Monday, July 9, 2018

ACEREROS WIN FIRST SIX, DIABLOS TAKE SOUTH LEAD

Monclova Acereros ace Josh Lowey
The Monclova Acereros have won the first six games of their Fall 2018 schedule to take a two-game lead over second place Union Laguna in the Mexican League's North Division.  Under new manager Carlos Garcia, a former Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star, the Steelers opened the Second Season last Tuesday with a 23-2 drubbing of the Dos Laredos Tecolotes at home as two-time MVP Jesse Castillo went 3-for-3 with six RBIs, including a three-run homer off Juan Antonio Pena to key a six-run fifth inning.  The Acereros scored a 5-2 victory one night later in front of over 8,000 onlookers at Laredo's Uni-Trade Stadium, with Cesar Tapia's three-run longball in the top of the first giving the visitors a lead they'd never relinquish.  The series shifted back to Estadio Monclova to conclude the unusual home-and-home-and-home set for a 6-5 Steelers comeback triumph.  The game swung on an unusual play in the bottom of the eighth.  With one out and runners on second and third, Tecos catcher Juan Apodaca dropped a swinging third strike pitch from Fernando Nieve to Cade Gotta, then threw the ball past first baseman Matt Clark (who was dealt to Dos Laredos by Puebla before the start of the Fall schedule) and into right field, scoring Rudy Amador with the tying run and Fernando Perez with the eventual game-winner.

Then it was off to Saltillo and a three-game sweep of the Saraperos, capped by a 7-3 Monclova win Sunday as Francisco Peguero stroked three singles and a double, scored one run and drove in another to support starter Josh Lowey, who won his second game within a week despite a tepid outing of six innings in which he allowed three runs on eight hits.  Second-place Laguna kept pace Sunday with a 2-0 shutout in Monterrey as Leuris Gomez and two Algodoneros relievers combined to scatter nine hits in the whitewash to rise to 4-2 but the week in the LMB North clearly belonged to the Acereros.  In the South,  the Mexico City Diablos Rojos won four of their first five contests to take a half-game lead over defending champion Yucatan in the standings.  The Diablos won their first four games of the Fall before losing a 3-2 home game to Oaxaca on Saturday as the Guerreros' Alejandro Ortiz scored the game-winner on an Alan Sanchez sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth.

Yucatan catcher Sebastian Valle is the early batting race leader with a .571 average following an 8-for-14 week while Oaxaca's Erick Rodriguez and Michael Wing of Aguascalientes are tied for second at .536.  Wing's Rieleros teammate Carlos Rodriguez tops the loop with four homers while Castillo and Peguero of Monclova both have 12 RBIs to head that list and Leon outfielder Junior Lake's four steals are the most.   Monclova ace Lowey is the only two-game winner despite an ERA of 4.91 while unsurprisingly leading the MXL with 15 strikeouts.  Several pitchers have 0.00 ERAs, with Ruddy Acosta of Oaxaca's 6.2 innings in one start the most frames among them.  Laguna closer Maikal Cleto has four saves, two more than his nearest competitors.

If having a second 57-game season was league president Javier Salinas' idea to boost interest in cities whose teams might've been also-rans by July under the traditional 114-game schedule, that may not be how it's turning out.  Tijuana has drawn 32,809 fans in three openings but only 6,423 on Sunday while Dos Laredos did draw 8,136 in the Tecos' lone home game against Monclova last week but some teams are already struggling at the gate, none more than Campeche.  The Piratas drew gatherings of fewer than 800 for each of three games in a series against Tabasco last week.  Attendance picked up at Estadio Nelson Barrera for a weekend set with the nearby Yucatan Leones to bring Campeche's average to a tick above 1,000 per night, but the second season is not selling either there or in places like Leon, Tabasco or Aguascalientes, all of whom are averaging less than 2,000 thus far.


MEXICAN NATIONALS READYING FOR GAMES IN COLOMBIA


Mexican Nationals shortstop Amadeo Zazueta
The Mexican National Team roster is being prepared for the upcoming Central American and Caribbean Games, to be held from July 20 through 29 in Colombia.  Mexican manager Enrique "Che" Reyes will take a squad of 24 Mexican League players to South America and Puro Beisbol reports that some adjustments have been made in the makeup of the team, who will report to Monterrey for training Thursday.

