Monday, May 27, 2019

RIELEROS’ VARGAS AT 26 HOMERS AFTER 3-HR GAME

Aguascalientes Rieleros 3B Jose Vargas
            Aguascalientes Rieleros third baseman Jose Vargas has opened a sizeable lead in the Mexican League’s home run title chase after a recent stretch during which the Californian crashed seven longballs in a six-game stretch last week, including three homers in a four-inning span against Leon last Saturday night in a wild 15-11 Railroaders loss to the Bravos.

           A gathering of 1,866 at Estadio Alberto Chavez Romo in Aguascalientes looked on at the Ventura College product and former White Sox farm hand socked a solo shot off Leon veteran Walter Silva in the fifth frame, followed by three-run dingers against Normand Mendoza in the sixth and Nicolas Heredia in the eighth, respectively, to run his season total to 26 homers to augment a .390 batting average with 50 RBIs over the first 44 games of the season as the Liga passed the first 1/3 of its 2019 schedule.

            Former Orioles five-tool prospect Felix Pie socked a pair of homers and drove in five runs for the Bravos, who won despite allowing 11 runs on 14 hits (which indicates exactly why the Bravos are just 19-25 on the season despite a starting lineup that boasts .300+ batters at all nine slots in the order.  Pie ended the weekend with a .461 average to top the LMB, his 16 homers are tied with teammate Matt Clark and two others for fourth in the circuit and his 57 RBIs are third in the league behind co-leaders Vargas and Clark.

Leon’s .330 team batting average trails only Monterrey’s .336 mark among the 16 Liga teams but the Bravos’ 8.15 team ERA is dead last and suggests that manager Tony Aguilera might be better served replacing his pitchers with a batting tee atop home plate while sending out a fourth outfielder instead (on either side of the wall.  The most effective Leon hurler thus far has been 38-year-old Manny Acosta, a onetime Braves and Mets pitcher whose 3-1 record and three saves suggest he’s throwing a little better than his 5.60 ERA indicates.

It’s been that kind of year in the LMB, which has apparently resurrected its longstanding reputation as a hitter’s have with 12 teams batting .304 or more and al but Tabasco averaging at least one homer per opening.  The offensive explosion has meant pitchers are proving Newton’s Third Law (“For every action…”) with 13 teams allowing five or more runs per game.  Even traditionally pitching-rich Yucatan has not been immune from the Curse of the Franklin Ball.  The Leones are usually hovering just above a 3.00 team ERA but this year the Merida club is showing a 5.38 ERA, and it’s a sign of the times that they’re still fourth in the circuit.  Fans who love 1-0 pitcher’s duels haven’t had much to cheer about in the 2019 version of the Mexican League.


MONCLOVA, OAXACA TAKE LEADS IN TIGHT LMB DIVISION RACES

            As the Mexican League approaches its ninth week of the current season, we’re starting to see some separation between contenders and pretenders for its eight playoff berths, with a couple of spirited battles for the LMB’s regular season division titles to spur fan interest. 

Campeche Piratas OF Jay Austin
The 32-13 Monclova Acereros stumbled a bit on the first leg of their six-game road trip in the South by losing two of three to Tabasco in Villahermosa before winning two of three in Campeche, including a 4-3 loss in the Walled City as Jay Austin’s walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth plated Jose Guadalupe Chavez with the game-winning run.  Despite the tough loss, the Steelers sport the Liga’s best record at 32-12 to hold a 1.5-game lead over 31-14 Tijuana in the LMB North.  Defending champion Monterrey sits two games behind the Toros at 29-16 while 26-19 Dos Laredos is fourth, four games up on 22-23 Saltillo.
            
            The 27-18 Oaxaca Guerreros have won five in a row (including three-game weekend sweep in Saltillo) to sneak past Mexico City in the LMB South to lead the 26-18 Diablos by a half-game.  Mexico City won two of three games apiece in series at Saltillo and Laguna during last week’s northern road trip but Friday’s defeat in Torreon was enough to drop the Red Devils out of first.  Puebla (25-20) sits two games out of the top slot and a nice battle has developed for the fourth and final playoff slot between 21-24 Yucatan and 20-25 Leon.

