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Monday, 23 August 2021
TJ, YUCATAN WIN SECOND ROUND SETS, BERTHS IN DIVISION FINALS
Two of the Mexican League's four Division Semifinal playoff series are in the books and two of the eight participating teams have punched their tickets to their respective Division Championship Series, which will commence later this week.
Tijuana knocked defending champion Monclova out of a chance for a repeat by defeating the Acereros in five games in their LMB North series while Yucatan eliminated a plucky Tabasco club in the LMB South, also in five games. Aguascalientes and Veracruz stayed alive in their respective series with wins Sunday. After Monday's travel day, Game Sixes will be played Tuesday night in Guadalajara and Mexico City with deciding Game Sevens (if needed) slated for both cities.
Here's a recap of all Division Semis games through the weekend:
TIJUANA defeats MONCLOVA, 4 games to 1
Tijuana opened their LMB North semifinal series by doubling up on Monclova, 10-5, last Tuesday at home. Gabriel Gutierrez stroked a two-run homer off Acereros starter Hector Velazquez to key a five-run Toros first inning as Joe van Meter took the win by pitching six innings of two-run ball. TJ followed up with a 4-3 Wednesday triumph with Gutierrez' two-run single in a three-run Toros sixth overcame a 3-1 deficit. Fernando Rodney earned the save b striking out three Steelers batsmen in the ninth.
The series then shifted to Monclova for the next three games, starting with a 5-4 Toros victory on Friday night. Addison Russell belted two homers for the defending champs but it was Isaac Rodriguez' run on a Leandro Castro sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth that provided the deciding run. Rodney tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn another save, striking out Russell swinging to end the game. The Acereros staved off elimination Saturday by topping the Toros, 5-3, with Chris Carter's two-two homer and Russell's single, triple and two RBIs providing Monclova starter Wilmer Rios (5.1IP, 3R) with enough support for the win.
Tijuana closed out the series Sunday with a 10-3 win that was actually closer than the score indicates as Monclova held a 3-1 lead through six innings before the Toros scored nine times the rest of the game to pull away. Rodriguez had three hits with a run and RBI for the winners while Gutierrez went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Carter and Ricky Rodriguez homered for the Acereros.
GUADALAJARA leads AGUASCALIENTES, 3 games to 2
LMB North top seed Guadalajara took another step toward in the Division Championship Series by opening their series with a 14-7 home win over Aguascalientes last Tuesday. The Mariachis collected 20 hits off Rieleros pitching and scored in seven straight innings as Niko Vasquez went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and five RBIs on the night while Jesse Castillo was 4-for-4 with a roundtripper. The hit parade continued Wednesday in Guadalajara's 8-7 win as all nine Mariachis batters had at least one safety, but it took an Anthony Garcia double and a walkoff RBI single by Issmael Salas in the ninth to secure the victory. Garcia had belted a two-run homer in the second for the Jalisco squad.
Aguascalientes hosted the next three games over the weekend, including a 9-6 Guadalajara win on Friday night. Salas and Adrian Gonzalez went deep for the winners but Luis Sardinas' leadoff longball in the top of the seventh proved the game-winner by breaking a 6-6 tie. Michael Wing and Francisco Cordoba both homered for the Railroaders, who delayed being knocked out in four straight games by holding off Guadalajara, 9-7, on Saturday. Henry Rodriguez singled, doubled and drove in two runs for victors while Aldo Florez socked a two-run homer to counteract Gonzalez' game for the Mariachis as El Titan was 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. The Rieleros won their second game in a row Sunday, scoring six times in the bottom of the first and holding on for a 9-6 victory. Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth, but it was Felix' three-run double that was the key hit in that big first frame.
YUCATAN defeats TABASCO, 4 games to 1
After defeating Veracruz in the first round, Tabasco has found things tougher against Yucatan in their Division Semifinal set. The Olmecas got off to a good start at home last Tuesday with a 7-6 win in ten innings. Pinch-hitter Rudy Amador singled in Ronnier Mustelier with the walkoff game-winner as Mustelier finished the contest with three hits. Alex Liddi rapped a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to knot the game up at 6-6. The Leones roared back on Wednesday with a 3-0 shutout. Yoanner Negrin tossed seven frames of three-hit ball and Josh Lueke nailed down the save as Walker Ibarra singled, doubled and scored twice for Yucatan.