According to Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros, changes include Campeche shortstop Paul Leon replacing Monterrey third baseman Agustin Murillo, Yucatan's Leo Heras taking the place of Mexico City's Jesus Fabela in the outfield and pitchers Pedro Villarreal (Tijuana), Aaron Kurcz (also Tijuana) and David Reyes (Mexico City) are in while Ivan Salas (Campeche), Aldo Montes (Saltillo) and Irwin Delgado (Oaxaca) are out.  Assuming those changes will be later verified, Mexico's roster tentatively looks like this:

PITCHERS (12):  Octavio Acosta (Mexico City), Raul Barron (Quintana Roo), Jesus Castillo (Monterrey), Aaron Kurcz (Tijuana), Juan Noriega (Monclova), Brandon Quintero (Aguascalientes), David Reyes (Mexico City), Jose Samayoa (Yucatan), Nathaniel Santiago (Mexico City), Javier Solano (Quintana Roo), Alejandro Soto (Leon), Pedro Villarreal (Tijuana).
CATCHERS (2):  Alan Espinosa (Dos Laredos), Sebastian Valle (Yucatan).
INFIELDERS (6):  Alberto Carreon (Puebla), Jesse Castillo (Monclova), Luis Juarez (Yucatan), Paul Leon (Campeche), Javier Salazar (Durango), Amadeo Zazueta (Dos Laredos).
OUTFIELDERS (4):  Ricky Alvarez (Monterrey), Edson Garcia (Aguascalientes), Leo Heras (Yucatan), Christian Zazueta (Satillo).

The above roster included decent starting pitchers in Acosta, Reyes, Samayoa, Solano and Soto, a catcher in Valle who seems to rise to the occasion and a solid infield but so-so outfield.  The most intriguing name on the list is Amadeo Zazueta, who was sent in short order from Leon back to Monclova after the Bravos reportedly failed to make a payment to Zazueta's rights-owners in Monclova, who then shipped him to Dos Laredos for pitcher Jose Pina.  Zazueta has thus far declined to report to the Tecos after batting .356 for Leon in the Spring season, but has apparently agreed to suit up for the Verdes Grande in Colombia.

The Central American and Caribbean Games are a multisport event similar to the Olympics held every four years, the last occurring in 2014 in Veracruz.  This will mark the 23rd time the Games have been held since its 1926 inception in Mexico City and athletes from 37 countries participating in 40 sports will converge on Barranquilla, Colombia in less than two weeks.  The 2022 games are scheduled to be held in Panama.


DIABLOS-GUERREROS WIN 4TH STRAIGHT ACADEMIA AA CROWN


MVP/prospects Abraham Felix (l) and Luis Garcia
The combined team of young players from the mutually-owned Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros have won their fourth consecutive pennant in the Liga Academia's Class AA spring schedule, played entirely on the Mexican League Academy grounds near Monterrey.  The Diablos-Guerreros ran away with the pennant by turning in a 42-11 record to finish 12 games ahead of second place finishers Quintana Roo-Campeche and Aguascalientes-Durango, who both came in with 29-24 marks.  In all, eight teams co-owned by all 16 LMB franchises completed a schedule that opened in March and concluded on June 10, when the final week of the campaign was cancelled after it became apparent who was going to win the championship.  No playoffs were held.

The Diablos-Guerreros were led by a trio of batters who hit .333 or better during the season:  Andres Moreno (.339), Roberto Mendez (.333) and Luis Paez (.333).  Erubiel Armenta led the team with four homers and 33 RBIs in 40 games.  Starter Esteban Bloch (5-1) and swingman Roberto Hernandez (5-0) tied for the Diablos-Guerreros lead in wins.  Rodriguez had a team-high 36 strikeouts in 33.2 innings while Bloch only gave up three earned runs over 37 frames for a microscopic 0.73 ERA.  Yucatan prospect Abraham Tadeo Felix and Leon pitching aspirant Luis Roberto Garcia were named Players of the Year.  Felix hit .415 with three homers and 33 RBIs for the Leones-Algodoneros while Garcia ws accorded honors despite only two starts, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 innings.  Guess you had to be there. 

The so-called Liga Doble A consists of prospects who have already played an Academy Rookie League season during the winter months.  Although the spring loop is given a AA designation within Mexican baseball, the reality is that it's more of a Class A circuit and not on an equal footing to the North Mexico League, which is also considered Class AA south of the border but contains more veterans than the Academy loop with players far more likely to get called up to the MXL during the season.  The Academy itself opened in 1996 under the leadership of the late Alejo Peralta, who owned the Mexico Tigres franchise from its 1955 inception until his death in 1997.