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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
July 24, 2018 - Mexican League (ML)

TJ WINS 8 STRAIGHT TO TIE MONCLOVA IN LMB NORTH

The Tijuana Toros have reeled off eight consecutive wins (and 9 of their past 10 games) to pull into a dead heat with Monclova atop the Mexican League North Division standings. The Toros overcame a 6-3 deficit to pull out a 7-6 home victory over former LMB South leader Oaxaca at Estadio Gasmart on Sunday. The Toros scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to knot the contest up at 6-6 and finally took the lead one frame later when an errant pickoff attempt by Guerreros reliever Luis Vasquez allowed Isaac Rodriguez to streak in from third base with the eventual game-winning run. Daniel Moskos then came in from the TJ bullpen and recorded a 1-2-3 ninth on nine pitches to seal the triumph and secure the Toros' second straight series sweep after new manager Lino Rivera's men took three games from visiting Puebla in a midweek series on the border.

While the Toros have been a middle-of-the-pack offensive team thus far in the LMB's Fall season, the pitching staff has been solid, turning in a 3.04 ERA over Tijuana's 14-4 start to trail only North co-leader Monclova's 2.83 mark among the Liga's 16 teams. It's been a true staff effort, as the highest-ranking Toros starterer among ERA leaders is 0-1 Hector Ambriz, a former MLBer who's 20th at 3.38 after three starts. Former MLBer Tom Wilhelmsen leads the squad with five saves in eight outing, although his own 3.86 ERA is a bit higher than the rest of the team. Wilhelmsen hasn't pitched since earning a save against Spring champ Yucatan in Merida on Sunday, July 15 after joining the team just before the opening of the MXL's second season, but is still listed on the Toros' active roster. For his part, Moskos has been unscored upon in 10.1 innings over 11 appearances while fellow reliever Jesus Pirela has a 1.74 ERA out of the bullpen. Centerfielder Justin Greene's .411 average is fifth in the league batting race and leftfielder Junior Lake, a newcomer who came from Leon in exchange for reliever Cesar Carrillo on July 10, is among the circuit's leaders with 16 runs over 16 games despite a .220 average.

Meanwhile, in the LMB South, Lake's former Bravos teammates have won six in a row to surge into the division lead with a 10-6 record, one game up on equally-surprising Campeche (10-8). There'll be a guest story below on Leon's comeback win over Union Laguna Sunday, but skipper Luis Rivera's men moved up the ladder by virtue of home series sweeps over Durango and the Algodoneros last week while last Monday's leader Oaxaca fell to the mythical BBM curse by being swept in road sets at Monterrey and Tijuana after being our headline story (the pressure no doubt got to the Guerreros).

The Bravos have shown a nice balance between batting and pitching thus far. Centerfielder Eduardo Arredondo is batting .396 to rank eighth in the batting derby and Felix Pie, a former MLB outfielder, has a .317 average, but Leon is fourth (.296) in the MXL through a team effort at the plate. Starter Dustin Crenshaw, who went from Laguna to Quintana Roo before arriving in Leon in March after being released by the Tigres, leads the mound staff with a 2.55 ERA to augment his 2-0 record. Recent arrival Joe Colon, who pitched for Cleveland's 2016 American League champions, has yet to allow a run in eight outings and has four saves to show for it since coming to the Guanajuato team on July 5.

Quintana Roo third baseman Brian Hernandez leads the LMB with a .452 average, Monclova's Cesar Tapia is tops with seven homers after knocking out a longball Sunday against Campeche, Eric Aguilera of Union Laguna has 22 RBIs to lead Felix Perez (Aguascalientes) and Ricardo Serrano (Yucatan) by one and Perez' Rieleros mate Tony Campana heads the stolen bases list with ten. Josh Lowey (Monclova) has been joined by Acereros reliever Carlos Fisher, Tiago da Silva (Durango) and Edgar Gonzalez (Monterrey) as three-game winners. Another Monclova hurler, Andre Rienzo, has an Liga-best 0.49 ERA in four starts, Puebla's Enrique Oquendo has the most strikeouts with 28 in 20.2 innings and Wirfin Obispo of Monterrey has eight saves to top that list.

