by Bruce Baskin
May 15, 2018 - Mexican League (ML)
Sultanes sweep TJ, Tecos to take commanding North lead
Leo German and Chris Roberson led off the sixth inning with back-to-back doubles to break a scoreless tie as the Monterrey Sultanes went on to beat Dos Laredos, 4-2, in Mexican League action Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of the Tecolotes. The Sultanes had a 6-0 week after going into Tijuana last Tuesday and winning all three games against the defending champion Toros and are now a Liga-best 32-13 while holding a five-game advantage over second-place Aguascalientes with just two weeks left in the LMB's Spring 2018 regular season. Tijuana is third at 24-20 while Monclova holds fourth at 22-22, a game and a half ahead of 21-25 Durango.
Tecos starter Alexis Candelario carried a no-hitter through five innings in search of his first win of the campaign before German broke up the no-no bid and Roberson ruined his shutout. Roberson eventually came in to score on an Agustin Murillo single while Sultanes newcomer Sebastian Elizalde plated Monterrey's fourth and final run of the frame on a single by Yadir Drake, who ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to stretch his hit to a double. Dos Laredos did score a pair of runs off reliever Manny Acosta on consecutive hits by Gilberto Galaviz and Gustavo Nunez in the top of the seventh to shave their deficit to 4-2, but the Tecos went hitless the rest of the way as the border team went on to drop their eighth straight game while Monterrey conversely won their eighth straight. Sultanes starter Marco Tovar tossed six shutout innings to go to 6-2 on the season while Candelario fell to 0-4 for Dos Laredos.
The bigger series for the Sultanes came earlier in the week, when they won all three games in Tijuana. Tovar was splendid in winning Tuesday's 2-1 opener by scattering five hits and allowing one run for the victory, with Ramon Rios' solo homer in the top of the seventh the difference-maker in that one. Monterrey won Wednesday's contest, 6-0, in a three-hit shutout as Murillo socked a three-run homer and starter Zach Dodson allowed just two singles over six frames before completing the sweep with a 3-2 win Thursday night as Roberson scored the go-ahead run on a Ricky Alvarez groundout in the top of the tenth. Despite the high profile of the visitors and importance of the series, fewer than 16,000 fans attended the midweek three-game set at Estadio Gasmart. The Toros are averaging 10,595 fans over 24 home games to make the relatively low turnout an eye-raiser but, as we'll detail next week, all may not be well in fan relations in Tijuana (at least with one fan in particular).
While Monterrey is five games ahead in the LMB North standings with 12 games left on the schedule, things are considerably tighter in the South. Yucatan is 31-14 to hold a one-game advantage over 29-14 Quintana Roo while the 28-17 Mexico City Diablos Rojos are three games out of the lead. Leon remains in fourth place at 23-22, although Puebla swept a three-game home set with Campeche to narrow the Bravos' lead for the final playoff berth to two games after the Pericos were four games out on Friday.
Puebla first baseman Daric Barton has taken over the lead in the LMB batting race with a .418 average, sixteen points ahead of Puebla's Sergio Perez. Monterrey's Alvarez still leads the Liga with 13 homers despite not hitting a longball in over ten games, allowing Jesse Castillo of Monclova to catch up. Castillo has homered in three of his last four games and now tops the circuit with 48 RBI's, two more than Alvarez. Tijuana second baseman Isaac Rodriguez, the league's 2016 Rookie of the Year, has stolen 19 bases in 22 attempts to take the lead in that category over teammate Justin Greene, who's been out of the lineup since May 3. Rodriguez had stolen a combined 22 bases over 171 games prior to this year.
Carlos Hernandez of Tijuana continued his great season Friday by going six shutout innings in Monclova to post his league-leading seventh win against one loss in a 3-1 Toros triumph. Hernandez' 2.28 ERA is second on the table only to Yucatan's Jose Samayoa at 2.22. Josh Lowey on Monclova is running away with the strikeouts title, whiffing 67 batters in 59 innings to take an 18-K lead over Saltillo's Raul Valdes. Aguascalientes' Anthony Carter and Josh Lueke of Monclova are tied at the top with 11 saves each, one more than closers Maikel Cleto of Laguna and Monterrey's Wirfin Obispo.
