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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
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December 22, 2021



            The Mexican Pacific League’s championship series came down to a seventh and deciding game for the third year in a row but instead of Culiacan winning the rubber match as they did in 2020 and 2021, the Jalisco Charros crushed the Tomateros, 8-2, Saturday night in Guadalajara. The win punched the Charros’ ticket to the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, where Jalisco will represent Mexico in a Friday opener against the host Liga Dominicana champion Cibao Gigantes at 8PM local time.


            After Jalisco won the first two games in Guadalajara, the series shifted north to Culiacan for the next three contests. The Tomateros took a series lead last Monday by trimming the Charros, 7-3. Manager Benji Gil’s defending champions exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the first inning to chase Jalisco starter Brennan Bernardino.

Jesus Fabela closed out the scoring with a two-run triple off Manuel Flores. The Charros scored in the third when ageless Manny Rodriguez hit a solo homer off Manny Barreda and again in the eighth when Feliz Perez crunched a two-run roundtripper off reliever Alejandro Chavez. Barreda got the win, the 10th of his LMP playoff career, by tossing six innings and allowing one run on two hits and a walk, striking out six.


            Culiacan tied the series at two games apiece by slipping past the Charros, 3-2, in Tuesday’s Game Four. Starters Irwin Delgado of Jalisco and Tomateros opener Jose Bravo swapped zeros on the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth when Alexis Wilson and Emmanuel Avila contributed RBI singles to give Culiacan a 2-0 lead. Jalisco scored their first run in the top of the fifth when Missael Rivera barely beat Sebastian Elizalde’s throw to the plate from right field on an Esteban Quiroz single. The Charros tied the game in the top of the eighth when Christian Villanueva singled home Jose Juan Aguilar, but the Tomateros went again for good in the bottom of the frame when Elizade came in from third on a Stevie Wilkerson infield single. Culiacan closer Alberto Baldonado struck out three batsmen in the ninth for the save.


            Jalisco regained the series lead in Game Five by trouncing the Tomateros, 8-2, Wednesday night in Culiacan. The hosts went up, 2-0, in the bottom of the first on Victor Mendoza’s two-run double off Charros starter Orlando Lara, but the 36-year-old lefty settled down and allowed no more runs over his winning six-inning stint. Jalisco went ahead in the top of the second on an RBI double by Villanueva and a two-run single from Amadeo Zazueta. Villanueva’s two-run homer in the sixth made it a 5-2 game and a three-run bomb from Perez one entrada later closed the scoring for the night. The Charros outhit Culiacan by a 12-to-4 margin as Dariel Alvarez singled three times and scored thrice. Anthony Vasquez suffered the loss in his last start for the Tomateros after announcing his pending retirement, giving up four runs on six hits over five innings. Lara has yet to allow an earned run in the postseason.


            After Thursday’s travel day, the title series resumed Friday with Game Six in Guadalajara as the visiting Tomateros stayed alive with a 5-3 win over the Charros. The two teams were knotted up at 3-3 in a see-saw battle before the defending champs went ahead for good in the eight when Efren Navarro led off with a grounder to Jalisco third baseman Agustin Murillo, who made a diving stop but threw the ball into foul territory, allowing Navarro to advance to second. Pinch-runner Randy Romero took third when Alexis Wilson singled and came home on an Avila sac fly to right. A Joey Meneses RBI single in the ninth closed the scoring for both teams as Tomateros closer Baldonado held Jalisco scoreless in the bottom of the inning to earn the save. Reliever Oliver Perez got the win while Jared Wilson suffered his second series loss out of the bullpen for Jalisco.


            The deciding Game Seven was played Saturday in Estadio Charros and there was little doubt in this one after four innings. Jalisco broke open a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second with consecutive run-scoring doubles from Zazueta, Flores and Aguilar, then batted through the order in the fourth for four tallies, including consecutive RBI singles by Quiroz, Japhet Amador and Alvarez to make it a 7-0 game. Culiacan broke into the scoring column with a solo homer by Joe Meneses in the top of the seventh but the hosts plated one more run in the eighth when Flores and Aguilar hit back-to-back doubles off Tomateros reliever Derrick Loop. Charros starter Bernardino tossed eight innings, allowing four hits (including Meneses’ roundtripper) and striking out four. Culiacan opener Barreda was racked up for six runs on eight hits and a walk in 3.1 frames as the Charros outhit the visitors by a 15-to-4 margin, with Aguilar contributing two doubles and a single.


Manager Roberto Vizcarra’s troops will load up on reinforcements prior to heading to the Dominican Republic, where the six league champions will likely reflect de facto all-star teams more than the rosters they ended their regular seasons with.





            Mexicali closer Jake Sanchez has capped an extraordinary season by being voted the Mexican Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player, earning the Hector Espino Trophy. The 32-year-old righty from Brawley, California was also awarded the Isidro Marquez Trophy as the LMP Reliever of the Year.


            By recording 26 saves for the Aguilas in as many opportunities (setting another Mex Pac record for consecutive saves) to augment a 1.69 ERA, Sanchez earned a measure of redemption after some relatively lean years following a 2016-17 season during which he led the LMP with 21 saves and posted a remarkable 0.28 ERA, then earned a pair of salvados during that winter’s Caribbean Series. He then bounced around the A’s minor league system for a couple years before landing in the Mexican League with Tijuana for the Fall 2018 season. In three years with the Toros between 2018 and 2021, Sanchez has only turned in 13 saves and a 3.54 ERA over 76 trips from the bullpen (although he was a member of TJ’s pennant-winning team last summer).