            Felix Pie of Leon is batting .461 to hold a commanding 52-point lead over Mexico City’s Emmanuel Avila.  Jason Vargas’ 26 homers for Aguascalientes are tops in the loop, four head of Monclova slugger Chris Carter’s 22.  The former NL home run champ went long once in both Tabasco and Campeche last week.  Leon’s Matt Clark has 61 runs batted in to lead Vargas by one.  Dos Laredos outfielder Johnny Davis has a good lead in stolen bases with 28, 12 more than Alonzo Harris of Oaxaca.  A darkhorse in the SB race is Leon outfielder Jeremias Pineda.  The speedy Dominican has only played 17 games for the Bravos after missing a month of the season, but he’s a perfect 12-for-12 in swipes over the 17 games he has played in to tie Campeche’s Jay Austin for fourth, but is a player who can pile up the SBs in a hurry.

 
Tijuana Toros P James Russell
           Both Josh Lowey of Monclova and Monterrey’s Edgar Gonzalez have eight wins to tie for the Liga lead in that category.  Lowey shut out Campeche over 5.1 innings in last Friday’s 4-2 Acereros road victory to go to 8-0 to match Gonzalez, who’d improved to 8-0 two nights earlier for the Sultanes in Cancun with a 4-2 triumph over the Tigres.  Yucatan’s Cesar Valdez is right behind the co-leaders with a 7-0 record.  James Russell of Tijuana blanked the Tigres over six frames in Cancun last Friday to lower his ERA to 1.94, making the son of ex-MLBer Jeff Russell the lone Mexican League starter at less than 2.00 while improving to 5-1.  Oaxaca’s Ruddy Acosta is 34 points back in second at 2.28, a rather remarkable figure for a starter with a 1-2 record for a division-leading team.  In fact, Acosta didn’t win his first game of the season until his 14-3 victory in Saltillo last Saturday, 44 games into the schedule.  Yasutomo Kubo of Leon still leads the LMB with 69 strikeouts, 13 more than Alex Delgado of Oaxaca.  Monclova’s Carlos Bustamante leads Saltillo’s Rafael Martin in saves, 13 to 12.


Cuarto Bat WRITER'S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 5)

A writer for Mexican baseball website Cuarto Bat, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April about his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues.  Here is the third part of a series in which we bring you a translated version. You'll find their site at CuartoBat.com, where fans can download a free copy of their February magazine.

2.  NUEVO ESTADIO YAQUIS, OBREGON

Nuevo Estadio Yaquis, Obregon
            The contrast that exists in the Yaqui Territory is worth mentioning.  Once Ciudad Obregon ends and the visitor drives for five minutes on a small road, the home of the Yaquis is erected.  It is a majestic scenario surrounded only by an asphalt road, dirt and an occasional rancheria.  It is the ideal location to avoid conglomerations but, in turn, far from presuming surroundings that invite tourism.

           Possessing an impressive and original external metal design, it immediately refers to the one used at Estadio BBVA, home of Liga MX soccer’s Monterrey Rayados.  The front of the Tribe’s lair consists of eight columns that symbolize the seven Yaquis peoples of the region and the proud eighth: The Yaquis Nation.

            It has an internal corridor of 270 degrees, in which access to the outfield is not allowed unless you have a ticket for that section.  It has a huge official store where you can almost anything to do with the local team.  To access the ballpark, there are automated turnstiles to present your physical ticket or via your cell phone.  There are televisions in each column, a free Wi-Fi network, and a huge screen with 4K definition.  It also has a large food court consisting of about 30 stores with varied offerings, including two a la carte bars/restaurants overlooking the playing field.  There is also a Hal of Fame with legendary trophies and uniforms, luxury boxes and even a gym on the second floor.

            Obregon has in their ballpark a beautiful scenario endorsed by Major League Baseball where, win or lose, the team has hired a musical group for after each game.  So what happens on the ground will always stay there, while the dancing and parties always accompanies everywhere.  A serious candidate to be the best stadium in Mexican baseball.


NOTE: I'm in The Philippines until June 20 and the internet here is spotty, so BBM may be interrupted for the next three Monday.  However, as no less than Douglas MacArthur said a few years ago, "I shall return."  MacArthur was in the Philippines at the time, too, although the stakes were just a trifle higher for him.

Monday, May 20, 2019

LAGUNA SINKS SLOWLY IN THE NORTH, LOSE 6TH IN ROW

Michael Crouse of Laguna swingin' in the rain
As Monclova (29-10) and Tijuana (28-11) continue their battle for the Mexican League's North Division lead and Mexico City (21-15), Oaxaca and Puebla (both 22-17) engage in a three-way battle for first in the LMB, the 13-23 Union Laguna Algodoneros lost their sixth straight game Sunday, dropping a 7-6 decision at Leon as the Bravos' Cedric Hunter and Liga batting leader Felix Pie both belted solo homers in the fourth inning off Laguna starter Pedro Fernandez.

