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3.5 GAMES SEPARATE TOP NINE LMP TEAMS
As the Mexican Pacific League’s regular season heads into its final month, the second half standings are very tight, with only three-and-a-half games of daylight between the top two teams and the ninth-place squad and only one club apparently out of contention for a postseason berth in January.
Navojoa and Mexicali have both won six of their last ten games to remain tied for the lead with 12-8 records, one game ahead of 11-9 Hermosillo and Mazatlan while 10-9 Monterrey sits in fifth place. Obregon and Guasave are tied for sixth at 10-10, two games out of the top slot, defending champion Culiacan is three games back in eighth at 9-11 while Jalisco is a half-game behind the Tomateros at 8-11. The only team that looks to be out of the running is Los Mochis, who are following up their last-place finish in the first half (finishing five games out of ninth at 9-23) with a 6-14 ledger for the second half.
Navojoa is firing on all cylinders under manager Matias Carrillo, with five batters hitting .302 or above and a solid, if not invincible, pitching staff featuring a five-man rotation with an aggregate 21-12 season record and a respectable 3.65 ERA plus one of the Mex Pac’s top closers in Carlos Bustamante. The Mayos, who have the LMP’s top overall record at 32-20, swept a three-game midweek series in Los Mochis before splitting two games at home against Obregon.
Mexicali is likewise doing well in winning 12 of their first 20 games under new manager Gil Velazquez, who replaced Bronswell Patrick in the dugout after the Aguilas came in ninth in the first half with a 14-18 record. The Eagles dropped two of three tilts in their midweek series at Hermosillo before taking two weekenders over Guasave at home in El Nido. Despite their strong second half showing, Mexicali is last in the LMP with a .232 team batting average so Alex Liddi and his .215 average with seven RBIs over 29 games was placed on the Reserve List and former MLB first baseman Ryon Healy was brought in. Healy hit .257 with seven homers over 67 games for Hanwha in the Korea Baseball Organization this summer after belting 69 longballs in five major league seasons. So far, he’s hit .389 in his first five games for the Aguilas.
Hermosillo is a game off the pace in third under another new manager, former Mexican National Team helmsman Juan Gabriel Castro. Castro, who was fired as leader of the Verdes Grande shortly before the Olympics after leveling criticisms about funding and leadership against CONADE (Mexico’s national sports commission) and director Ana Guevara, a former Olympic track athlete and an ally of president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He was replaced by current Culiacan manager Benji Gil, who took the team to an 0-3 record in Tokyo.
While Monterrey is a competitive 10-9 under second-year manager Gerardo Alvarez, who now has the aforementioned Bronswell Patrick on his staff as bench coach, the Sultanes made more news off the field last week by announcing that Roberto Kelly would be back as manager of their Mexican League team. Kelly, who went 143-89 in 2018 and 2019 (winning the LMB’s Fall 2019 pennant along the way), chose not to return to Mexico last season due to pandemic concerns and a stated desire to work with a son who had aspirations of entering pro ball. Homar Rojas began the 2021 season as Monterrey’s manager but was fired eight games into the season after the Sultanes had lost their first five games en route to a 2-6 start and replaced by Sergio Gastelum, who went 26-25 over the rest of the schedule before losing to Guadalajara in the first round of the playoffs.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Second Half Standings
Mexicali 12-8 (4.0), Navojoa 12-8 (10.0), Hermosillo 11-9 (5.5), Mazatlan 11-9 (4.5), Monterrey 10-9 (5.0), Guasave 10-10 (9.0), Obregon 10-10 (7.0), Culiacan 9-11 (6.0), Jalisco 8-11 (8.0), Los Mochis 6-14 (3.5). First Half playoff points are in parentheses
Batting: Tirso Ornelas, NAV (.369); Victor Mendoza, OBR (.368); Yadir Drake, GUA (.331)
Home Runs: Kyle Martin, NAV (15); Felix Perez, JAL (10); two players tied with 8 each
Runs Batted In: Felix Perez, JAL (39); Kyle Martin, NAV (37); Joey Meneses, CUL (36)
Stolen Bases: Dairon Blanco, CUL (21); Alonzo Harris, OBR (15); Ramon Rios, MAZ (14)
Wins: Raul Carrillo, NAV (6); nine pitchers tied with 5 each
Earned Run Average: Elian Leyva, HER (1.17); Arturo Lopez, OBR (2.08); Hector Velazquez, OBR (2.42)
Strikeouts: Octavio Acosta, NAV (49); three pitchers tied with 47 each
Saves: Jake Sanchez, MXI (19); Fernando Salas, HER (12); Carlos Bustamante (NAV (11)
MONCLOVA, PUEBLA CLASH FOR LIM CROWN
The rebooted Mexican Winter League is holding its Prince Series (Serie del Principe) after the Monclova Acereros and Puebla Pericos won the North and South division playoffs, respectively, last week. Game One of the best-of-five set was slated for Sunday afternoon at Puebla’s Estadio Hermanos Serdan.
The two four-team divisions played intramural schedules with no crossover games. Monclova finished first in the LIM North with a 16-7 record, four games ahead of 11-10 Monterrey, who nudged out 12-12 Union Laguna for second place. Saltillo came in a distant fourth at 6-16. The Acereros are managed by former New York Mets dugout boss Mickey Callaway, who was suspended by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred through the 2022 season earlier this year after an investigation into Callaway regarding sexual harassment.