Sanchez suffered through a tough 2020-21 season for Mexicali as well by finishing with five saves and a 4.24 ERA in 19 outings before taking a blunt instrument to the LMP record book this winter. He becomes the first hurler to win MVP honors since Mazatlan’s Francisco Campos won the pitching Triple Crown in 2002-03 and the first reliever ever to cop top honors. Sanchez won 36 percent of the vote among media members, ahead of Navojoa outfielder Tirso Ornelas’ 19 percent and the 16 percent of votes cast for Obregon’s Victor Mendoza as six players received at least 12 percent support as Most Valuable Player.


Sanchez had an easier time fending off competitors for Reliever of the Year, pulling down 91 percent of that vote while only Jalisco’s Alejandro Tovalin (8 percent) and Carlos Stiff Rodriguez of Monterrey (1 percent) joined him as vote-getters. The 6’1” product of Iowa Wesleyan College added an 0.84 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 32 innings to rise to fifth in Mex Pac history with 72 career saves, four behind Oscar Villareal.


Hermosillo starter Elian Leyva staged his own comeback season by winning the Vicente “Huevo” Romo Trophy as Pitcher of the Year. Over 12 starts for the Naranjeros, the Cuban-born Leyva led LMP openers in four categories: wins (7), ERA (1.54), WHIP (0.99) and lowest opponent batting average (.205). He also posted a rare so-called “immaculate inning” when he struck out Los Mochis’ Jorge Rivera, Edgar Robles and Isaac Rodriguez on nine pitches during his first start on October 8. Leyva, who won the Romo Trophy two years ago after winning the Pitching Triple Crown with Jalisco, received 80 percent of the vote, well ahead of teammate Wilmer Rios (6%).


Ornelas received a measure of consolation by earning the Baldomero “Melo” Almada Trophy as Rookie of the Year. The Navojoa outfielder clinched that win by leading the league with a .353 batting average in 60 games on 77 hits, including 16 doubles and a pair of homers. The Padres prospect collected 84 percent of votes cast, well ahead of Mazatlan’s Randy Romero’s 12 percent. Ornelas becomes the ninth Mayos player to be chosen as Rookie of the Year.


            To nobody’s surprise, Navojoa helmsman Matias Carrillo was named Manager of the Year after piloting the Mayos to the best regular season record (40-28) and top playoff seed after the team went 23-36 last winter and missed the playoffs. It marks the third time Carrillo, who was inducted into the Salon de la Fama as a player a year ago, has taken home the Benjamin “Cananea” Reyes Trophy after doing it in 2011-12 with Guasave and 2016-17 with Navojoa before Mayos owner Victor Cuevas fired him three months after suffering a first-round playoff loss. Carrillo won 73 percent of the media vote, followed by Guasave’s Oscar Robles at 13 percent.



MAESTROS OF MEXICO: Cornelio Garcia, 1B (1984-07)


            The first player out of Mexico’s baseball academy near Monterrey to sign with an MLB organization, Cornelio Garcia went on to fashion a notable career in both the Mexican League and Mexican Pacific League as a good-hitting, fleet-footed outfielder and first baseman over 24 seasons.


            Cornelio Garcia Chaidez was born January 23, 1955 in Ensenada, Baja California Norte, where he was a star track runner as a youth.  After playing in the Academia and batting .225 in 19 games for Yucatan as a 19-year-old in 1984, Garcia signed on with the White Sox that summer. He played minor league ball for seven seasons in their organization, including three stints at AA Birmingham. Garcia hit .277 with 20 homers, 134 stolen bases and 254 RBIs over 570 games while turning in an OBP of .324 or higher every season before returning to the Leones during the 1990 campaign.


After hitting .290 in 40 games for Yucatan in 1990, Garcia went on a tear during which he never hit below .300 for the next 16 seasons to set a Liga record. The 5’11” 154-pounder joined Monterrey in 1995, leading the LMB in 1997 with 171 hits and a .382 batting average.  He also led in stolen bases with 45 for Yucatan in 1993 and triples with 11 for the Sultanes in 1995.


When he retired after one final turn with the Sultanes in the 2007 season, Garcia had a total of 2,095 hits for an LMB career batting average of .345, which is tied for fourth all-time with Teo Acosta and Oswaldo Olivares and is the highest among all Mexican-born players. His 1,174 runs scored are 14th among all Liga batsmen while Garcia’s 340 stolen bases rank fifth.


            Garcia was also a hitting machine over his 20 winters for Hermosillo. While he never won a MexPac batting title, he did lead the LMP with 79 hits and 47 runs in 1993-94 and topped the circuit with 18 doubles in 1999-2000 en route to a Mex Pac career .288 hitting mark, fourth all-time. His 151 stolen bases in 1,010 LMP games ranks eighth all-time, while his 568 runs scored are sixth on the list.


            Although never regarded as a power hitter, especially for a first baseman over his latter years (his career-high in homers was 15), Cornelio Garcia made his mark in Mexican baseball as a good instinctive hitter who was aggressive at the plate and on the bases plus a quality glove man in the field. Carlos Fragoso, who has scouted in Mexico for both the Yankees and Red Sox, compares Garcia to Vic Davalillo. He was selected to the Salon de la Fama in 2013.



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