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CANEROS WIN 2ND HALF; LMP PLAYOFFS OPEN TUESDAY
The Mexican Pacific League's 2018-19 regular season came to an end Sunday and while the second-half standings were tight at the top, Los Mochis won at Mexicali, 8-3, on the final day to hold off both Obregon and Hermosillo by a game to finish in first place and pick up the eight playoff points that go with the first slot, giving them an overall total of 11 points. Culiacan, Mazatlan and Jalisco have also qualified for the postseason as all six teams will open first round play Tuesday night.
The Caneros scored six runs in Sunday's first inning and cruised to victory as manager Victor Bojorquez' squad completed a remarkable turnaround after coming in last in the first round with a 15-20 record. Los Mochis stumbled out the second-half gate under dugout boss Ramon Orantes, who was fired with the club at 3-6. Bojorquez is currently the Mexico City Diablos Rojos helmsman who has managed pennant winners in both the Northern Mexico and Mexican Winter leagues. He reversed the Caneros' fortunes and led them to an 18-6 mark the rest of the way and bypassed Hermosillo at the top over the final week of the schedule. Los Mochis will be looking for their first MexPac pennant since 2002-03 (and fourth overall since the team began playing in 1947) and while playoffs are by nature unpredictable, the Caneros are the hottest team in the circuit right now and the reinforcement draft addition of Jaime Lugo and Josh Outman will make a good pitching staff even better.
Defending champion Culiacan won the first-half title by going 21-14 and while the Tomateros finished fifth in the second stanza at 17-16, the 4.5 points they earned gives them 12.5 points overall for the top playoff seeding. Obregon and Hermosillo were tied for second with 12.0 points but the Yaquis earned the nod for second seed by posting a 37-29 record for the entire season, best in the LMP, while the Naranjeros clocked in at 37-31. Los Mochis tied Mazatlan with 11.0 points but the Caneros' 36-32 season record was two games better than the Venados, good enough to give them the fourth playoff seed while Mazatlan (who stumbled after manager Joe Alvarez left the team in first place early in the second half and was replaced at the helm by Juan Jose Pacho) takes the fifth. Jalisco had an unremarkable season in going 32-35 overall and finishing with 8.5 points, but that was good enough to earn the Charros the sixth and final playoff seed by a point over Navojoa and Mexicali. The Mayos will miss the postseason after reaching the finals last winter while the Aguilas, just two years removed from winning their fourth pennant, had the worst record in the MexPac 26-40 and never really showed signs of life over the course of the season. Mexicali went through three managers over the eleven-week season (Felix Fermin currently holds that title) and one can expect major changes with the border team during the offseason.
The first round will open with three games Tuesday as Jalisco visits Culiacan, Mazatlan travels to Obregon and Los Mochis will play in Hermosillo. Game Two will feature those matchups and venues Wednesday before a Thursday travel day precedes weekend action in Guadalajara, Mazatlan and Los Mochis. As usual, the three series winners will move on to the semifinals along with the "lucky loser" team that wins the most first-round games in a losing effort.
LEYVA WINS PITCHING TRIPLE CROWN; PEGUERO COPS BATTING TITLE
He had to toss one inning on the regular season's final day and record a strikeout to do it, but Jalisco's Elian Leyva earned the Mexican Pacific League's pitching triple crown by either leading or tying for the lead in wins, strikeouts and ERA while registering the lowest WHIP in the circuit to boot. But it didn't come easily.
The Cuban-born righty was held out to rest for the playoffs following a masterful December 22 performance in Culiacan (6.1IP, 1H, 0R, 10K), but after Mexicali's David Reyes struck out seven Obregon batters last Thursday to pass Leyva in whiffs, 67 to 66, Charros manager Roberto Vizcarra sent Leyva out to the mound against Mazatlan Sunday in Guadalajara. Leyva struck out Venados leadoff hitter Justin Greene, whose two-strike foul tip was Jalisco's veteran catcher Erick Rodriguez to complete the K and match Reyes' total. Leyva labored through the rest of the scoreless frame, throwing just nine strikes in 19 pitches, and was taken out of a game eventually won by Mazatlan, 3-1, but the 11,805 fans in the Estadio Charros stands still witnessed MexPac history.
