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ORANGEMEN UP 2 GAMES WITH 5 GAMES LEFT
With only five games left over the final four days of the Mexican Pacific League season (including a slate full of Monday night doubleheaders), the Hermosillo Naranjeros continue to lead the second-half standings with a 19-8 record. Even if the Orangemen lose all five of their games against Los Mochis and Mexicali, they would finish no worse than tied for fourth place and have assured themselves a berth in next month's eight-team playoffs thanks in part to their ten first-half playoff points.
Right behind Hermosillo are another three teams who are near-locks for postseason action. Los Mochis (17-10), Obregon (15-12) and Guasave (14-13, tied for fourth with Mexicali) would've finished with 16 points apiece if the season had ended Christmas night while the Aguilas would've completed the regular season with 11 points. The rest of the table gets very interesting at that point as Mexicali would nudge out Navojoa (12-15) for fifth seed by a half-point while both Monterrey (12-15) and Mazatlan (11-6) would take the final two playoff berths with 10.0 points each over two halves.
That would leave a pair of surprises with their noses pressed against the glass while watching the other kids play inside. Defending champion Jalisco (11-16) is tied with Mazatlan and projects to a season total of 8.5 playoff points and a ninth-place seed. Culiacan (10-17) is last in both the second-half standings and in playoff points with just 7.0 overall. The Tomateros will almost have to sweep all five of their remaining games to have a shot at avoiding postseason contention as both teams from last winter's LMP Championship Series may end up missing the first round altogether, something almost unheard of even in the wild world of Mexican baseball.
In Monday's twinbills, Jalisco is at home in Guadalajara to play a pair against Mazatlan while Culiacan will welcome Obregon at Estadio Tomateros for a crucial doubleheader. Then the midweek series will put the Charros on the road in Obregon and the Tomateros occupying the visitors' dugout in Monterrey. The Yaquis, holders of a season record of 35-28 (third overall) are in the position to play kingbreakers in their five games against two teams desperate for wins.
In the battle for individual glory, Monterrey's Roberto Valenzuela (.358) is on his way to a first batting title with an 18-point lead over Fernando Villegas of Los Mochis (.340) while Los Mochis's Justin Dean (.335) is in third. Heading into the final week of the schedule, there's a three-way tie for the home tun crown as Jesse Castillo (Guasave), Anthony Giansanti (Mexicali) and Yasmany Tomas (Los Mochis) each have ten roundtrippers. Tomas has dropped out of contention for a rare triple crown but his 54 RBIs put him in the drive-in seat (pun intended) to win at least one title as Obregon teammates Victor Mendoza (48) and Yadir Drake (42) may be too far back to catch up. Hermosillo's Jose Cardona literally ran wild in Sunday night's 3-2 loss at Los Mochis by stealing four bases in four attempts against Caneros catcher Juan Uriarte to raise his season total to 25, three more than Randy Romero's 22 for Mazatlan. Dean (Los Mochis) and Nick Torres (Hermosillo) are tied for third with 15 swipes each.
Among pitchers, Luis Miranda's 1.07 ERA for Los Mochis make him a shoo-in to finish with the lowest number in that category, although Mazatlan's Braulio Torres-Perez' 1.49 gives him a puncher's chance if Miranda gets blown apart in his final start at Guasave later this week. Wilmer Rios of Hermosillo is third at 1.98. Rios leads the Mex Pac with eight wins, one more than teammate Elian Leyva and Mazatlan's Juan Tellez. The latter is a Rookie of the Year candidate despite pitching 14 games (including six starts) last winter for the Venados. Manny Barreda of Culiacan struck out nine Obregon batters in six innings on Christmas night to take over the LMP lead in K's with 71, ahead of Guasave's Matt Pobereyko (67) and Javier Solano's 60 for Jalisco. Elkin Alcala (Mazatlan) and Brandon Koch (Guasave) are tied at the top of the table with 18 saves apiece, ahead of the 13 of Joe Riley (Monterrey) and Jake Sanchez (Mexicali).
