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Monday, January 23, 2023
LOS MOCHIS TAKES 2-TO-0 LEAD OVER GUASAVE IN LMP TITLE SET
The Los Mochis Caneros continued their surprising quest for a Mexican Pacific League pennant with a pair of weekend home wins over Guasave heading into three scheduled midweek games at the Algodoneros' Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon. The Caneros finished last in the LMP playoff points race in 2020-21 and 2021-22 prior to this winter, where they stand poised to win just their fourth title since their 1947 formation and first since the 2002-03 season. For their part, Guasave seeks the second pennant of that city's existence as an LMP franchise site beginning in 1965 (their first came in 1971-72).
Saturday's Game One was a 9-6 slugfest during which the Caneros broke open a 1-1 contest with six runs in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by a three-run homer by DH Juan Uriarte off Guasave starter Nico Tellache, who'd pitched one-run ball through three frames but did not survive the Los Mochis onslaught in the fourth. Tellache absorbed both the beatdown AND the loss, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks in 3.1 entradas, striking out four.
Manny Barreda only fared slightly better as the Caneros opener, tossing four innings of one-run ball himself (the one run coming on an Esteban Quiroz solo homer in the second) before being chased during a four-run Algodoneros fifth that saw Sebastian Elizalde take him deep for another three-run bomb on what proved to be the last pitch the veteran lefty would throw. Fabian Cota came in and registered the third out. The Caneros scored twice more in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 9-4 lead that was never threatened. Uriarte finished with a 3-for-4 night for four RBIs and two runs scored. Elizalde went 3-for-5 for the Cottoneers in a losing cause as Cota's one inning of relief work was enough to be awarded the win.
Things were a little tighter for Sunday's Game Two as the Caneros scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 walkoff win over the visitors. Longballs factored in this one, starting with Joey Terdoslavich's line-drive roundtripper off Caneros starter Nick Struck in the top of the second to give Guasave a 1-0 lead. It would prove to be the only run Struck allowed in four innings and when he left after six inning, the game was tied at 1-1 thanks to a run-scoring Uriarte single in the bottom of the fourth that knotted the score. That was the only run Guasave starter Jeff Kinley gave up in seven innings as the former Marlins minor leaguer continued to show his move out of the bullpen after ten years as a reliever is working.
The score remained at 1-1 until the top of the ninth, when the Algodoneros nudged ahead on an Alejandro Ortiz double off Carlos Vazquez scored Juan Carlos Gamboa from second. However, fate proved a cruel mistress to Guasave closer Brandon Koch, whose third pitch to leadoff batter Roberto Valenzuela was redirected over the wall in left-center for a homer that brought the Caneros back even at 2-2. Then, with two down and a 1-0 count on Rudy Amador, the veteran third sacker smoked a Koch offering for a line-drive circuit clout to left that ended the game and sent a second straight sellout crowd of 11,662 at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada home with smiles on their faces.
Game Three is slated for Tuesday night at 8:30PM local time. Pitcher of the Year Luis Miranda will open on the mound for Los Mochis while Guasave will send Geno Encina to the hill. Miranda is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four playoff starts for the Caneros while Encina has won one of three starts with a 3.60 ERA for the Algodoneros.
The two teams reached the LMP title series with respective Game Six wins last Wednesday. Los Mochis topped Obregon, 5-2 at home behind the solid pitching of Miranda, who allowed one run on one hit with six strikeouts over six innings. The Yaquis opened the scoring in the top of the third when Dariel Alvarez launched a solo homer off Miranda, but the Caneros fought back to take the lead with a three-run fifth during which Wagner Lagrange singled in Uriarte with the go-ahead run and later scored on Isaac Rodriguez' safety.
Obregon scored a single tally in the seventh when Yadir Drake scored from second on a Victor Mendoza one-bagger but Los Mochis put the contest away one inning later when reinforcement Valenzuela, the LMP batting leader, belted a two-run homer. Miranda got the win for the Caneros while Braulio Torres-Perez took the loss after letting in three runs over five innings.
Strong pitching made all the difference in Wednesday's other Game Six, this time a 2-0 Guasave shutout in Hermosillo that closed out that series, 4 games to 2. Mex Pac strikeouts champion Matt Pobereyko tossed seven beautiful innings, allowing just two hits and no walks with five strikeouts to take the win home for the Algodoneros, who qualified for their first LMP championship series since 2011-12.
Jesse Castillo socked a two-run homer to center in the top of the seventh off Hermosillo starter Elian Leyva as the Cottoneers pitching staff held the potent Naranjeros scoreless over the final 18 innings of the series. Leyva, a two-time Pitcher of the Year, absorbed the loss despite a strong start himself in which he took a shutout of his own into the seventh before Castillo broke the scoreless tie.
At the conclusion of the Guasave-Hermosillo series, Naranjeros pitcher Wilmer Rios (who led the Mex Pac with nine wins) was removed from the reinforcement draft pool by signing a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Rios' Mexican League rights remain with the Monclova Acereros, for whom his nine wins last summer were tied for the LMB lead with Veracruz' Luis Marquez.
In the subsequent third installment of the reinforcement draft, the Caneros picked first after some arcane proceedings and selected Obregon pitcher Manny Barreda, who himself had been picked by the Yaquis from Culiacan in the first reinforcement draft. Barreda had gone 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in four starts for Obregon. In the second round, Los Mochis picked another Obregon starting pitcher in Torres-Perez, who we mistakenly identified as Brazilian last week. Torres-Perez, who pitched for Mazatlan during the regular season, actually hails from the tropical paradise of Auburn, Washington.