The Leones took the series lead after the set moved to Merida, beginning with a 4-2 win over 12 innings on Friday. Luis Juarez' two-run walkoff homer was the deciding blow off Nicolas Heredia in a game that saw 13 pitching changes for the two team and lasted seven minutes shy of five hours. Yucatan won their third straight on Saturday, 5-1, with a strong outing by starter Jake Thompson. The former Phillies hurler gave up one run on five hits in six innings, striking out seven Tabasco hitters and walking none. Humberto Sosa's three-run bomb of Ignacio Merrujo broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth.
Yucatan clinched the series with a 3-0 shutout on Sunday. Casey Harman held the Olmecas scoreless through the first seven frames while Lueke picked up another save. Jorge Flores had a pair of hits and drove in a run for the Lions, but the story of the game (and series was) Yucatan's pitching, which allowed just runs over four games after allowing seven in the opener.
MEXICO CITY leads VERACRUZ, 3 games to 1
Mexico City is seeking their first LMB pennant since 2014 (and the 17th flag in their 82-year history) and they're looking like a good bet to at least reach the Serie del Rey under manager Miguel Ojeda, who was the helmsman for their most recent title team. After finishing first in the LMB South during the regular season and knocking off Quintana Roo in the opening playoff round, the Diablos dispatched lucky loser Veracruz in the first three games of their series. The Red Devils opened the set at home last Tuesday with a 9-3 win behind Jon Singleton's three-run homer and a 3-for-3 night from Carlos Figueroa. Singleton had a game to tell his grandchildren about during Wednesday's 14-9 victory over the Aguilas, belting two homers and a double to drive in five runs and score five times. Paolo Orlando homered for Veracruz while Yasiel Puig had three hits and three RBIs.
A Friday rainout in Veracruz delayed Game Three until Saturday, when Mexico City blanked the Aguilas, 2-0. Luis Rodriguez (6 innings) combined with three relievers on a six-hitter as Roberto Osuna notched the save. The Diablos opened the scoring in the top of the second when Emmanuel Avila scored from third on a Figueroa fielder's choice grounder and made it 2-0 in the fifth when Jesus Fabela motored in on a Kodai Hamaya wild pitch. Veracruz avoided being swept Sunday by being on the positive end of a 2-0 shutout when Ryan Verdugo (who'd been roughed up in Wednesday's loss) delivered seven entradas of one-hit pitching, the lone Diablos safety off the one-time Royals hurler being a first-inning single by Omar Meza. Alexei Amarista's two-run double contributed to a three-run frame against reliever Sasagi Sanchez that broke open a scoreless tilt after Arturo Lopez had pitched six shutout innings for the Diablos.
MEXICAN LEAGUE ATTENDANCE DIPS FROM 2019 TOTALS
Overall attendance in the Mexican League unsurprisingly nosedived in 2021 from the loop's last season in 2019 after the LMB played a shortened schedule this year. After drawing a total of 4,618,162 aficionados through the gates over 945 openings two years ago, the Liga's 18 teams (including two expansion franchises) witnessed 1,446,929 turnstile clicks this summer over 581 openings. That reflects a decline of 3,172,233 (or 68.7 percent) at the gate.
On the one hand, the drop-off was expected after the circuit opened play late in May and scheduled only 66 games per team after playing a 120-game schedule. Of greater concern, however, is the steep decline in average attendance at LMB games. After averaging 4,886 spectators in 2019, according to figures posted on both the Baseball-Reference and Stats Crew websites, Liga teams averaged just 2,490 ticket-buyers per contest this year (a drop of 2,396 per game, or 49 percent).