After the regular season ends on Thursday night, all four first round playoff series will get underway next Sunday. All best-of-seven postseason series will use the classic 2-3-2 format with travel days following Games Two and Five (if needed)
FANS TO HELP PICK MEX PAC AWARD WINNERS
The Mexican Pacific League is going to allow fans to cast online ballots and help determine five postseason award winners for the 2022-23 season. The special ballots will augment selections made by members of the press covering the LMP's ten teams.
Each category will have an average of 5 participants to win their respective prize and online voting is open until Friday, December 30. The following nominees include player statistics through December 22:
MANAGER OF THE YEAR (BENJAMÍN "CANANEA" REYES TROPHY)
José Moreno, Los Mochis: 36 wins, 26 losses
Juan Gabriel Castro, Hermosillo: 40 wins, 22 losses
Luis Carlos Rivera, Obregon: 28 wins, 17 losses (Rivera took over on October 30)
Oscar Robles, Guasave: 34 wins, 28 losses
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (BALDOMERO "MELO" ALMADA TROPHY)
Fernando Villegas, Jalisco: .342 AVG./ 5 HR/ 30 RBI/ .931 OPS (Hitting .420 with RISP).
Luis Márquez, Hermosillo: 31 G/33.0 IP/1-1 W-L/0.82 ERA/39 K/0.76 WHIP/16 HLD.
Faustino Carrera, Obregon: 12 G/59.1 IP/6-5 W-L/3.75 ERA/39 K/1.23 WHIP.
José Carlos Medina, Obregon: 23 G/ 31.2 IP/3-0 W-L/1.99 ERA/18 K/1.20 WHIP/1 HLD.
Juan Pablo Tellez, Mazatlan: 12 G/57.2 IP/7-4 W-L/2.81 ERA/39 K/1.21 WHIP.
RELIEVER OF THE YEAR (ISIDRO MÁRQUEZ TROPHY)
Elkin Alcalá, Mazatlan: 31 G/31.0 IP/1-1 W-L/1.45 ERA/29 K/1.06 WHIP/18-20 SV-SVO.
Luis Márquez, Hermosllo: 31 G/33.0 IP/1-1 W-L/0.82 ERA/39 K/0.76 WHIP/16 HLD.
Jake Sánchez, Mexicali: 19 G/18.2 IP/0-0 W-L/1.45 ERA/26 K/0.75 WHIP/13-14 SV-SVO.
Brandon Koch, Guasave: 35 G/32.2 IP/4-2 W-L/1.72 ERA/39 K/1.17 WHIP/17-19 SV-SVO.
Samuel Zazueta, Obregon: 30 G/35.1 IP/3-2 W-L/2.04 ERA/35 K/0.99 WHIP/11-12 SV-SVO.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR (VICENTE ROMO TROPHY)
Luis Miranda, Los Mochis: 11 G/61.2 IP/5-1 W-L/1.02 ERA/54 K/0.84 WHIP.
Matt Pobereyko, Guasave: 12 G/65.1 IP/6-2 W-L/2.07 ERA/67 K/1.03 WHIP.
Wilmer Ríos, Hermosillo: 12 G/77.1 IP/8-2 W-L/1.98 ERA/44 K/0.93 WHIP.
Geno Encina, Guasave: 12 G/72.1 IP/3-4 W-L/2.61 ERA/56 K/1.01 WHIP.
Eduardo Vera, Mexicali: 12 G/61.1 IP/4-2 W-L/2.20 ERA/38 K/0.93 WHIP.
Braulio Torres-Pérez, Mazatlan: 11 G/47.1 IP/3-1 W-L/1.33 ERA/41 K/ 0.99 WHIP.
Elián Leyva, Hermosillo: 9 G/47.2 IP/7-2 W-L/1.70 ERA/52 K/1.24 WHIP.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER (HÉCTOR ESPINO TROPHY)
Yasmany Tomás Los Mochis: .325 AVG./10 HR/53 RBI/.888 OPS.