Choosing second, Guasave fortified their infield by choosing Obregon's Juan Carlos Gamboa in the first round and Jasson Atondo from Hermosillo in the second. Neither have distinguished themselves during the current postseason (Atondo was batting just .216 at the conclusion of the semifinals while Gamboa's average was only .146), but Gamboa is a former Mets farmhand who was MVP of the 2014 Serie del Rey in Mexico City's last Mexican League title-winning season while Atondo is a former Mex Pac Rookie of the Year who can play several positions.
CANEROS' YASMANY TOMAS NAMED MEX PAC MVP
After two consecutive last-place finishes in the playoff points standings, the Los Mochis Caneros are the surprise team in this winter's Mexican Pacific League championship series after finishing second in both the regular season combined standings and points race. One of the prime movers for that turnaround is Cuban-born outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who has been named the LMP's Most Valuable Player for 2022-23.
Tomas finished tied for the league lead with 10 homers while topping the tables with 57 RBIs. He also hit for a .328 average (4th), a .383 OBP (6th), a .510 slugging percentage (3rd), an .893 OPS (4th) and 27 extra-base hits (2nd). That regular season plate success hasn't yet carried over into the playoffs, where Tomas was batting .245 with just one homer and five ribbies over 13 games through Sunday, but Los Mochis wouldn't be where they are today without him.
Nicknamed “El Tanque,” the 32-year-old Havana native spent five winters playing for his hometown Industriales between 2008 and 2014 in the Cuban National Series, batting a composite .290 with 39 homers and 151 RBIs over 272 games. He defected to Haiti after the 2013-14 season and after some legal maneuvering, the 6'2” 260-pounder was able to audition in the Dominican Republic for various MLB teams and eventually signed with Arizona to a six-year, $68.5 million contract. He made his MLB debut in 2015 and one year later clubbed 31 homers for the Diamondbacks, although he had the dubious distinction of finished in the National League's top five in errors committed by both left fielders and right fielders that year.
Tomas appeared on his way to stardom but injuries in 2017 and a 2018 incident that resulted in speeding and reckless driving charges after he was clocked driving 105 mph in Tempe, Arizona led to a demotion to the minor and his eventual release in late 2019 despite two strong years for AAA Reno. He had only played 26 games for AAA Rochester in 2021 since prior to his arrival in Los Mochis last fall.
Now primarily a first baseman, Tomas becomes the seventh player from the Caneros to win the Héctor Espino Trophy and the first since Brian Burgamy in the 2013-14 season. The ballot vote that prioritized members of all ten LMP team front offices, the specialized media and the fans gave 45 percent of the votes to Tomas so it wasn't really close among the six candidates to choose from.
Other finalists included Monterrey's batting champion Roberto Valenzuela (21 percent), Hermosillo pitcher Wilmer Rios (16 percent), Caneros outfielder Justin Dean (11 percent), Obregon first baseman/DH Victor Mendoza (5 percent) and Los Mochis pitcher Luis Miranda (2 percent). While Miranda edged out Rios for Pitcher of the Year honors in the balloting for that award, Rios led Miranda by an 8-to-1 margin in MVP voting.
SULTANES TO REOPEN BASEBALL ACADEMY
After three years of inactivity, the former Mexican League Baseball Academy in El Carmen, Nuevo Leon will come back to life in 2023 with the support of the Monterrey Sultanes. Team's president Jose Maiz García made the anouncement, according to Septima Entrada writer Tomas Lopez. Interviewed on the Bateo Libre radio program, Maiz stated that an agreement has been reached with the Mexican League to once again develop players at the facilities.
“Monterrey is going to continue training Mexican baseball players,” Maiz declared, “especially now that no other team in the league wanted to participate in El Carmen. Possibly we are just going to participate. It has already been arranged with the league. The other 17 teams did not want to take part in the El Carmen Academy. The Sultanes have already sent people to see the facilities and in about two or three months we will be working in El Carmen. Sultanes only.”
Maiz, a member of Monterrey's Little League World Series champions along with future big league shortstop Hector Torres and Mexican League star Angel Macias, added that it may be called Academia Cerro de la Silla or Academy Cerro de Las Mitras.
The academy was inaugurated in 1996 as the brainchild of then-LMB president Pedro Treto Cisneros, Mexico City Tigres owner Alejo Peralta and Mexico City Diablos Rojos president Roberto Mansur to develop prospects for future play in the Mexican League. In more than two decades of operation, thousands of young players called the dormitories home as such future MLB players as relievers Roberto Osuna and Joakim Soria plus infielder Ramiro Pena cut their teeth on the diamonds in El Carmen, as did eventual LMBers like shortstop Heber Gomez and first baseman Japhet Amador.
The academy's expenses (which included housing, dining and education in addition to baseball development) were shared for years by all Liga teams at approximately US$500,000 each. LMB organizations would send teenage signees for some seasoning before bringing them up to the LMB if they were good enough, although the contracts of many were sold to Major League organizations while they were still at the facility.
However, as many teams were struggling to pay the bills at home while others began building academies of their own (especially after MLB determined that teams cannot sell players to its organizations but academies can), support faded for the El Carmen operation and it was shut down in 2019. It has remained closed since.