It's been a tough season so far in Torreon for the Cottoneers and first-year manager Jonathan Aceves, an ex-catcher who took the reins of the Algodoneros from Ramon Orantes (who is now skipper in Tabasco).  Union Laguna has combined an ineffective offense with a poor pitching staff in a team effort to fall into the cellar, 14.5 games behind first-place Monclova and a half-game behind 15-24 Durango.

Let's begin with a look at the Algodoneros at the plate.  Among the LMB's 16 teams, Union Laguna ranks at or near the bottom of the table in all three Triple Crown categories: Batting (.286 for 16th), homers (38 for 15th) and RBIs (195 for 13th) while outranking only Durango in stolen bases (12 in 25 attempts) as the Algodoneros' 5.75 runs-per-game average is better than only Quintana Roo (5.58) and Campeche (5.53).  The lone offensive category in which Laguna rates among the league's best is a dubious one: The Algodoneros' 309 strikeouts (8.58 per game) is second only to Durango's 358 for the most whiffs in the circuit.

Helmsman Aceves is not completely without weapons.  Outfielder Francisco Ferreiro has quietly moved into fifth place in the LMB's batting derby with a .396 average while playing in all 36 games through last weekend.  A 29-year-old Culiacan native, Ferreiro was a Saltillo reserve between 2014 and 2017 before signing with Laguna as a free agent just before the LMB's Fall 2018 season, during which he hit .316 in 31 games before becoming a first-time starter this spring.  Outfielder Michael Crouse is only batting .256 but the former Jays farmhand from British Columbia leads the team with nine homers and 29 RBIs.

One familiar face on an otherwise no-name roster is first baseman Dustin Geiger, who signed with the Algodoneros on May 3 after his release from Yucatan.  The one-time MiLB Organizational All-Star from the Cubs system who represented Durango in last summer's LMB midseason showcase is batting .286 with two homers over his first eight games with Laguna.  However, in a league where 12 teams are batting higher than .300, the Algodoneros only have three starters above that mark.

Algodoneros starter Frankie de la Cruz
Then there's the Laguna pitching, which (like the offense) is struggling.  Among pitching Triple Crown figures, the Cottoneers are tied with Tabasco for 14th in the Liga with 13 wins (Campeche in the South has 12), last in strikeouts ( 203) and next-to-last with a 7.85 ERA.  As with their offense, Laguna ranks high in pitching in two less-than-positive categories: their 31 hit batsmen trail only Yucatan's 39 while their 1.85 WHIP is the Liga's third-highest.

With all the mound mess surrounding them, two pitching staff members have pitched well for Aceves:  Starter Frankie de la Cruz is 4-1 and sixth in the league with a 3.19 ERA while setup man Roman Pena is 0-0 but has a better (if non-qualifying) ERA of 2.84 in 22 outings from the bullpen.  Pena and de a Cruz, a 2017 All-Star for Saltillo amid an 11-4 campaign, are the only two pitchers on the Algodoneros staff with an ERA under 4.80.

While it's far too early to count a team out for a postseason berth, Union Laguna is not looking like a team on the verge of contention anytime soon.  There are simply too many holes for Aceves and GM Francisco Mendez to fill for the Algodoneros to bring a pennant to Estadio Revolucion for the first time since 1950.


ATTENDANCE UP IN 15 OF 16 MEXICAN LEAGUE CITIES

Stands packed for a Tijuana Toros home game
Six weeks and 288 games into the 2019 Mexican League season, a cursory look at attendance figures shows that 15 of the Liga's 16 teams have seen an increase in average crowds from the Fall 2018 season.

The numbers are encouraging for an organization that suffered a downturn in attendance last year after the 114-game single schedule was scrapped in favor of two 57-game Spring and Fall seasons, each with full eight-team championship playoffs.  While turnout at LMB games in the Spring season was little different from previous full seasons, things went downhill during the second tournament as attendance plummeted leaguewide. For the first time in several years, no Mexican League team averaged more than 10,000 per opening in the Fall 2018 campaign, with Tijuana leading the pack at 9,358.  Monterrey, Yucatan and Monclova also topped the 5,000 mark but there were also seven teams that pulled in fewer than 3,000 fans per game, with Campeche only generating 855 turnstile clicks nightly.