Acereros owner Gerardo Benavides saw no problem bringing in the former pitcher, who played in South Korea and Taiwan (including the 2009 CPBL champion Uni-President Lions) after pitching for three MLB teams between 1999 and 2004, and was rewarded when Callaway led Monclova to a three-game sweep over Monterrey in the LIM North Finals.
The Steelers won Game 3 last Thursday with a 9-0 blowout as the winners scored four first-inning runs and never looked back. Ethan Lopez had three hits for Monclova while another four Acereros had two safeties each, including LMB veterans Rodolfo Amador and Ricky Rodriguez. Obregon native Jasiel Ocosta aided the mound cause with four shutout innings on three hits. Another Mexican League vet, pitcher Carlos Teller, took the loss for the Sultanes after allowing five runs on nine hits.
Puebla defeated Veracruz-Yucatan, four games to one, to win the LIM South playoff title after finishing the regular season in first at 18-13, one game ahead of the 17-12 mark of Veracruz-Yucatan (who played their home games in Xalapa and also had players from Durango on the roster). Mexico City finished third in the South at 15-15 while Oaxaca, with Guerreros regular season skipper Erick Rodriguez at the helm) was dead last at 9-20.
In their series-clinching win last Monday night, the Pericos outlasted Veracruz-Yucatan, 12-11, in Xalapa. Puebla went up 1-0 in the top of the first but Oliver Carrillo knotted the game up for the home side with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame.
The Parakeets exploded for five runs in the third, including a tiebreaking two-run single by Armando Aguilar and a two-run double from Miguel Gamboa to make it a 6-1 contest. Puebla’s lead eventually reached 12-5 before Veracruz-Yucatan scored five times in the bottom of the seventh and a Carrillo solo homer in the eighth made it a one-run game before Pericos closer Cristian Alvarado shut the door on the series in the ninth.
Carrillo, a Yucatan prospect, was named the LIM’s Most Valuable Player after leading the South with eight homers and 46 RBIs while finishing second to Mexico City’s Pedro Castellano in batting with a .441 average. Castellano topped the division with a .448 average and 47 hits. A 19-year-old outfielder who played two games for the Leones last summer, Carrillo has spent time at the team’s academy in Mazatlan and also played in various national and international tournaments. He was also named the LIM South MVP while Monclova’s Roberto Castro won similar honors for the LIM North.
MEX PAC ROAD TRIP (Stop #10): Guadalajara, Jalisco
The final jump on our virtual road trip to all ten Mexican Pacific League cities is also the longest. From Mazatlan, Sinaloa, we’ll drive 300 miles for about six-and-a-half hours south on Highway 15 through the state of Nayarit into Jalisco, curving inland until reaching Guadalajara, home of both the LMP’s Jalisco Charros and the Guadalajara Mariachis of the Mexican League.
Guadalajara has a metropolitan population of 5.3 million, making it Mexico’s third-largest metro area. It’s a far cry from the city’s humble beginnings in 1542, when conquistador Cristobal de Onate founded it as part of what was then called New Spain. By the 18th century, Guadalajara had already become Mexico’s second-largest city. During the Mexican War of Independence in the early 1800’s, Miguel Hidalgo established a revolutionary government there and Guadalajara later flourished between 1876 and 1911 under the three different presidencies of Porfirio Diaz, whose harsh methods created hardships among the people but also built the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Present-day Guadalajara is an international business and cultural center. It’s home to Mexico’s largest U.S. expat population, drawn by its relatively temperate climate, low cost of living and lively cultural scene. It’s home to numerous landmarks, including Guadalajara Cathedral, the Teatro Degollado, the Templo Expiatorio, the Hospicio Cabaņas, and the San Juan de Dios Market (the largest indoor market in Latin America). Guadalajara hosts the most important film festival in Mexico as well as the International Book Fair, the largest such event in the Western Hemisphere. Two of the country’s most highly-rated colleges, the University of Guadalajara (founded in 1792) and the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, are here.
Professional baseball made its debut in Guadalajara when the Jalisco Charros played in the Mexican League in 1949 and lasted three seasons. After the Charros folded following the 1951 season, the Guadalajara Blue Sox entered the old Pacific Coast League in 1952-53 and also lasted three years. The city later fielded LMB teams on three different occasions between the 1960’s and 1990’s, winning two titles, but baseball never really built a local following until the Mexican Pacific League’s Guasave Algodoneros were bought and moved to Guadalajara in 2014. Named the Jalisco Charros, the franchise has become one of the Mex Pac’s most valuable. The Mariachis LMB team was formed last winter and played its first season in 2021, finishing first in the North Division, but crowds for the Liga side failed to approach their winterball counterparts.
Both teams play at 16,500-seat Estadio Charros, also known as Estadio Panamericano because it was built for track and field events at the 2012 Pan American Games. Although the design of the facility makes for less-than-desirable sightlines for baseball, even after a number of renovations over the past decade, Estadio Charros has hosted the Caribbean Series, World Baseball Classic and WBSC Premier12 tournament while the Charros have been among the top-drawing LMP teams since their arrival.
FROM MEXICO, VISIT