave, a franchise that shifted to Guadalajara in 2014.  In eight winterball seasons for the Algodoneros and Charros, Amador has a respectable .271 average with 83 homers in 426 games.  He cracked a combined 55 longballs for the Diablos and Charros in 2015-16 before signing with Rakuten that winter.
Amador’s injury-plagued first year in Japan ended with a disappointing nine homers in 39 games in 2016 before turning in better totals during a healthier 2017.  Amador, who makes Boog Powell look like Mark Belanger, even stole his first base since 2013, leading to questions of the third base coach’s sanity in sending him while scientists scrambled to gather Richter readings.
The first-place Charros were already a power-laden outfit even before Amador’s arrival, with sluggers like Matt Clark, Manny Rodriguez, Adan Munoz and former MLBer Chris Colabello on the roster, but first-year manager Tony Tarasco will no doubt find a place for the Mulege Giant in the lineup; he’s a hard one to ignore.


Academy Rookie League 2017-18 season underway
The Mexican League Academy’s Rookie winter league has begun its 2017-18 season at the complex near Monterrey. The academy was the brainchild of former Mexico City Tigres owner Alejo Peralta and opened in 1996 under the auspices of the LMB.  New Liga president Javier Salinas is the nominal president of the Liga Academia, but the campus and the dozens of teen prospects are overseen by director Raul Martinez Salazar.  Two separate leagues are operated at the facility: A Rookie league during the winter months and a class A circuit during the spring and summer.  All six Academy Rookie teams are operated by LMB clubs, with Tijuana, Monterrey and Quintana Roo each supplying one squad and each of the other three Rookie teams shared by two Liga teams apiece.
The rookieball season began Tuesday, September 26 with three games played simultaneously on three diamonds.  As of games through Sunday, Tijuana had an 11-2-2 record (ties count) after 15 games, good for a four-game lead over 8-7 Veracruz/Leon.  Toros prospect Alejandro Gutierrez is hitting an even .500, going 21-of-42 with ten walks in 53 plate appearances. Another intriguing batsman is Mexico City/Oaxaca’s Roberto Mendez (.327), who has five doubles and three homers among his 18 hits in 55 at-bats, with just six strikeouts.  Among pitchers, Tijuana relievers Fernando Gallegos (0.00) and Fernando Olguin (3.57) are both 3-0, as is Monterrey’s Jorge Ramos (3.68).  Luciano Reynoso (2-2, 1.73) of Veracruz/Leon has 30 strikeouts in 20 innings, walking just six.

The Academy Rookie League season will run through Sunday, December 10.