The two-seasons-per-year concept has worked very well for Liga MX soccer (LMB president Javier Salinas' former employer) Apertura and Clausura tournaments in Mexico, but the philosophy failed to catch on with baseball fans and the experiment was scrapped after one year.  A more traditional 120-game schedule split into two halves from April through August with an eight-team playoff for September was adopted for the current season.

Whether it's interest in the Liga's return to a single season, the added attention to baseball brought on by Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's vocal and activist love for the game or a return of the LMB's historic perception as a hitter's paradise, every team except Union Laguna has seen an increase in home attendance figures.  Crowds in Tijuana have increased to 11,862 per opening to lead the LMB while Monterrey is up to 10,665, or 3,000+ higher than last Fall when the Sultanes won the pennant.

Mexico City has benefitted from the opening of Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, as turnout for Diablos Rojos games has tripled from 2,463 to 9,093.  Yucatan, Saltillo, Monclova and Puebla are all averaging between 5,000 and 9,000 while Quintana Roo, Durango, Dos Laredos and Tabasco sit in the 3,000-5,000 range.  Attendance in Villahermosa for Olmecas games has trebled from 1,151 to 3,090.

The numbers are up in Campeche, too
There are still five teams averaging less than 3,000 fans per night, however.  One of those is Union Laguna, the only franchise to see attendance go down from last fall, but the drop from 3,372 to 2,904 is not all that precipitous.  Even Campeche, which was a train wreck last Fall, has gained from the extra interest. Attendance at Estadio Nelson Barrera for Piratas games has risen from an embarrassing 855 average last fall to a pulse-confirming 2,224 per opening.

It remains to be seen if these increases are long-term in nature or just excitement over the first month of the season.  None of the eight teams hosting at least one series last week saw an uptick at the gate, but in the wake of last Fall's bomb at the box office, the Liga office in Mexico City has to be encouraged that things have at least returned to normal and that their outreach efforts in the digital arena (e.g., the Quien es Quien yearbook is now available for free downloading on the LMB website) are beginning to pay dividends.  Whatever the cause, the effect in the stands has been positive.


Cuarto Bat WRITER'S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 4)

A writer for Mexican baseball website Cuarto Bat, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April about his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues.  Here is the third part of a series in which we bring you a translated version. You'll find their site at CuartoBat.com, where fans can download a free copy of their February magazine.

3. Estadio Sonora, Hermosillo

Never before has the analogy "an oasis in a desert" been so accurate. And it is within about 10 minutes of leaving the city of Hermosillo, next to the airport and already in desert territory, the Estadio Sonora emerges from the sand.  It resembles the "Pinacate Crater", an emblematic place located in a desert ecological reserve of the state. That natural structure was recreated for the spectacular exterior design of the home of the Naranjeros de Hermosillo.

The implementation of the internal corridor with a view to the field so you do not miss the action if you go to the bathroom or the food area was a completely innovative concept on this side of the border.  It should be remembered that 360 ballparks exist in the United States since the 1950s.

The televisions in each column meant great detail for the fan. Its food area was the largest in 2013, when it was inaugurated.  It laid the foundations for future venues with automated turnstiles to enter through via your physical ticket or on your cell phone, and also with the official store next to the main entrance.

It has a particular and emblematic theme that welcomes you when you arrive in the area with a cactus garden, flower arrangements, and artificial paths that recreate the reddish and ocher Sonoran desert. In addition, it presents several photographic spots and monuments that celebrate the idols of the franchise.

Pioneer in the wave of the new top-level stadiums in Mexican baseball, it is home to the most winning team in the Mexican Pacific League. Estadio Sonora was the initial experiment to change the paradigm of ballparks in this country. At the time it was the best stadium in Mexican baseball.

The Naranjeros were not only the first in Mexican baseball to have a first world stadium according to the needs of the 21st century. They have also been the only team in this wave of new properties to launch their resplendent home with a championship.

Monday, May 13, 2019

DIABLOS, PUEBLA SLIP PAST OAXACA IN LMB SOUTH

Mexico City infielder Emmanuel Avila
After leading the Mexican League South Division for the first month of the season, the Oaxaca Guerreros have faltered a bit, giving both the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Puebla Pericos the opportunity to sneak past the Guerreros into first place in what is turning into a three-team race for LMB South supremacy five weeks into the campaign.

The Diablos have won seven of their last ten games to go to 20-13 (tied with Puebla for first, one game ahead of Oaxaca), including four of six road games last week in Aguascalientes and Durango.  Despite losing Sunday's game to the Generales, 13-10, Mexico City scored 31 runs over three games at Estadio Francisco Villa. Red Devils third baseman Emmanuel Avila played the last two games of the weekend set after missing the previous four contests (including the entire Aguascalientes series) by going a combined 5-for-10 Saturday and Sunday with a homer in each game and five RBIs.  

