by Bruce Baskin
August 16, 2022 – Mexican League (ML)
TJ SWEEPS RIELEROS IN LMB NORTH FIRST ROUND
It took them a second day to do it, but the defending Mexican League champion Tijuana Toros completed an 11-1 win in Aguascalientes Sunday to complete a four-game sweep over the Rieleros in their first round playoff series, punching a ticket to the LMB North semi-finals in the process.
The game was somewhat closer than the final score indicates as Tijuana took a 4-1 lead into the top of the eighth, where they put two more runs on the scoreboard on Leandro Castro’s homer and then put the contest away with five counters in the ninth as Nick Williams and Felix Perez added two-run roundtrippers of their own off Ags closer Ryan Kussmaul. Toros starter Arturo Reyes combined with five relievers on a four-hitter as Carlos Rivero’s solo homer to left off Reyes in the second gave the Railroaders their lone run.
Elsewhere in the LMB North, Dos Laredos defeated Union Laguna in five games while Monterrey did likewise with Monclova. The Tecolotes advanced to the LMB semis with an emphatic 15-2 road win Sunday at the venerable Estadio de Revolucion. The Algodoneros actually led 2-1 after five innings before the visitors posted 14 runs over the next three frames, including a 9-run eighth. Kennys Vargas went 4-for-6 for the borderites, scoring once and driving in four teammates as the Tecos’ 16-hit attack included no extra-base hits. Surprise starter Brandon Brennan, a reliever since 2016, got the win after scattering two runs on nine hits over five innings. Algodonero’s reliever Josh Lueke had a nightmarish outing, allowing six runs on three hits and three walks in one-third of the eighth inning.
While Dos Laredos was pummeling Union Laguna, Monterrey needed a run in the bottom of the ninth to top Monclova, 6-5, clinching their 4-1 series win. Keon Broxton homered twice for the Acereros, including a two-run blast in the top of the ninth that pulled the visitors into a 5-5 tie, while longtime Sultanes star Chris Roberson (now playing right and batting eighth for Monclova) socked a solo shot in the fifth. However, the game was won in the bottom of the ninth when speedy Sultane’s center fielder Jose Cardona manufactured the winning run the old-fashioned way.
Cardona singled on a bang-bang play via a grounder to Acerero’s shortstop Addison Russell, stole second, advanced to third on Sebastian Elizalde’s groundout and motored in on a Wirfin Obispo wild pitch to Zoilo Almonte to end the contest. Despite allowing Broxton’s game-tying homer, reliever Neftali Feliz was awarded the win. Although they lost the series, Monclova will stay alive by virtue of the “lucky loser” system, in which the team with the best showing in a first-round losing cause advances to the next round. The Acereros will take on Tijuana in the LMB North semis while the Sultanes face Dos Laredos.
DIABLOS OUST AGUILAS 4-0, REACH LMB SOUTH SEMIS
After finishing with an LMB South-best 58-34 record, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos carried their regular season success into the playoffs by bouncing the Veracruz Aguilas out of the postseason in four straight first round games and advancing to the division semifinals.
Mexico City delivered the coup de grace over their ancient rivals, 4-2, Sunday night in front of 6,500 fans in Veracruz. The win was fairly methodical for the Red Devils, who scored single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings and got a solid performance from reliever Francisco Haro, who tossed four innings and allowed one run on four hits to earn the win.
The Diablos benefitted from a pair of solo homers off the bat of former Rockies farmhand Roberto Ramos, who swatted 38 homers for Korea’s LG Twins in 2020 but was released the following season when he struggled at the plate. Ramos struggled for the Red Sox’ AAA Worcester affiliate this year (a .158 average with 5 homers and 16 RBI in 39 games) but warmed up with Mexico City by batting .272 with 10 homers and 28 ribbies over 26 contests.
