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.