A former White Sox minor leaguer, Avila carried a relatively low profile into his tenth Liga year in 2019 despite playing in Mexico's capital and largest city, but the 30-year-old Los Mochis native has quietly crafted a .306 career batting average with All-Star Game appearances in 2013-2015 and 2018.  Avila is hitting .394 with six homers over 27 games and may serve as an object lesson of sorts.

This season has seen the Mexican League switch from using a Rawlings ball to a Franklin variety, with pitchers thus far coming out on the short end of the exchange. Five teams batted above .300 in the LMB's 56-game Fall 2018 season while 14 clubs are above the .300 mark 33 tilts into the 2019 schedule.  As well, while six teams averaged at least one homer per game last autumn, 14 of the Liga's 16 franchises are topping that figure this year. As with Major League Baseball to the north, there are not-so-quiet whispers that the Franklin ball used in the LMB has been juiced to raise offensive numbers for Mexico's senior circuit.  The murmuring had to get louder after Sunday's game in Aguascalientes, where the Rieleros combined with visiting Oaxaca to hit 13 homers in the Railroaders' 22-6 win over the Guerreros.

In the LMB North, the Monclova Acereros are holding on to first place with a Liga-best 24-9 record, one game ahead of 23-10 Tijuana and four up on 20-13 Monterrey and Dos Laredos.  The Steelers have won eight of their last ten outings, copping two of three games apiece in road series at Quintana Roo and Yucatan last week. The Tigres snapped Monclova's 10-game win streak last Thursday, 7-4, scoring all seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning (thanks in part to Brandon Villareal's three-run homer), but the Acereros have otherwise been literally batting opponents into submission with a .341 team average and 56 homers while scoring over eight runs per game.

Veteran pitcher Josh "The Mayor" Lowey has benefitted the most from the cushion his batting order has provided him with a perfect 6-0 record this season.  Lowey had a rough outing during a no-decision start in Merida Sunday, allowing four earned runs on six hits and three walks over six innings in a 6-4 loss to the Leones, but he was sharp in last Tuesday's series opener at Cancun, allowing just one run and striking out five Tigres batsmen in a 6-3 Acereros win.  Lowey's win over Quintana Roo edged him past Monterrey's 5-0 Edgar Gonzalez for the LMB lead in that category. He's now tied for second with Alex Delgado of Oaxaca with 42 strikeouts, trailing only Yasutomo Kubo's 53 whiffs for Leon.

After Kubo's great opening start for the Bravos against Aguascalientes on April 5, holding the potent Rieleros scoreless with ten K's in seven frames, the 38-year-old former Rookie of the Year in Japan's Pacific League has struggled to a 2-3 record and 5.72 ERA in seven starts.  Unheralded Raul Carrillo of Saltillo has gone the opposite route, following a rugged first start at Monclova (4 innings, 3 runs) with a string of six good outings to lower his ERA to an LMB-low 1.79, well below the 2.40 mark of Tijuana's James Russell and Jose Samayoa of Yucatan.  Monclova closer Carlos Bustamante is back home in Mexico after two years in the Diamondbacks system and the Navojoa product is leading the Liga with ten saves in ten opportunities. Bustamante has 21 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.

Aguascalientes 3B Jose Vargas
Among batters, Aguascalientes third sacker Jose Vargas was already one tough hombre for pitchers when the LMB was using a Rawlings ball, but the Ventura (CA) College alum has become a total beast since he started swinging at the Franklin.  Vargas is second only to Tabasco's Ronnier Mustelier (.439) in the batting race while his 18 homers and 44 runs batted in both lead the loop. Chris Carter of Monclova is second with 17 roundtrippers while Vargas' Rieleros teammate Michael Wing is third at 16 (Wing's 42 ribbies are second to Vargas).  Dos Laredos outfielder Johnny Davis stole three bases last week, two of them on May 9 in Yucatan, to bring his season total to 19 swipes. Quintana Roo's Alonzo Harris is second with 11 steals.

