by Bruce Baskin, Baseball Mexico, http://baseballmexico.blogspot.com/
OAXACA WINS LMB SOUTH FIRST HALF CROWN
The Oaxaca Guerreros and manager Sergio Gastelum have at least suggested that last Fall’s Serie del Rey appearance against eventual Mexican League champion Monterrey was no fluke. Ruddy Acosta allowed one run in five innings as the Guerreros topped Puebla, 7-2, Wednesday night to reach the midway point of the 2019 season with a 37-23 record going into the All-Star Break. Oaxaca thus wins the LMB South first-half title by two games over 32-24 Mexico City, who went into the final day one game out of the lead but lost 8-4 at Leon as Bravos third baseman Carlos Rivero doubled, singled twice and drove in four runs. The Diablos Rojos tied for second with the 34-26 Pericos, who likewise had a chance to tie for the South lead going into their last game at Oaxaca. Leon finished fourth at 27-32 to lead a group of five sub-.500 teams.
Unlike the Guerreros close but clear-cut triumph in the LMB South, things are far from certain in the LMB North. Tijuana scored three runs in the top of the ninth at Monterrey Wednesday as Logan Watkins contributed a bases-loaded single and the Toros went on to beat the Sultanes, 10-7, pulling into a final-day tie with the Sultanes for the division crown at 40-22 apiece. The teams played six times in the half (all since June 4), with Monterrey winning two of three games in Tijuana and the Toros returning the favor last week. The Toros outscored the defending champions by an aggregate 29-23 margin in head-to-head competition. Monclova won their last game Wednesday over Dos Laredos, 5-2, at Uni-Trade Stadium in Laredo as Rudy Amador had three singles and three RBIs for the winners. The Acereros finished in third (one game behind the co-leaders) at 39-21 while the Tecolotes came in fourth with a 33-27 showing.
Felix Pie of Leon continues to dominate the batting race with a .461 average, comfortably ahead (for now) of Tabasco’s Ronnier Mustelier, who’s hitting a mere .415. Aguascalientes’ Jose Vargas homered against Durango last Monday to bring his season total to 29 (four more than Chris Carter of Monclova and Puebla’s Danny Ortiz) before sitting the final two games of the series with the Generales. Vargas, who also leads Leon’s Matt Clark in RBIs (69-68), is batting .372 with an LMB-best .814 slugging percentage. Dos Laredos’ Johnny Davis stole two bases in Wednesday’s loss to Monclova and now has 40 steals, twice as many as Oaxaca’s Alonzo Harris.
Yucatan’s Cesar Valdez did not pitch during the Leones’ final series against Quintana Roo in Cancun, but his 9-0 record, 2.71 ERA and 1.16 WHIP were enough to lead the Liga in all three categories. Valdez had 43 strikeouts and just six walks over 69.2 innings over the first half. Like Valdez, Monclova’s Josh Lowey (8-0/3.91/1.17 WHIP) sat out his team’s last series before the All-Star Break but Monterrey’s 8-1 Edgar Gonzalez lost his first decision, 3-2, last Tuesday against Tijuana. Gonzalez scattered five hits over as many innings, but two of them were solo homers by Carlos Peguero and Junior Lake. Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo, who got tossed in Wednesday’s home loss to Tijuana, has otherwise stayed in enough games to save 19 of them, tops by four over Carlos Bustamante of Monclova. Tijuana’s Jesus Pirela leads with 19 holds and was recognized with a berth on the LMB North roster in Sunday’s All-Star Game.
When second half action opens this Friday, the most interesting series may be in Monclova, where the Acereros will host Oaxaca for a three-game series. Another set worth keeping an eye on next weekend should be when Mexico City visits Tijuana for a trio of games.
NORTH DRUBS SOUTH, 11-6, AS CAMPOS MAKES 10TH ALL-STAR START
The Mexican League held its annual All-Star Game on Sunday evening at Mexico City’s Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu and while a living legend started the contest for the home LMB South team, the North racked up an 11-6 win. Ramiro Pena of Monterrey had three hits for the winners as only two of the North’s 21 hits were sent to the left side of the field. Attendance for the four-hour game was 13,514 at Mexico’s newest ballpark.
