by Bruce Baskin
January 21, 2019 - Mexican League (ML)
YAQUIS TOP MOCHIS IN GAME 7, VS. JALISCO IN FINALS
After dropping the first two games of their Mexican Pacific League playoff semifinal series in Los Mochis, the Obregon Yaquis fought back and won the final two tilts of the set (also on the road) to beat the Caneros, 4 games to 3, reaching the championship series against Jalisco, who topped Mazatlan in five contests in the other semi matchup. As might be deduced, however, the Yaquis didn't win the easy way.
Obregon was able to tie the series at two games apiece by winning last Monday and Tuesday. In Game Three at Nuevo Estadio Yaquis, Jose Aguilar lined a single to center field off Andres Avila to score Yordanys Linares from second in the bottom of the tenth inning for a walkoff 4-3 win over the Caneros. Obregon carried a 3-0 lead into the top of the ninth before Rudy Amador, Esteban Quiroz and Leandro Castro each socked solo homers off Yaquis closer Maikel Cleto to tie the game and set the stage for Aguilar's heroics in the next frame. Obregon knotted the series one night later with a 2-0 shutout over the Caneros with Francisco Rodriguez and three relievers combining on a 3-hitter. Rodriguez, who pitched for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 and 2011, gave up two hits in 5.1 frames for the win as Victor Mendoza's two-run single in the bottom of the first against Mochis starter Danny Rodriguez provided all the scoring Obregon would need. The Caneros regained the series lead on Wednesday with a whitewash of their own, a 4-0 triumph behind the pitching of Ariel Pena (who scattered three hits and struck out 10 over six innings) and three relievers. Diory Hernandez' RBI double in the bottom of the fourth broke a scoreless tie and Saul Soto rapped a two-run single to give Los Mochis a 3-0 lead while Jonathan Jones added a leadoff homer one inning later for insurance. Hernandez and Quiroz had three hits each for the winners while Dustin Martin had two of the Yaquis' five hits.
The series shifted to Los Mochis, where the Caneros needed just one win to punch their ticket to the finals. They never got it, as Obregon won Friday's Game Six by a 4-3 count to tie the semis at three games each. The Yaquis scored all four of their runs in the top of the first off Yoanis Quiala, who gave up a two-run double to Mendoza in a 32-pitch inning. Los Mochis plated three scores of their own in the third off Yoanner Negrin with Quiroz providing the key blow with a two-run single. Negrin settled down and eventually earned the win while Quiala absorbed the loss. Santiago Gutierrez pitched six scoreless innings of one-hit relief in defeat for the Caneros after replacing Quiala in the second. The Yaquis, who missed the postseason the previous two winters, advanced to the finals by winning Saturday's Game Seven, 6-2, as Rodriguez tossed 5.1 innings of two-run ball for his second win in five nights. Obregon built an early 3-0 lead against Caneros starter Jaime Lugo, although the first two were unearned via a wild pitch and an error, and steadily pulled away. Linares, Julio Valdez and Isaac Paredes combined for six hits, four runs and two RBIs to account for all the Yaquis' scoring as Obregon capped their series comeback with two consecutive wins away from home.
The Yaquis will face a well-rested opponent in the Jalisco Charros, who reached their first LMP title series in five winters after beating Mazatlan in five games. After Jalisco won the first two games in Mazatlan, the Venados won a rain-delayed Game Three, 7-3, in Guadalajara. The contest was tied at 2-2 Monday night before rain forced the game to be carried over to Tuesday, when Mazatlan posted four runs in the fifth as Ramon Rios and Asael Sanchez had run-scoring singles and Edson Garcia contributed a two-out, two-run single off Jalisco hurler Manuel Flores. Rios finished with three hits (two of them doubles), two runs and two RBIs in what would be the Venados' lone win of the series. The Charros' Japhet Amador powered a two-run homer off Irwin Delgado in the second.
Jalisco then won the next two games at home, starting with Wednesday's 6-3 triumph thanks to a five-run bottom of the first (four scores coming with two out, two on an Agustin Murillo fly ball to right that was muffed by Edson Garcia, allowing Amador and Henry Urrutia to cross the plate. Jalisco's Orlando Lara pitched six innings and allowed one run for his second win of the series while batterymate Gabriel Gutierrez socked a solo homer off Venados starter Konner Wade in support. Sebastian Valle and Anthony Giansanti both went deep for Mazatlan. The Charros closed out their semi in Thursday's Game Five, 10-6, as Jalisco overcame an early 2-0 deficit by scoring runs in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Jose Amador (no relation to Japhet) paced the 15-hit Horsemen attack by going 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run homers while Murillo also belted a longball for the winners. Valle and Giansanto homered again for Mazatlan in defeat while Rios added three hits and two ribbies.