One major deal was enacted last Tuesday when the Quintana Roo Tigres loaned star second Manny Rodriguez to Saltillo.  The 36-year-old Rodriguez spent his first ten Liga seasons with the Saraperos and earning three All-Star Game berths before being dealt to Puebla for third baseman Rolando Acosta after the 2015 season.  He was a member of the 2016 pennant-winning Pericos before the former Puebla-Monclova shuttle operated by Gerardo Benavides (who owned both teams) landed Rodriguez with the Acereros for 2017. Frustrated with what he felt was bad team chemistry, Rodriguez left the Acereros two weeks into last year's Spring season and sat for another two weeks until his rights were assigned to the Tigres.  He never really adjusted to playing in Cancun, however, leading to his loan back to the drier climes of Saltillo. Thus far, the move seems to agree with the Guasave product. After suffering to a .202 average with one homer in 25 games with the Tigres, Rodriguez is hitting .370 after six games with the Saraperos.


LMB ALL-STAR WEEKEND SET FOR MEXICO CITY, TIX ON SALE

Javier Salinas, Alfredo Harp Helu, Othon Diaz
The Mexican League has formally announced the schedule of events and ticket prices for their mid-June All-Star Weekend in Mexico City's Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu.  LMB president Javier Salinas led a press conference last week with Diablos Rojos owner (and ballpark namesake) Harp and Diablos team president Dr. Othon Diaz also at the dais.

All-Star Weekend will convene Friday, June 14 with a Media Day featuring players from both the North and South teams available at Estadio AHH (venue for all All-Star events) from 5-7PM local time.  Saturday, June 15 will include a celebrity softball game, the Double Play Derby and a formal presentation of awards from the 2018 seasons before the Home Run Derby closes festivities.

The All-Star Game itself will take place Sunday, June 16 at 6PM local time following an opening ceremony, presentation of All-Star rings to players and coaches and salutes to 27-year veteran pitcher Francisco Campos (fourth all-time in the LMB with 2,169 strikeouts and two victories away from his 200th career win) and umpire Humberto Saiz, who's in his 31st season as a Liga arbiter after working 16 All-Star Games, 25 Serie del Reys. and four Major League spring games in four different seasons.

Monterrey manager Roberto Kelly will head the North All-Stars as a reward for taking the Sultanes to their tenth pennant last September, capping his first year managing in Mexico.  A two-time All-Star during his 14-year MLB career, Kelly was a coach for three World Series champions in San Francisco and managed several seasons in the Giants system before coming to Mexico in 2018.  

Leading the South will be Oaxaca skipper Sergio Gastelum, who brought the Guerreros to their first Serie del Rey since 1998 (the only campaign to produce a Oaxaca title) last September.  Gastelum, an LMB infielder for 23 years before his 2017 retirement, then was voted Manager of the Year in the Mexican Pacific League after coaxing Obregon to 34 wins in 57 outings and the Yaquis' first postseason in three winters.

Two-day tickets for Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th went on sale Monday, May 13.  Prices range from 870 pesos (about US$46) for VIP seats to 160 pesos (US$8.42) for reserved outfield seats, while some grass berm space will be sold for 120 pesos (US$6.24).  Tickets can be purchased at either Diablos Rojos team offices in Mexico City or via TicketMaster, with the latter's ubiquitous services fees undoubtedly added for your mandatory convenience.


Cuarto Bat WRITER'S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 3)

A writer for Mexican baseball website Cuarto Bat, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April about his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues.  Here is the third part of a series in which we bring you a translated version. Although it was reported last week in BBM that Cuarto Bat's site had since apparently been suspended, according to a Google search, we're glad to report that it is back online at CuartoBat.com and that you can download a free copy of their February magazine.

4. Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú, Mexico City

In a similar case to the Mazatlán Venados, this is a stadium that, once finished, will surely climb several rungs on this list.  However, at the moment it still lacks those "small details" that would put it in a more privileged place.

Finally, after four years of waiting, the fans of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos have a property worthy of the size and importance of the most winning team in this country.

Located inside a huge park known as Ciudad Deportiva de la Magdalena Mixhuca, the newly-opened Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú in 2019 has already earned the status of the most modern, comfortable and functional stadium in all of Mexico City.  It is a facility that has one of the most original exterior designs of Mexican baseball: a huge roof like a trinche resting on several pyramids that make reference to the great Tenochtitlan.

It has a huge internal corridor of 270 degrees. They do not allow you access to the outfield seats unless you have a ticket for that section. It has a spectacular store with two levels, elevators and ramps, a food area with a wide offer for all tastes, offers an impressive view from any point, and even an ATM exists inside.

It is a majestic scenario endorsed by the MLB and that in 2019 will host official games of Major League Baseball.