A pair of midweek series with playoff implications will start Tuesday when Puebla visits Leon and Tijuana hosts Aguascalientes. A couple of important sets are slated for next weekend when Aguascalientes visits Monterrey and Yucatan heads to Cancun to take on the Tigres as the top two teams in each division go head-to-head.
Firing season opens: Tecos toss Castro, Olmecas oust Jimenez
Despite the pressure of winning within an abbreviated 57-game schedule this year, Mexican League owners showed remarkable restraint by not firing any managers during the first month the the Spring 2018 season. However, no deed (good or bad) goes unpunished for long in the LMB as both the Dos Laredos Tecolotes and Tabasco Olmecas have made changes at the top in May.
Last Monday, the Tecos let veteran skipper Eddie Castro go after the Venezuelan had taken the team to a 15-24 record in the LMB Spring 2018 season. Former Monterrey manager and big league shortstop Felix Fermin was tabbed to take over. Castro had managed the club in Veracruz (when they were the Rojos del Aguila) since 2014, leading them to a playoff berth last year but otherwise putting together a less-than-imposing 206-273 record for the perpetually-undermanned team. Castro has also managed in Tabasco, Puebla and Minatitlan. Under Fermin, who managed in both Carmen and Monterrey before not being rehired by the Sultanes following last season, the Tecos have gone 0-6 after being swept in Aguascalientes and Monterrey last week and are currently in last place in the LMB North.
Also on Monday of last week, the Tabasco Olmecas said goodbye to manager Alfonso "Houston" Jimenez. A former MLB shortstop like Fermin, Jimenez was sent packing after taking the Olmecas to a 14-25 record. This was the Mexico City native's second go-round with the Villahermosa squad. He was 48-56 with Tabasco in 2015 and his recently-ended stint with the team was his eleventh managerial job in the Mexican League since he began managing the Saltillo Saraperos in 2009 and his fifth gig since 2014. As of May 14, one week after he was released, Jimenez is still listed on the Olmecas website as their manager, leading one to wonder if their webmaster wasn't also fired. Whoever is now managing Tabasco led them to five wins in six games last week, including both ends of a Sunday doubleheader in Oaxaca. Much more of that and the team might actually release his name.
Female umpire to make Mexican League debut Tuesday
Mexican baseball history will be made Tuesday night when the Mexico City Diablos Rojos open a three-game series against Oaxaca at Estadio Fray Nano. Luz Alicia Gordoa will be making her debut as a Mexican League umpire, becoming the first distaff arbiter in the LMB's 93-year history.
The Sinaloa native made her professional umpiring debut last winter when she worked a few games in the Mexican Winter League, the LMB-affiliated winterball circuit, starting with a November 23 contest between Salamanca and Celayo. The 41-year-old Gordoa's experience lies more in officiating soccer matches, which she did for two decades before giving baseball a shot. She also played softball for 20 years before turning to umpiring the past five. She was joined in the LIM by 34-year-old Paulina Barajas Castro of Mexico City, where she worked games in the Liga Olmeca youth baseball organization now headed by Carlos Fragoso as well as the Liga Lindavista and Liga Maya before joining Gordoa at the MLB Academy near Monterrey last fall.
While Gordoa will be the first woman to umpire a Mexican League game, female umps have worked games in Minor League Baseball since 1972, when Bernice Gera worked one game in the Class A New York-Penn League before quitting after other umpires reportedly said they would not work with her. A heated discussion with Auburn Phillies manager Nolan Campbell during the game didn't make Gera feel any more welcome. However, that opened the door for future women umpires in MiLB. Christine Wren worked in the Class A Northwest League in the mid-Seventies but the most notable was Pam Postema, who began umpiring in the late-Seventies and eventually spent 13 seasons working in the minors, including six seasons at the AAA level. She umpired an MLB exhibition game in 1989, but was not rehired by the AAA Alliance following that season. Postema then filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball that was settled out of court, but otherwise left the game to work as a trucker, factory worker and welder. She wrote a 1992 book, You Gotta Have Balls to Make It in This League, in which she said, "I'll never understand why it's easier for a female to become an astronaut or cop or firefighter or soldier or Supreme Court justice than it is to become a major league umpire."
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