Roberto Valenzuela, Monterrey: .355 AVG./6 HR/27 RBI/.988 OPS.
Justin Dean, Los Mochis: .335 AVG./2 HR/31 RBI/.883 OPS.
Victor Mendoza, Obregon: .282 AVG./7 HR/48 RBI/.808 OPS.
Luis Miranda Los Mochis): 61.2 IP/5-1 W-L/1.02 ERA/54 K/0.84 WHIP (36.1 shutouts to start season).
Wilmer Ríos Hermosillo: 77.1 IP/8-2 W-L/1.98 ERA/44 K/0.93 WHIP.
To cast a ballot for awards, go to https://votaciones.lmp.mx/los-mas-valiosos/aficion
DURANGO PICKS ROBLES AS MANAGER IN 2023
The Durango Generales have tabbed former major league infielder Oscar Robles as their manager for the 2023 Mexican League season. The Generales named Robles to replace Alvaro Espinoza at the helm after Durango finished eighth in the nine-team North Division last season with a 37-53 record while coming in dead last in the LMB attendance derby, as just 70,771 fans clicked the turnstiles for an average of 1,573 per opening.
A 46-year-old Tijuana native, Robles broke into baseball in 2004 after signing a free agent contract with Houston. He spent five years in the Astros' system, peaking in 1997 with Class AAA New Orleans of the American Association, where he batted 1-for-3 in two games, but spent the vast majority of his time at the Class A level. Robles then played for the LMB Mexico City Diablos Rojos between 2000 and 2005 and topped the .300 mark five times in six seasons before the team sold him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He spent the majority of the 2005 season as a starter in LA, batting .272 in 110 games splitting time between shortstop and third base. He bounced between the minors and the Dodgers and later San Diego the next three years before returning to Mexico for good in 2009 and playing in both the Liga and Mexican Pacific Leagues until his retirement as a player in 2017 as a member of Tijuana's pennant-winning team. In 15 truncated seasons in the LMB, mostly with the Diablos, Robles batted .332 with 238 doubles and 64 homers over 1,180 games. His 12-year winterball totals (primarily with Mexicali) show a .284 average with 50 homers in 709 games as he appeared in six Caribbean Series between 2009 and 2015.
Robles' managerial career has had its ups and downs, hardly uncommon in Mexico. He did well in Tijuana between 2018 and 2019, going 110-66 and finishing second twice in the LMB North, but a division championship playoff series loss in seven games to eventual champion Monclova sealed his fate with the demanding Uribe family which owns the Toros. Robles later managed Quintana Roo in 2021 (32-33 and a wild card playoff series loss to the rival Diablos Rojos) and began last season managing in Union Laguna, where a 9-20 start was enough for the Algodoneros front office to make a change at the helm, accompanied by the usual platitudes on his way out. Five days later he was hired to manage Oaxaca for the rest of the season but was not invited back. Now it's on to Durango, one of the perennial LMB have-nots where Robles will have his work cut out for him at Estadio Francisco Villa.
The Generales had no problem hitting the ball in 2022, turning in a scorching .341 team average to lead the Liga (including a pair of .400 hitters in Alberth Martinez' .416 mark and Alfredo Lopez at .404 mark), but Durango's pitching was awful at best as the mound staff combined for a 7.83 ERA as only Nico Tellache (6-3/5.65 in 15 starts) earned more than four wins for the season. Only Leon at 8.62 allowed more runs in 2022. When your team averages 6.8 runs per game and still finishes 25 games out of first in a 90-game schedule, your problems are not at the plate. Durango also finished next-to-last in the 18-team curcuit in fielding percentage while their collective 95 errors were the second-most in the loop (Leon committed 109 onfield gaffes).
Currently, Robles is managing the Guasave Algodoneros in the Mexican Pacific League, where he has the team at 34-28 overall and in a solid position for a postseason berth when the LMP playoffs begin in January.
FROM MEXICO, VISIT