The museum of fame is still under construction and expected to be inaugurated in mid-2019.  On the other hand, the installation of television sets in the corridors remains unknown. Walking through the lobby or standing in the long concessions lines without knowing what is going on in the field while listening to everyone chant is frustrating. It is said that there will also be a restaurant, and that over time maybe the internal rules will be more friendly.

At the moment, treatment of the visitor is very limiting and annoying, something that contrasts with the friendly rules that characterize most baseball parks. It is a very important test year for the Harp Helú Stadium. The ones in charge of this beautiful property must transcend and attract people once the inaugural fashion disappears, but these are the same directors with their vision of how to treat the fan. Only time will render a verdict.

Monday, May 6, 2019

ASTROS SWEEP ANGELS IN MONTERREY

Astros' Alex Bregman hit 3 HRs in Monterrey
The Houston Astros won twice over the Los Angeles Angels in Monterrey last weekend in the third installment of Major League Baseball's Mexico Series for 2019.  The defending American League champion Astros blasted the Angels, 14-2, Saturday night, then came back a day later for a 10-4 bopping of the Halos Sunday.

In Friday's opener, Alex Bregman launched a pair of homers and contributed four RBIs while Michael Brantley smacked a longball and doubled to push four more runs across the plate as Houston built a 6-0 lead before the Angels woke the scorer in the bottom of the fourth when Kole Calhoun singled off Astros starter Wade Miley to bring in Brian Goodwin.  There was little else the Angels could do against Miley and nothing the Los Angeles pitching staff could do to stem the onslaught as Houston racked up 14 runs on as many hits (ten for extra bases, including five homers).  Albert Pujols cracked a solo homer in the fifth but that would be the final blemish on the ledger for Miley, who got the win with six innings of work, allowing two runs on six hits.  A crowd of 18,177 looked on at Estadio Monterrey.


LA Angels' Albert Pujols went deep, too
Justin Verlander was the recipient of the Astros' continued offensive fireworks Sunday afternoon, this time to the tune of 13 Houston safeties including homers by Bregman, Brantley and Carlos Correa.  Bregman's blow was a grand slam in the top of the fifth that erased an Angels 3-2 advantage and the Astros never looked back.  Verlander got the win to go to 5-1 on the season but he was not at his best.  The seven-time All-Star allowed four runs on five hits in 6.1 innings, including two homers to Jonathan Lucroy and a solo shot by David Fletcher, but Bregman's four-run bomb gave the 2011 AL Cy Young winner all the cushion he'd need.

A total of 35,791 fans attended the two-game series, with 18,177 at Saturday night's contest while another 17,614 clicked the turnstiles Sunday.  The set marked the third time in 2019 that MLB teams have played a pair of games in Monterrey.  The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies split a pair of Cactus League exhibition games March 9-10 while the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals each copped a win in a National League twofer April 13-14.  Last weekend's set brought out the most people to watch games at the 22,061-seat ballpark. 


MONCLOVA WINS 8 STRAIGHT, OVERTAKES TJ FOR 1ST IN LMB NORTH


Monclova Acereros' OF Francisco Peguero
Although the Tijuana Toros led the Mexican League North Division for most of the first month of the 2019 season, they were expected to be challenged by defending champion Monterrey and perennial bridesmaid Monclova for LMB North supremacy before the season was over.  It was Monclova to first rise to the challenge of overtaking the Toros for first as the Acereros swept a pair of home series over Tabasco and Campeche last week to move past Tijuana into first place.

Monclova's 7-6 win over the Piratas Sunday was their eight in a row as the Acereros moved to 20-7 on the season, good enough for a one-game lead over 19-8 Tijuana.  Sunday's victory for the Steelers came in dramatic fashion.  Chris Carter's solo homer in the bottom of the ninth (his second of the night and 15th of the season) pulled Monclova into a 6-6 tie and Francisco Peguero's walkoff circuit clout off Francisco Haro in the eleventh sent most of the 6,548 fans at Estadio Monclova home happy.

Things weren't as rosy for the Toros at home in Tijuana as visiting Union Laguna pounded their way to a 12-6 triumph Sunday in front of 11,956 onlookers at Estadio Chevron.  Dustin Geiger went deep on a Jesus Pirela pitch with the bases loaded for a sixth-inning grand slam to give the 11-16 Algodoneros a comfortable 8-3 lead. Last place Laguna won two of their three games in the border city to cop the series as the host Toros dropped into second, three games ahead of Monterrey and Dos Laredos (both at 16-11).

