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LMB DIVISION SEMIS SET, TWO SERIES DECIDED BY GAME SEVENS
The Mexican League division semifinals are now set after a pair of seventh and deciding first round playoff games were required to determine the eighth-team lineup. Mexico City, Tabasco and Yucatan all advanced in the LMB South and will be joined by Veracruz as the “lucky” loser because the Aguilas won two games in their series while Quintana Roo and Puebla only won once. Things came down to the wire in the LMB North, where it took a pair of Game Sevens to ensure that Guadalajara, Tijuana and Lucky Loser Aguascalientes to join Monclova in the division semis.
Here are capsules with details of the past week's games in the six first-round series:
MEXICO CITY def. QUINTANA ROO, 4 games to 1
Three first-round series ended Thursday night, including Mexico City's Game Five win over Quintana Roo, 8-4. Japhet Amador led the Diablos attack with two homers and six RBIs to close the set with a 4-games-to-1 Mexico City triumph. The Tigres were forced to play their “home” games at Merida's Parque Kukulkan due to ballpark renovations Estadio Beto Avila in Cancun requiring them to play the final weeks of the season on the road.
Angel Erro's two-run homer in the bottom of the second snapped a Quintana Roo scoreless streak that had reached 19 innings, including shutouts on Tuesday (a 9-0 loss as Amador belted two longballs and drove in four) and Wednesday (a 3-0 defeat in which Arturo Lopez tossed six scoreless innings for the Red Devils and Juan Carlos Gamboa socked a two-run homer in the third).
TABASCO def. PUEBLA, 4 games to 1
Tabasco also closed out their series in five games with Puebla on Thursday. After splitting two games in Villahermosa, the Olmecas copped three straight road games, starting with a 14-12 slugfest win last Tuesday as former Phillies farmhand Herlis Rodriguez slammed a three-run homer and Roel Santos posted a two-run blast. Jesus Arredondo hit a two-run single and later scored in a five-run fifth inning as the Olmecas went on to top the Pericos, 8-3, one night later.
Tabasco clinched the series Thursday, 7-4, as Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with three runs and Ronnier Mustelier's two-run single gave the Olmecas a 7-0 lead in the fourth that the Parakeets couldn't overcome. Manager Pedro Mere's club lacked offense in the regular season but it was their 29 runs in three games that sealed their victory.
MONCLOVA def. SALTILLO, 4 games to 1
Also on Thursday, defending champion Monclova finished their LMB North series with a 3-1 Game Five thriller over Saltillo as Addison Russell cranked out a two-run homer off Saraperos closer Anthony Carter in the bottom of the tenth to end the contest after Bartolo Colon turned in 5.1 decent entradas for Monclova, allowing one run on five hits.
The Steelers earlier collected a 6-3 win over Saltillo Tuesday during which Chris Carter slugged a pair of homers of Saraperos starter David Holmberg. Monclova registered another victory Wednesday on a 3-2 score as Dwight Smith's sacrifice fly brought home Erick Aybar with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth. Carlos Bustamante earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth for the Acereros to set up Thursday's clincher.
YUCATAN def. VERACRUZ, 4 games to 2
After Friday's travel day, one more series concluded on Saturday. Yucatan returned home after winning two of three in Veracruz to record a 5-1 win over the Aguilas to take their first round set, 4 games to 2, as Jose Aguilar's two-run double gave the Leones a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second that they never relinquished.
Yucatan had split a pair in Merida prior to winning, 7-6, in Veracruz last Tuesday when Aguilas third baseman Hector Gomez' throwing error in the top of the ninth allowed Walter Ibarra and Yadier Drake to plate the tying and winning runs, respectively. Alex Liddi clubbed two homers and drove in five Wednesday in an 11-3 Yucatan win (Aguila pitchers allowed 11 hits and nine walks); then Liddi, Norberto Obeso and Luis Juarez all homered in the fifth Thursday but Veracuz staved off elimination with a 9-8 triumph as Gomez earned some redemption with a walkoff single that scored Alexei Amarista with the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth. Juarez hit five homers and Liddi went deep four times for the Leones in the series.
GUADALAJARA def. UNION LAGUNA, 4 games to 3
Both Union Laguna and Tijuana stayed alive with wins Saturday to force Game Sevens in their respective series Sunday. Nick Torres had three hits (including a ninth-inning homer) and scored three runs for the Algodoneros in a wild 13-11 win at Guadalajara. The Cottoneers beat the top-seeded Mariachis twice in three games during the week in Torreon.