The biggest midweek series of the MXL will commence Tuesday when Monterrey (11-7) visits Monclova (14-4), followed by a big one between the Acereros and Tijuana (14-4) at Estadio Monclova next Friday through Sunday.

GUEST GAME STORY: LEON TAKES 10-8 WIN OVER LAGUNA

Bob Broughton is a Canadian expat now living in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Bob is a baseball nut who oversees the CourtesyRunner.com website, which is primarily devoted to NAIA college baseball but also has included stories on the Caribbean Series and his adopted Mexican League team, the Leon Bravos. It's a good, lively site worth looking at. The following is his writeup of Sunday's exciting 10-8 Bravos win over visiting Union Laguna in which Leon maintained first place in the LMB South:

The Bravos de Le?"n (10-6) defeated the Algodoneros (Cotton Farmers) de Uni?"n Laguna (7-11) 10-8 at Estadio Domingo Santana in Le?"n on July 22. This was the Bravos' sixth straight win, and they are in first place in the South Division of the Mexican League.

The game was scoreless for the first three innings, with the Bravos getting a double play in the top of the third inning, and leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the third. The shutout ended with an RBI single by 3B Eudor Garcia in the top of the fourth, and his single loaded the bases with nobody out. Bravos starter RHP Eder Llamas struck out the next batter, and the following batter hit a ground ball that resulted in a force out at home. Llamas was relieved by RHP Marco Quevedo, and he was greeted by a grand slam home run by CF Jonathan Jones. The Algodoneros added another run in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by C Daniel Mercado. They led 6-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, and it looked like the Bravos' winning streak was coming to an end.

The Bravos ended the shutout in the bottom of the sixth when LF Felix Pie scored on a ground out by DH Julio Perez. The next batter, 3B Joe Munoz, hit an RBI single. Munoz was followed by C Israel Nunez, who hit a single (good dive into first base), putting runners on first and second. Algodoneros starter RHP Saul Castellanos was relieved by LHP Roman Pena, and Pena got out of the inning with two fly outs.

Pena was relieved by RHP Humberto Montiel in the bottom of the seventh, and all hell broke loose. 2B Niko Vasquez got it started by reaching on an error, then scored on a single by CF Cedric Hunter. Hunter stole second on a call that was reviewed, but the next batter, Pie, hit a home run, and the score was 6-4. Montiel was relieved by RHP Alejandro Chavarria (Indio, CA) without recording an out. Chavarria walked the first batter he faced, and the second one, Perez, reached on an error. Munoz bunted the runners to second and third, and Nunez hit a double to bring them home. The next batter, SS Marco Jaime (Phoenix, AZ), hit another double to score Nunez, and the Bravos led 7-6. Chavarria was relieved by RHP Jose Barajas, and the only out recorded by Chavarria was the bunt by Munoz. Barajas was greeted with an RBI double by 1B Eduardo Arredondo. Vasquez flied out for the second out of the inning, and Hunter hit a single for his second RBI of the inning. Barajas struck out Pie to end the inning, with the Bravos leading 10-6.

The Algodoneros got within striking distance in the top of the eighth with a two-run home run by Mercado. The Bravos responded by sending in LHP Marco Ramirez. He recorded two ground outs and a strikeout to end the inning. He started the top of the ninth with a ground out and a walk. Another ground out put a runner on second, and a passed ball put him on third. Another walk put the tying run on first, and the Bravos bullpen was busy. However, Garcia flied out to end the game.

RHP Ulises Lopez, who recorded the final out of the seventh and gave up the home run by Mercado, got the win. Chavarria got the loss. Nunez, the ninth hitter in the batting order, finished 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Arredondo finished 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. For the Algodoneros, Garcia finished 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and three runs scored.