After Obregon and Jalisco closed out their Final Four wins, both took part in a reinforcement draft Saturday. The Yaquis took a pair of second basemen in Los Mochis' Quiroz and Mazatlan's Rios while the Charros took starting pitchers Manny Barreda from Culiacan and Los Mochis' Quiala. Quiroz is perhaps more versatile than Rios, with about as many games at third base and shortstop as at second, and he would give Yaquis manager Sergio Gastelum more options. Barreda was not chosen in the previous two reinforcement drafts despite finishing second to Jalisco's Elian Leyva, the LMP Pitcher of the Year, with a 2.65 ERA. He started one game for the Anzoategui Caribes in the Venezuelan League semifinals last week, getting rocked by the Caracas Leones for four runs on six hits in 1.1 innings, but returned to North America after the Caribes were eliminated.
The MexPac championship series will open Monday night in Guadalajara at 9:15 Eastern as the Charros host Obregon.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Championship Series
Game 1 Monday, January 21 (9:15PM) Obregon at Jalisco
Game 2 Tuesday, January 22 (9:15PM) Obregon at Jalisco
Game 3 Thursday, January 24 (9:10PM) Jalisco at Obregon
Game 4 Friday, January 25 (9:10PM) Jalisco at Obregon
Game 5 Saturday, January 26 (9:10PM) Jalisco at Obregon*
Game 6 Monday, January 28 (9:15PM) Obregon at Jalisco*
Game 7 Tuesday, January 29 (9:15PM) Obregon at Jalisco*
*-if necessary. All times Eastern.
MANNY RODRIGUEZ REPEATS AS LMP MVP, LEYVA PITCHER OF YEAR
Jalisco Charros second baseman Manny Rodriguez has been selected as the Mexican Pacific League's Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season and the third time in his winterball career. The 36-year-old Guasave native earned 74 of 117 votes, or 63.25% of ballots cast by journalists covering the LMP. Los Mochis outfielder Leandro Castro came in a distant second with 15 votes (12.82%), followed by league batting champ Francisco Peguero of Hermosillo with 13 votes (11.11%), Obregon slugger Jesus Valdez (11 votes, 9.40%) and Navojoa's LMP home run king Jovan Rosa (4 votes, 3.42%).
Rodriguez was eighth in the MexPac with a .313 batting average and led the loop with 52 RBIs, his 80 hits were one behind Hermosillo's Jasson Atondo, he tied Castro for third in the LMP with 13 homers and matched Los Mochis' Isaac Rodriguez with 41 runs scored (ten behind leader Alonzo Harris of Navojoa). With his third MVP trophy, the Jalisco team captain now trails only the legendary Hector Espino, who won six such awards over his MexPac career.
The LMP league office has named other award-winners for the 2018-19 regular season, including Rodriguez' teammate Elian Leyva as Pitcher of the Year. Although the Cuban-born Leyva did not receive a single MVP vote, the Charros' right-hander led or tied for the circuit lead in several pitching categories including wins (6), earned-run average (2.02), strikeouts (67) and WHIP (1.08). He became only the fifth man in MexPac history to cop the Pitching Triple Crown and the last since Francisco Campos of Mazatlan turned the trick in 2003-04. Leyva, who was called to rest last week by the Atlanta Braves before MLB spring training opens next month, easily outdistanced the POY field with 90.60% of votes cast on 106 of 117 ballots cast by cronistas, while Culiacan's Manny Barreda and Jaime Lugo of Navojoa each picked up four votes and another Mayos pitcher, Marco Carrillo, earned the final three.
Culiacan closer Casey Coleman earned 99 of 117 votes (84.62%) to win Reliever of the Year honors after leading the LMP with 22 saves, breaking the Tomateros' old mark of 21 set by Jose Silva in 2007-08. Coleman turned in a microscopic ERA of 1.24 while striking out 37 batters and walking only five over 36.1 innings pitched in 34 appearances. The ex-Cubs pitcher, whose grandfather and father both pitched in MLB All-Star games during their respective careers, far outdistanced his nearest competitors; Mazatlan's Brandon Cunniff and Los Mochis's Jose Valverde (himself a former MLB All-Star) each picked up seven votes.
Continuing the trend of non-competitive awards balloting, Hermosillo second baseman Jasson Atondo received 92 of 117 votes (78.63%) to walk away as this winter's Rookie of the Year. Besides leading the MexPac with 81 hits, Atondo finished second to teammate Francisco Peguero in batting with a .351 mark after topping the table for a number of weeks before a late-season fade. Atondo also finished fifth in runs scored with 39. Navojoa pitcher Jose Isidro Marquez, son of the Mexican League's all-time saves leader, finished second to Atondo with 10 votes (8.55%), followed by Los Mochis middle reliever Daniel Duarte's eight votes (6.84%) and seven votes (5.98%) for Obregon setup man Jesus Aguamea.