In the LMB South, Oaxaca has cooled down a little but even so, six wins in their last ten games was still enough to keep the 17-10 Guerreros in the division lead, one game up on Mexico City and Pueblo (both of whom are 16-11 and also 6-4 over their last ten outings).   Oaxaca dropped a 9-7 decision to Quintana Roo Sunday at home as 2,979 watchers sprinkled the Parque Eduardo Vasconcelos stands.  First baseman Eric Meza went 3-for-5 with two runs for the hosts but a Brian Hernandez two-run homer in the fifth pulled the Tigres into a 7-7 tie and a bases-loaded wild pitch to Frank Diaz by reliever Juan Carlos Medina in the sixth brought in Ruben Sosa with the go-ahead run and a subsequent sacrifice fly by Diaz plated Justin Greene with an insurance run.  

Mexico City closed the gap on Oaxaca by outlasting Yucatan, 8-6, in ten innings Sunday on Jorge Cantu's walkoff two-run homer off Norman Elenes; Puebla held off Aguascalientes, 6-4, at home Sunday as Pericos DH Antonio Lamas was 3-for-5 with five RBIs, thanks in part to a three-run homer in the first off Rieleros starter Ariel Pena.


P Yasutomo Kubo has made a difference in Leon
Leon first baseman Carlos Lopez has taken the lead in the LMB batting race with a .433 average, ahead of Aguascalientes' Jose Vargas at .426 and Monclova's Carter at .422.  Carter's home run Sunday gives him one more than Vargas' Rieleros teammate Michael Wing, 15 to 14.  Wing does lead the league in RBIs with 37, two more than Carter and Felix Pie of Leon.  Dos Laredos' Johnny Davis has a comfortable lead in stolen bases with 16, five more than Alonzo Harris of Oaxaca.

Monclova's Josh Lowey was touched by Tabasco for four runs on five hits and three walks in 6.2 innings last Wednesday, but he left the game with a 6-5 lead as the Acereros went on to a 7-5 win, giving Lowey an LMB-best 5-0 record, one win more than four other pitchers (including 4-0 Edgar Gonzalez of Monterrey).  Lowey is tied for fifth with 33 strikeouts, well behind the 49 of Leon's Yasutomo Kubo, a former Pacific League Rookie of the Year in Japan's NPB.  Yucatan's Joe Samayoa has pitched far better than his 1-1 record would infer, with a Liga-topping 0.66 ERA after five starts and 27.1 innings.  Monclova's Carlos Bustamante and Rafael Martin of Saltillo are tied for the lead with nine saves apiece while Tijuana's Jesus Pirela (who ran into hard luck Sunday) is tops with eight holds.



CUARTO BAT WRITER'S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 1)
A writer for Mexican baseball website Cuarto Bat, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April about his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues.  Here is the second part of a series in which we bring you a translated version. Although it was reported last week in BBM that Cuarto Bat's site had since apparently been suspended, according to a Google search, we're glad to report that it is back online at CuartoBat.com and that you can download a free copy of their February magazine. While there appears to have only been one story posted since early April, we're hoping they get things back up and running again with new content.



5. Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, Mazatlan
Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, Mazatlan

It's difficult to rank and evaluate an enclosure when it is not yet completely finished. However, Teodoro Mariscal de Mazatlán already offers full-time services.

Despite that, although tentative images and final models look spectacular, you can never give a well-founded opinion until you visit the property. It is essential to live the experience and enjoy it in its entirety.
It is a park with 75 percent progress, but it has already spent its first full season hosting the fans. It has a splendid interior, but an exterior undergoing work. It was still full of beams, earth, pipes and machines.

However, despite everything, there is already an aura of modernity. It offers a first level experience desired by many places that are finished in their entirety.
It has the largest screen in Latin America in 4K resolution. It also has a wide inner corridor of 360 degrees where one walks without limitations and can surround the property at will without even taking his eyes off the field. It has a food area of ​​about 35 stores with a wide offer for all visitors. In addition, bars and a la carte restaurants with a diamond view.
For access, it has automated turnstiles to enter through either with your physical ticket or on your cell phone. It has televisions in each aisle, family activities in the main lobby, a huge shop with a baseball concept and even a barber shop overlooking third base.
It is expected that by October 2019 it will be completely finished. By then it will be complete with its colorful external mesh, its esplanade with dancing fountains. Also be ready will be its huge sign that is shaping to be iconic, with everything including an external screen.
It is a property endorsed by the Major Leagues and that is also a few steps from the beach, the Malecon and the Zona Dorada. It has the best location, above any other ball park in this country. In conclusion, a stadium that surely 100 percent will rise considerably in this ranking.