Jones (Vacaville, CA) played college ball at Long Beach State, was in the Blue Jays organization 2010-14. Garcia (El Paso, TX) was a JUCO All-American at El Paso CC, was a fourth round draft pick by the Mets in 2014. He was in the Mets organization through 2017. Castellanos (Jalostotitlan, Jalisco) was in the Dodgers organization 2015-2017. Pena (San Diego, CA) was drafted in the ninth round by the Indians in 2005, was in the Indians organization through 2010. Barajas (Las Vegas, NV) was in the Orioles organization 2008-10.

Pie (La Romana, Dominican Republic) played 425 Major League games, for the Cubs in 2007-08, the Orioles in 2009-11, and the Pirates in 2013. He had a career batting average of .246. Munoz (Hacienda Heights, CA) was drafted in the second round by the Diamondbacks in 2012, was in the Diamondbacks organization through 2016. Vasquez (Oxnard, CA) was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals in 2008, was in the Cardinals organization through 2012, then the Reds organization in 2012. Hunter (Decatur, GA) was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft by the Padres, played in six Major league games for the Padres in 2011, and 13 games for the Phillies in 2016. Lopez (Cananea, Sonora) played college ball at Central Oklahoma, played some independent league ball and played in Australia.

The third base umpire for the game was Luz Gordoa, the first female umpire in the Mexican League.

MEXICO OPENS 1-2 AT CENTRAL AMERICAN & CARIBBEAN GAMES

The Mexican National Team was expected to have a fairly easy go of things at the Central American & Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia. After all, manager Enrique "Che" Reyes had the only fully professional team in the baseball portion of the event (although Cuba typically sends teams of top "amateurs" to such tournaments) and it was thought they'd make short work of the eight-team field.

Instead, the Verdes Grande dropped their first two games before picking up a Sunday win to end the weekend at 1-2 with four games to play. The Mexicans opened play last Friday with a 5-0 shutout loss to Cuba as veteran Lazaro Blanco combined with two relievers on a four-hitter. Alan Espinoza had two of Mexico's hits with a single and double but starter Javier Solano was roughed up for all five Cuban runs on ten hits over 4.2 innings before being replaced by David Reyes as 2,500 looked on at Estadio Edgar Renteria.

Losing to Cuba can't be considered a shocker but Saturday's 9-1 defeat at the hands of host Colombia can. Mexico actually had a 1-0 lead until the Colombians tied the score in the bottom of the fifth inning as starter Jose Samayoa was cruising along, but Samayoa and his teammates suffered a nightmarish sixth as Colombia posted five runs to take a 6-1 lead. The home side plated another three tallies in the eighth on a bases-loaded single by Cristian Cano to put the game away for good. Mexico's seven hits on the day were recorded by as many players, with Alberto Carreon and Luis Juarez each rapping doubles, but Sebastian Valle's RBI single in the top of the fourth brought in the only Mexican run of the night as 10,000 mostly-Colombian spectators were sent home happy.

Mexico finally broke into the win column Sunday by topping Nicaragua, 5-0, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first and never looking back. Amadeo Zazueta and Jose Alvarez both singled and doubled for the winners while Ricardo Rodriguez had two singletons, but it was Octavio Acosta's solid 5.1 innings on the mound that set the tone for what ended up as a three-hitter shared among Acosta (who got the win) and three relievers. After Saturday's great crowd, only 800 hearty souls showed up for this one in Barranquilla.

Mexico's four remaining round-robin games will come Tuesday against Puerto Rico, Wednesday against Panama, Friday against Venezuela and Sunday against the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico has a 2-0 record, including an unexpected 8-1 win over Cuba, to lead the standings along with 2-0 Colombia, who preceded their win over Mexico with a 3-1 triumph over Nicaragua.

There was a controversy before the tournament when two-time Mexican League MVP Jesse Castillo was dropped from the Mexican roster without explanation. Initially it was thought that Castillo's LMB team in Monclova refused to allow him to make the trip to Colombia, but Castillo himself said that was not the case and all but dared Liga president Javier Salinas to give the real reason why. Castillo was suspected by some to have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but that contention has not as yet been proven.


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Mexican League Stories from July 24, 2018


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