The voting was much closer for Manager of the Year, which was eventually won by Obregon's first-year skipper Sergio Gastelum, who received 40 of 107 votes to come in at 37.04%. Gastelum led Oaxaca to a surprise appearance in the Mexican League's Serie del Rey last fall in his managerial debut before the Guerreros fell to Monterrey in the title set and his work with the Yaquis implies that his initial success as a dugout boss with the Guerreros was no fluke. Gastelum replaced Oscar Robles early in the 2018-19 season with the Yaquis at 3-6 and went on to lead Obregon to a 34-23 record over the 57 games he managed as the Tribe posted the best overall record in the LMP regular season and qualified for the postseason for the first time in three years. Hermosillo skipper Bronswell Patrick came in second to Gastelum with 29 votes (26.85%), Jalisco manager Roberto Vizcarra was third with 18 votes (16.67%) and Culiacan's now-former manager Robinson Cancel was fourth by picking up 12 votes (11.11%). Los Mochis helmsman Victor Bojorquez, who has done some great work for the Caneros himself, placed fifth with nine votes (8.33%).
ACAYUCAN TOPS XALAPA FOR LIV CROWN; BOTH QUALIFY FOR L.A.S.
The Acayucan Tobis defeated the Xalapa Chileros, 7-2, Sunday afternoon at Estadio Emiliano Zapata in Oluta (an Acayuca suburb) in the seventh and deciding game of the Veracruz Winter League championship series. No details of the game were available at BBM's post time.
The victory gives the Tobis their second consecutive winterball league title and third in the past four seasons. Acayucan won the Veracruz State Baseball League pennant last year in that circuit's second and final campaign under the guidance of former Brewers pitcher Narciso Elvira, who founded the loop in 2016 after the original LIV shut down operations due to financial difficulties. Elvira's LVEB also struggled to make ends meet before the reconstituted LIV returned this winter under the leadership of sisters Regina and Fabiola Vazquez Saut. Many baseball veterans played in the league this winter after Elvira's circuit relied almost entirely on younger (and less-expensive) players for two years, although the LIV retained the LVEB's practice of scheduling games only on weekends.
The Tobis and manager Felix Tejeda, a former Dodgers farmhand and Campeche Piratas reliever, found themselves in a tough spot right off the bat by dropping the first two games of the series at home, losing a 7-5 contest to Xalapa on January 5 and allowing two runs in a heartbreaking 8-6 loss on January 6. Acayucan fought back the following weekend by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning in a 11-5 road victory over the Chileros on January 11 but found themselves on the brink of elimination one day later after absorbing an 8-1 defeat. The Tobis stayed alive and sent the series back to Acayucan by plating five runs in the first inning en route to a resounding 14-4 win in Xalapa as Heber Gomez blasted a grand slam while Yadil Mujica, Rogelio Noris and Eliseo Aldazaba combined for nine hits, five runs and three RBIs to narrow Xalapa's advantage in the best-of-7 set to one game.
The Tobis tied the series at three game apiece Saturday with a 4-1 Game Six win in Acayucan's Estadio Luis Diaz Flores. The Mexican League's 2017 batting champion, Yadir Drake, had a big night for the Tobis by driving in fellow Cuban Yadil Mujica with the game's first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, doubling in another run in the bottom of the third and launching a solo homer to left in the seventh. Eleven-year LMB veteran Yancarlo Angulo produced Xalapa's lone run of the game in the top of the ninth by Tobis starter Jorge Quinones got the win by pitching 5.1 shutout innings while holding the Chileros to two hits. Rookie Daniel Lobata took the loss for Xalapa.
According to the Latin American Series website, both the Tobis and Chileros will move on to co-host the event's eighth edition. The six-team, 18-game tournament is scheduled to be played in four ballparks in the state of Veracruz. The LAS is considered one tier below the Caribbean Series among international winterball events. The Tobis and Chileros will play league champions from Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama and first-time entrant Argentina. Curacao, which sent their top team last year, is sitting out this winter's tournament, hence the invite to the LIV runners-up.
Three games will be played on opening day Saturday: Xalapa vs. Panama at Beisborama 72 in Cordoba (a former LMB ballpark) at 1PM local as well as a 2PM doubleheader at Veracruz' Beto Avila Park with Colombia vs. Nicaragua followed by Acayucan vs. Argentina. The title game is scheduled for February 1, most likely at Beto Avila Park, another former Liga venue with the largest capacity of the four facilities at 7,782 seats. and the site of the first Serie Latinoamericana in 2013. The 27-year-old stadium served as home this winter for the LIV's Veracruz Rojos, who narrowly missed the postseason.
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