In another LMB South first round series, Quintana Roo closed out their series against Tabasco with a 13-4 Game Five win Monday night in Cancun. The Olmecas went up 1-0 in the top of the first when Herlis Rodriguez scored on Francisco Rivera’s sacrifice fly, but the Tigres knotted it up in the bottom of the frame when Olmo Rosario homered to right. Jorge Rivera lined a two-run single to left to give the Tigres a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
From that point both teams traded in the fifth and sixth (when Rosario poled his second homer for Quintana Roo), with the Tigres holding a 6-4 head heading into the seventh, when they iced the game and series with a seven-run outburst highlighted by Tito Polo’s grand slam off Tabasco reliever Fernando Salas to end the night’s scoring. Ricky Rodriguez had four hits, missing the cycle by one homer, for the winners while scoring three runs and driving in two. Felipe Arredondo tossed 1.2 perfect innings in relief for the series-clinching win. Both the Tigres and Diablos Rojos are waiting for the third LMB South first round series to conclude so they’ll know who’s next on their respective postseason schedules.
Finally, Game Five of the Puebla-Yucatan series in Merida Monday was scoreless through four innings before Peter O’Brien’s solo homer for the Pericos in the top of the fifth broke the spell and launched a see-saw battle. Art Charles belted a two-run circuit clout in the bottom of the sixth to put Yucatan ahead, but the Pericos regained the lead in the seventh on Armando Aguilar’s two-run bomb. Then the Leones took the lead back in the bottom of the eighth, 4-3, on RBI singles by Christhian Adames and Yadir Drake and it was left to Jorge Rondon to hold Puebla scoreless in the top of the ninth for the save as Yucatan took a 3-2 series lead.
Game Six is slated for Wednesday night in Puebla. Both teams have qualified for the LMB South semis since both have more wins in this series than either Veracruz (0) or Tabasco (1) earned in their respective sets, meaning the “lucky loser” will emerge from this matchup.
LMP GAMES TELEVISED TO USA BLOCKED BY SKY SPORTS
The Mexican Pacific League has begun a new era under the presidency of Carlos Manrique, who has replaced Omar Canizales after the latter had served 13 seasons at the helm overseeing tremendous growth in attendance and the building or renovation of all but one of ten LMP ballparks during his reign. By the end of Canizales’ reign, the Mex Pac routinely drew much larger attendance per game than any affiliated minor league north of the border.
An industrial engineer with over two decades of experience working for large national and international corporations, Manrique had been a general director with the Voit sporting goods manufacturing company for five years prior to replacing Canizales in April. Some things never change no matter who is running the show, however, and Manrique is already facing a challenge involving the availability of MexPac games to TV viewers in the USA.
Septima Entrada writer Irving Furlong reports that while Manrique wants to take viewership of the league to an international level, the agreement that the league has with SKY Sports at this time blocks the LMP from sending its signal to the United States. One of the first points that Manrique touched on in a recent presentation was precisely to internationalize the circuit and take it to the country with perhaps the greatest presence of Mexican people outside the nation’s borders: the USA.
“The United States market is very important,” said Manrique during his presentation. “The Hispanic market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the United States and quality content is demanded to serve and reach that market. We are going to find a way to get there first through the media.”
However, the agreement signed at the beginning of 2020 with the satellite television platform blocks the LMP from accessing the United States by having the live and exclusive broadcast of all their games. “We want to talk with SKY,” said Manrique. “We are going to sit down and see what options we have and look for a better scheme that is convenient for all parties and see how we can reach other markets as quickly as possible.”
For the 2022-23 season, the Mex Pac will begin the third of its four-year contract with SKY Sports, a UK-based television system that at the time boasted a presence in the Dominican Republic and Panama (countries with long histories in baseball ) but far from the 37 million Mexicans living in various parts of the United States, according to the US Census Bureau in 2017.
Under current agreements, Manrique and the LMP office will instead continue to seek to position themselves in the center of Mexico, placing special emphasis on Mexico City.
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