To be fair, the Wuhan virus has created economic chaos across Mexico as well as levels of safety protocols that vary from city to city among the LMB's 18 teams. Regardless of the causes of decline, however, there's no denying that attendance averages of fewer than 1,000 per game in Durango, Oaxaca and Campeche are cause for alarm while five more franchises drew fewer than 2,000 and eleven clubs in all were below 3,000 per game.
Those would not be sustainable numbers for a AAA league north of the border and those teams have players whose salaries are subsidized by their Major League Baseball parent clubs. In both of Mexico's professional leagues, all expenses are the responsibility of each individual team and while the winter Mexican Pacific League has historically outdrawn every minor league in North America by a fairly wide margin, the LMB has always had a majority of teams that annually struggle to make ends meet. State subsidies have subsidized a number of Liga teams over the years, but it's hard to imagine the Campeche Piratas being given enough taxpayer pesos to cover shortfalls after drawing only 755 fans per game to Estadio Nelson Barrrera.
The Tijuana Toros led the Mexican League with 196,471 fans over 33 home games for an average of 5,954, well ahead of second-place Monterrey, who pulled in 4,657 per game for a total of 149,011 despite missing the playoffs. In all, seven teams averaged over 3,000 per game.
2021 MEXICAN LEAGUE ATTENDANCE TOTALS (AVERAGES)
Tijuana 196,471 (5,954), Monterrey 149,011 (4,657), Mexico City 111,188 (3,369), Yucatan 109,895 (3,330), Monclova 109,447 (3,316), Saltillo 108,913 (3,300), Union Laguna 107,319 (3,252), Dos Laredos 85,437 (2,589), Leon 70,869 (2,148), Veracruz 65,900 (1,997), Guadalajara 61,652 (1,868), Puebla 58,175 (2,006), Quintana Roo 53,146 (1,661), Tabasco 51,189 (1,551), Aguascalientes 29,860 (1,066), Durango 27,587 (836), Oaxaca 27,451 (858), Campeche 2,413 (755). TOTAL: 1,446,929 (2,490)
SULTANES TRADE WING TO OBREGON IN MEXPAC DEAL
As the Mexican League enters the final weeks of its 2021 season, Mexican Pacific League teams have been making deals in preparation for their upcoming 2021-22 schedule. One of the most notable player swaps of the past month saw the Monterrey Sultanes send third baseman Michael Wing to Obregon for right-handed pitcher Nathanael Santiago and infield prospect Juan Mora.
After playing in the Angels and Padres organizations between 2007 and 2012, the 31-year-old Wing spent four years of independent ball in both the Frontier League and American Association before coming south of the border in 2017 to play with Aguascalientes of the Mexican League. The Pasadena, California native has never hit below .341 for the Rieleros since, belting 60 homers and driving in 255 runs over 267 LMB contests (including a .345 mark with nine homers and 44 ribbies over 50 games this summer).
Wing has also played three seasons in the LMP, batting .266 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in 133 games for Los Mochis, Monterrey and Culiacan (for whom he hit .305 with eight homers in 44 games after being loaned by the Sultanes last winter). In 14 seasons at all levels of minor league ball, Wing has a .296 career average with 133 homers and 676 RBIs over 1,046 games.
Santiago comes to Monterrey on the heels of a 1-0 season with Obregon last winter as a situational reliever, turning in a 3.09 ERA over 11.2 innings in 12 games for the Yaquis. The 31-year-old broke into minor league ball as a 25-year-old spending the 2015 in the Giants organization before debuting with Mexico City of the Mexican League in 2016. In four seasons with the Diablos, Santiago has gone 8-6 with 36 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 149 games. In five winters in the LMP (the last four in Obregon), he has a 5-6 record and a 2.89 ERA in 89 appearances, mostly as a middleman.
The 21-year-old Mora plays second and third base in the Chicago Cubs system and is currently wearing pitchers out in the rookie Arizona Complex League, batting .395 with a homer and five stolen bases over 18 games for the Cubs' Rookie-level team after spending 2018 and 2019 with Chicago's Dominican Summer League squad. Mora hit .136 for Obregon in nine games last winter.