The North took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Chris Carter singled in Victor Mendoza but the South knotted the score in the bottom of the frame on Japhet Amador’s single to plate Danny Ortiz. The North regained the lead in the top of the second after Yamaico Navarro scored on an Amadeo Zazueta double to left. The score stood until the top of the fourth, when Junior Lake’s two-run homer to left off Casey Harman to make it a 4-1 contest. The South fought back with a counter in the bottom of the fourth as David Vidal scored on a Carlos Lopez double but back-to-back run-scoring singles by Leandro Castro and Juan Apodaca in the top of the fifth opened the North’s lead to 6-2 and things were looking rather grim for the host Southerners.
Still, this WAS an All-Star Game, meaning no lead is truly safe, especially in a league where a new ball has led to an abundance of offense. Hector Hernandez’ two-run single in the bottom of the sixth brought the South to within a pair of tallies and when Marco Jaime scored from third on Felipe Gonzalez’ strike-three wild pitch to Emmanuel Avila it became a one-run game.
The North bounced back with one run in the seventh on a Ramiro Pena singleton and another score one inning later when Francisco Ferreira crossed the plate on a throwing error by South shortstop Jaime on a Castro grounder to open their lead to 8-5, then really poured gas on the fire with three more runs in the ninth on six consecutive singles (including RBI safeties from Jon Kemmer, Saul Soto and Rudy Amador) to open their lead to 11-5. The North did push a run across in the bottom of the ninth when Jorge Cantu came in on Sebastian Valle’s single, but Jake Sanchez was able to get Jay Austin to fly out to left to complete the win. Frankie de la Cruz got the victory for the North while Yoanner Negrin absorbed the defeat for the South as a total of 23 pitchers took the mound for the two teams…did we mention this game went four hours?
Longtime Campeche Piratas pitcher Francisco “Pancho Ponches” Campos, who was honored before the contest, started the game for the South and recorded the first two outs before being replaced by Ruddy Acosta. Now in his 25th season, Campos (a converted catcher) is one win away from becoming the 14th pitcher in the LMB’s 95-year history to win 200 games, ranks fourth in career strikeouts with 2,173 and won the Pitching Triple Crown in 2004, the only Liga hurler to do so in the past 50 years. Sunday marked his tenth All-Star Game start (a record) and 16th appearance overall. Campos, who’ll turn 47 on August 12, will retire at the end of the season.
PUEBLA’S ORTIZ WINS HR DERBY; ZAZUETA, PENA KINGS OF DP
Puebla’s first-year slugger Danny Ortiz won the Mexican League Home Run Derby in Mexico City Saturday as part of the Liga’s All-Star Weekend festivities. A Pittsburgh outfielder in 2017, the Puerto Rico-born Ortiz outlasted seven competitors (four from each division) through three rounds to win the circuit clout crown and the 20,000 pesos that go with it.
Ortiz led all eight batsmen with 12 first-round homers to advance to the semifinals along with Mexico City’s Japhet Amador and Aguascalientes’ Jose Vargas (11 each) plus Yamaico Navarro of Monterrey (6). Leon’s Felix Pie (5), Oaxaca’s Alonzo Harris (4), Aguascalientes’ Michael Wing and Monclova’s Chris Carter (3 apiece) were eliminated. Ortiz, Vargas and Navarro all hit five homers in the semis but Navarro was knocked out along with Amador (4) because Ortiz and Vargas had more total homers over two rounds. That left Ortiz to fend off Vargas, 10-9, in the final round for the title and paycheck. The former Twins fourth-rounder deposited a total of 27 homers over three rounds while Vargas went deep 25 times. Yucatan powerhouse Luis Juarez won last year’s Home Run Derby in Merida.
Earlier Saturday, the Monterrey Sultanes’ keystone combo of shortstop Amadeo Zazueta and second baseman Ramiro Pena beat out four similar duos win the Double Play Derby. In its second year (Yucatan’s Everth Cabrera and Diego Madero won in last year’s debut), this event includes middle infielders facing a preset number of line drives or grounders hit in certain situations with a countdown clock running while judges evaluate the fielding using various criteria. Other twosomes at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu Saturday included second-place finishers Marco Jaime and Luis Medina (Leon), Moises Gutierrez and Javier Salazar (Durango), Juan Carlos Gamboa and David Vidal (Mexico City) and Union Laguna’s Ciro Morzagaray and Daniel Hinojosa.
Saturday’s festivities also included a celebrity softball game, in which a team of actors, singers, comedians, athletes and YouTubers from the South defeated a team of actors, singers, comedians, athletes and YouTubers from the North, 1-0, with the game’s lone run scoring on a wild pitch. Further details are unavailable and/or unnecessary.