by Bruce Baskin
June 13, 2016 - Mexican League (ML)
MONTERREY TAKES LMB NORTH LEAD; YUCATAN CHASING PUEBLA IN SOUTH
The Monterrey Sultanes overtook fading Monclova as the Mexican League's North Division leaders while Yucatan closed the gap on South leaders Puebla during the first week following the LMB All-Star Break.
Monterrey won two of three games in Puebla and copped two wins at Oaxaca before Sunday's contest with the Guerreros was suspended by rain with the score at 6-6 after five innings. In the meantime, Monclova won two games at Tabasco before dropping the third game in that set and moving on to Veracruz, where they were swept by the last-place Rojos Aguilas. The Sultanes ended the weekend with a 38-21 record, two games up on the 36-23 Acereros. Aguascalientes is third in the LMB North at 36-26 while Laguna holds fourth with a 32-27 mark, a half-game ahead of 32-28 Tijuana.
Yucatan is still in second place in the LMB South, but the Leones helped themselves with a 4-2 week capped by a three-game sweep of a road series in Tijuana. Starter Jonathan Castellanos went six innings in a 5-0 one-hitter over the Toros Friday as Yucatan touched up 45-year-old Tijuana starter Rafael Diaz (pictured) for four runs in 4.1 frames. Earlier this season, Diaz became the only pitcher in Mexican League history to record 100 wins, 100 saves and 1,000 strikeouts for his career.
While Yucatan was doing well away from home, Puebla was struggling at home, losing four of six games at Estadio Hermandos Serdan to Monterrey and Reynosa. Losing two of three to the Broncos while allowing 18 runs was an especially hard pill for the Pericos to swallow. Ex-MLB hurler Kyle Farnsworth got the win in Reynosa's 8-3 win on Friday. Heading into Monday's travel day, Puebla was still atop the LMB South at 40-19 (best in the league), but Yucatan is now two-and-a-half games behind at 38-22. Defending champion Quintana Roo is third at 36-34 while Campeche is in fourth at 30-29, ten games behind the leaders.
Puebla will be in Monclova for an important series beginning Tuesday, while Yucatan hosts Aguascalientes and Monterrey is at home for three against 23-37 Tabasco.
HERNANDEZ SOCKS 3 HOMERS IN GAME AGAINST CAMPECHE
Just when it looked like Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez' unexpected power output in the first half of the season was an illusion after all, the 32-year-old Dominican cranked three homers and drove in seven runs during the Rieleros' 10-2 win over the Campeche Piratas Friday at Estadio Alberto Romo Chavez. Hernandez hadn't gone deep since May 14 against Saltillo and had lost his league leadership in homers until he sent deliveries from three different Campeche pitchers over the wall, including homers in both the seventh and eighth innings. He sliced an RBI double as well en route to a 4-for-4 night.
The explosion put the former Braves infielder back atop the LMB tables with 15 roundtrippers for the season, one ahead of Quintana Roo's Alex Liddi, Monclova's Jose Ruiz and Alex Valez of Monterrey. Hernandez continues to lead the Liga with 69 RBI's (Felix Perez of Monterrey is second at 51) while batting .339. Prior to 2016, Hernandez had hit 49 homers over 13 pro seasons and never more than seven in one campaign. Now he's a legitimate MVP candidate. Maybe it's the water...he DOES play in Aguascalientes.
Other Mexican League offensive leaders include Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia with a .379 batting average and Saltillo outfielder Justin Greene with 20 stolen bases. Among pitchers, Tijuana's Hector Ambriz still leads the LMB with a 1.23 ERA, but the ex-MLBer hasn't appeared in a game for three weeks and is no longer on the Toros' active roster. Don't ask me why...I've spent 15 minutes trying to find out and came up empty. Among pitchers who are still pitching, Monclova's Josh Lowey leads all three Triple Crown categories with 10 wins, 99 strikeouts and a 1.51 ERA. Acereros teammate Arcenio Leon tops the loop with 22 saves. Another Monclova hurler, Jose Oyervides (7-1, 1.72), had formed a terrific 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Lowey before breaking his hand during a losing confrontation with a locker room door on May 18.
AMADOR WALKS OUT ON ACEREROS; MADERA CUT BY DIABLOS
It's a good thing for Monclova that their pitching has been near the top of the Mexican League because their All-Star Game MVP jumped ship shortly after the event was held last weekend in Monterrey. According to La Aficion, infielder Jose Amador, who hit a key three-run homer in the North's 8-4 win over the South, failed to join teammates last Monday to travel to Tabasco for a road series and then turned in his "resignation" from the Acereros one day later, stating that he didn't "feel comfortable" with the club and wanted to be traded. Instead, the team placed him on the reserve list.
Amador, who was chosen as BBM's Mexican Pacific League MVP last winter, had been playing with a broken middle finger which prevented him from taking the field defensively but allowed him to serve as designated hitter. It was a strange move for the 16-year veteran, who was not having one of his best seasons despite his All-Star selection (.281/12/29 numbers over 53 games), but the 36-year-old was still a key member of a team battling for first place. Rumors are that someone from another LMB team talked to Amador last weekend in Monterrey and offered a better deal, but that has yet to be proven.
Then there's the case of Sandy Madera.
Longtime readers of Baseball Mexico will recognize Madera as one of the better hitters in the LMB for the past several seasons after bouncing around the minors for a decade. Madera led the league in batting with a .403 average for Puebla in 2014, finished second in 2010 and 2013 and has never hit below .320 over seven summers in Mexico. While the 35-year-old Dominican was not picked for the All-Star Game last weekend, he was hitting .362 with 10 homers and 31 RBI's over 46 games for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos until he was released last Monday.
Unlike the Amador situation in Monclova, there was no explanation given when the Diablos cut Madera loose, but an independent source says the 6'2" designated hitter has been difficult to deal with during his time in Mexico and a look at his travel itinerary may bear that out:
During his first year in the LMB, Madera was traded by Saltillo to Yucatan with a month left in the 2010 season despite a .391 average for the Saraperos. In 2011, Madera was realeased by the Leones in midseason after going .320/9/42 over 67 games in Merida. He finished that year in Monterrey. Then came three years in Puebla, with two very productive seasons and a so-so 2015 that ended with Pericos manager Matias Carillo so enamored of Madera that the latter was dealt to Reynosa last December for Paul Oseguera, a decent pitcher who'd gone 8-4 for the Broncos last year but yet to pitch an inning in 2016. The Broncos only needed until February 22 to send Madera packing to Mexico City with no players moved to Reynosa in return.
This time, it took half a season for Diablos skipper Jose Luis Sandoval to get his fill of Madera, who was signed by Tabasco two days after his release from Mexico City. Perhaps veteran Olmecas skipper Enrique "Che" Reyes (who was let go in May as manager in Oaxaca) will find a way to keep the talented Madera on the straight and narrow. History indicates otherwise.
Mexican League standings
North Division: Monterrey 38-21, Monclova 36-23, Aguascalientes 32-26, Laguna 32-27, Tijuana 32-38, Mexico City 30-29, Saltillo 27-31, Reynosa 17-42.
South Division: Puebla 40-19, Yucatan 38-22, Quintana Roo 36-24, Campeche 30-29, Oaxaca 23-35, Tabasco 23-37, Carmen 20-39, Veracruz 19-41.