Guadalajara clobbered the hosts, 12-2, last Tuesday as Johnny Davis went 4-for-5 to key a 17-hit Mariachis outburst. Laguna came back with wins on Wednesday and Thursday, starting with a 10-2 clobbering that saw the Algodoneros break open a 4-2 game with six eighth-frame runs as Ciro Norzagaray sliced a two-run, bases-loaded single to cap a two-hit, three-ribbie night. Thursday's game ended with a 5-4 Cottoneers victory with Carlos Rivero's solo homer breaking a 4-all tie and Jenrry Mejia tossing a scoreless ninth for the save (despite needing 20 pitches to do it). Mejia went 1.2 innings Saturday in Guadalajara for his third save of the series. Sunday's game was a 2-2 classic until the bottom of the eighth, when the Mariachis scored five runs, including a three-run homer by Niko Vasquez off Mejia to break it open. Fernando Cruz pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the 7-2 win and end the series.
TIJUANA def. AGUASCALIENTES, 4 games to 3
Meanwhile, Tijuana held off an upset loss to Aguascalientes Saturday with a 5-4 win in eleven innings at home. Daniel Castro's walkoff single scored pinch-runner Junior Lake with the winning run for the Toros, who got three hits (including a two-run homer) from Leandro Castro during the contest. The Rieleros earlier took two of three midweek games at home and opened a 3-games-to-1 series lead before TJ won the next two. Tuesday's tilt featured a big game from Ags centerfielder Jay Austin (3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs) in a 6-5 win over the Toros. On Wednesday, the Algodoneros built a 5-1 lead and then held on to take a 5-4 triumph behind Marc Flores' two-run homer in the second and Michael Wing's two-run single in the fifth. T
Tijuana avoided elimination with a 5-0 shutout Thursday, with Joe Van Meter starting things off with 6 scoreless innings and Fernando Rodney ending them by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth. Peter O'Brien doubled, tripled and drove in three for the Bulls in the win to send the series back to the border city. After Saturday's win, the Toros closed out the Rieleros Sunday with a 6-4 victory in which Gabriel Gutierrez' two-out double off Daniel Guerrero broke a 4-4 tie by doubling in Isaac Rodriguez while Gutierrez plated an insurance run moments later on Leandro Castro's single. Rodney made things interesting in the top of the ninth by loading the bases before retiring the last two Aguascalientes batters to end the game and series.
The division semis will open with four games Tuesday night. In the LMB South, Mexico City will open their best-of-7 set with Lucky Loser Veracruz at home and Yucatan will take on Tabasco in Merida. In the LMB North, Tijuana will open their series with Monclova in the border city while Guadalajara is at Estadio Panamericano to host an opener against Aguascalientes, who is the division's Lucky Loser by virtue of finishing a half-game ahead of Union Laguna during the regular season.
EX-TOROS SKIPPER VIZQUEL NAMED IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUIT
Things just keep getting tougher for Hall of Fame candidate Omar Vizquel. The former shortstop, who won eleven Gold Gloves and collected 2,877 hits over a 24-year MLB career, was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States within days of parting company with the Mexican League Tijuana Toros and months after his wife Blanca filed domestic violence charges against him.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, an autistic former batboy for the Class AA Birmingham Barons (who Vizquel managed in 2019) alleged that Vizquel exposed his penis “at least five occasions” in the team's clubhouse. According to the lawsuit, Vizquel came out of a shower naked on August 22, 2019 and handed the man a bar of soap, demanding that he “wash my damn back!” The accuser says he was “humiliated, intimidated and scared of what would happen if he disobeyed” and “complied with Vizquel's request.”
The man, now 25, did not return to work after the alleged incident and the lawsuit states, “at this point, he was constructively discharged, as no reasonable person would have returned to that work environment after what had happened.” The suit was filed in United States District Court in Alabama. The suit also accuses the Barons and their parent Chicago White Sox organization of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and seeks back payments and damages. No criminal charges have been filed against Vizquel in connection to the batboy’s claims. Neither Vizquel nor his attorney have commented.