Besides tying Reyes for the LMP strikeouts title, Leyva (who has been a reliever in seven previous Cuban National Series seasons and last summer in the Atlanta Braves system) had a 6-2 record to tie four other pitchers for the league lead in wins. Los Mochis had two of them, Andres Avila and Jonathan Castellanos, while Hermosillo's Dennis O'Grady and Konner Wade of Mazatlan also recorded six wins. The 29-year-old Leyva completed the Triple Crown by turning in a 2.02 ERA, well ahead of Culiacan's Manny Barreda (2.65), while his WHIP of 1.08 led in that category. The Havana native also topped the loop with 14 games started, tying Javier Solano of Mexicali. About the only positive pitching stat Leyva didn't lead in was saves, where third-generation MLB pitcher Casey Coleman picked up 22 salvados for Hermosillo to break Jose Silva's old team record of 21. Navojoa setup man Jose Isidro Marquez, son of the Mexican League's all-time saves leader Isidro Marquez, led the LMP with 15 holds.
Among batters, Hermosillo third baseman Jasson Atondo underwent a late-season cooldown during which he hit just .231 over his last ten games to just miss winning the batting title with a .351 average as teammate Francisco Peguero went 2-for-3 against Navojoa Sunday to sneak past Atondo for the batting title by finishing at .352. Peguero, who was the Mexican League’s Fall MVP, will play in Japan in 2019. Although the 23-year-old Atondo has been a reserve infielder for four years with the LMB's Campeche Piratas, he had never made more than 53 plate appearances in any of three previous winters with the Naranjeros, technically making him a rookie in the MexPac. Jalisco infielder Dariel Alvarez (a former Baltimore Oriole) hit four homers in a six-game stretch for the Charros to tie Navojoa's Jovan Rosa for the LMP longball title. Alvarez also led with a .571 slugging percentage. Yet another Charros player, Manny Rodriguez, was tops in RBIs with 52 in 66 games. Rodriguez and Atondo tied for the league lead with 80 hits apiece. Navojoa's Alonzo Harris led with 51 runs scored and swiped six bases in a nine-game stretch between December 19 and 28 to pull away with the steals title at 28, well ahead of the 20 by Culiacan outfielder Rico Noel.
Other offensive leaders included Mazatlan's Alex Liddi with 18 doubles while Venados teammate Edson Garcia whad four triples. Ramon Urias of Los Mochis led the tables with both a .432 on-base percentage and a .962 OPS percentage.
ROSA TAKEN FIRST BY CULIACAN IN REINFORCEMENT DRAFT
Third baseman Jovan Rosa was the first player selected in the Mexican Pacific League reinforcement draft Sunday when the defending champion Culiacan Tomateros picked the LMP home run co-champion from the Navojoa Mayos, who were joined by the Mexicali Aguilas on the sidelines for January's playoffs. Traditionally, teams still alive in the MexPac postseason choose two players from clubs who've been eliminated from contention after every playoff round.
The first three players taken Sunday were all plucked from the Mayos rosters. Pitcher Jaime Lugo was the second selection by the Los Mochis Caneros while outfielder Alonzo Harris (the LMP runs and stolen bases leader) was taken by the Jalisco Charros with the third pick. Two Mexicali players went next as relief pitcher Jake Sanchez went to the Hermosillo Naranjeros and second baseman Ramon Rios was selected by the Mazatlan Venados. Navojoa first baseman Victor Mendoza's name was called by the Obregon Yaquis to round out the first round.
The Yaquis had the first pick of the second round as teams made their selections in reverse order, and Obregon took their second Mayos performer by calling for closer Jesus Pirela. Mazatlan had the second pick of Round Two and took Mexicali outfielder Chris Roberson. Aguilas middle reliever Michael Devine went to Hermosillo with the next selection, Mexicali catcher Xorge Carrillo was taken next by Jalisco, Los Mochis chose Navojoa pitcher Josh Outman and Culiacan rounded out the draft by selecting Mexicali starter David Reyes.
Two more reinforcement drafts will take place after the six-team first round and following the semifinals. The LMP champion will have their pick of any player from the other seven teams to join them for the Caribbean Series, scheduled to take place in early February at Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
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