According to Joshua Rhett Miller of the New York Post, the former batboy (who has not been named) also alleges that Vizquel had “targeted” him for sexual harassment because of his disability. The man also claims Vizquel told him in June 2019 that he was homosexual and telling him in the dugout, “I just want you to know that I’m gay” and “I like guys.”
In contrast, a writer for the TodayIn24 website who simply goes by the name Bonnie is not a Vizquel supporter but talked to two Birmingham players that season: “More jokes are made in clubhouses than anywhere else. And that’s why, since Vizquel doesn’t answer, I called two players who were from the Barons of 2019, the year of the indictment.
“One of them told me, 'Omar used to make up jokes of many kinds against all of us and we laughed a lot.' And the other: 'I remember that batboy, great boy. We all loved him very much, even Vizquel. And having his back washed has nothing to do with sex.“
In a statement, the White Sox said: "After first learning of an alleged incident in late August 2019, Chicago conducted an internal investigation that resulted in the termination of the organization's relationship with Vizquel. Because this is active litigation, at this time the White Sox will not comment further regarding the allegations included in this lawsuit.”
The 54-year-old Venezuelan had piloted the Barons to a 64-72 record his first year in Birmingham after leading Class A Winston-Salem to a 84-54 mark and the Carolina League playoff semifinals in 2018, earning Manager of the Year honors. Vizquel was hired to manage Tijuana for 2020 but the season was canceled due to the Wuhan virus. This year, he had the Toros in second place in the LMB North with a 32-22 when he was relieved of his duties on July 26.
Vizquel was accused last year by his wife, Blanca, of multiple cases of physical abuse. He was arrested once but was not charged. Vizquel has denied abusing his wife, who filed for divorce last year. Major League Baseball has acknowledged investigating his personal and professional conduct, although he has not been employed by an MLB organization since the White Sox fired him. The investigation remains open, according to a source.
Vizquel became eligible for election to the Hall of Fame in 2018 and was named on 37 percent of the BBWA ballots his first year. He rose to 42.8 percent and then 52.6 percent the following two years before dropping to 49.1 percent last winter a month after the domestic abuse allegations surfaced. He has six years' worth of balloting left before his election is handed over to the Veterans Committee.
BUFFALOES SIGN MEXICAN PITCHER VARGAS TO NPB CONTRACT
Cesar Vargas' excellent adventure in Japan continues. The pitcher from Puebla, who made seven MLB starts for San Diego in 2017, has reached an agreement with the Pacific League's first-place Orix Buffaloes, according to Nikkei Sports.
It's been an eventful year for the 29-year-old righty, who missed the 2020 Mexican League season after going 8-6 with a 4.34 ERA over 32 games (including 18 starts) for Monterrey in 2019. Vargas spent an eighth Mexican Pacific League season with Hermosillo last winter and was 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA in seven starts.
He began the current Liga season with Monterrey in May and went 1-0 and 2.70 in two starts before heading to Japan to pitch for the Ibaraki Astro Planets of the independent Baseball Challenge League. In eleven outings as a teammate of former LMB and LMP outfielder Dariel Alvarez and new Veracruz Aguilas pitcher Kodai Hamaya, Vargas went 5-2 with a 1.60 ERA. Alvarez was also recently picked up by the SoftBank Hawks and batted 0-for-4 in his first game for the defending Japan Series champions.
The 6'2” 237-pound Vargas also pitched for Mexico in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month, making scoreless appearances in losses to host Japan and Israel and retiring all four batters he faced (two on strikeouts).
Vargas was signed by the New York Yankees as a 17-year-old in 2009 and spent seven summers in the American League club's system, mostly as a reliever. He then spent 2016 and 2017 with the Padres organization, going 0-3 with a 5.03 ERA in seven starts for the parent club. After playing as a Nationals minor leaguer in 2018, Vargas moved back south of the border to play for Monterrey in 2019. During that time, he played eight winters for Hermosillo (including the last six in a row), going 14-9 with a 3.81 ERA for the Naranjeros in 114 appearances, 92 out them out of the bullpen.
With his initial outing for his new team, Vargas will become the first Mexican-born player to appear in NPB this season after Christian Villanueva played for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2020. Heading into the weekend, the Buffaloes (who split their home games between Kobe and Osaka) led the Pacific League with a 43-34 record plus 11 ties, a game-and-a-half ahead of the 42-36-11 Rakuten Golden Eagles.