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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
Monday, May 31, 2021

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Dylan Unsworth            Veracruz pitcher Dylan Unsworth arrived this year in the Mexican League and has already ensured that his name is registered in the record books by launching a no-hitter last Friday in an 8-0 Aguilas home victory over the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in Estadio Beto Avila.


            In just his second game in the LMB, the 4,229 fans in attendance saw a golden outing from the South African pitcher, who pitched the full route and took a perfect game into the seventh inning. After walking Juan Carlos Gamboa on five pitches with one out, "El Tiburon" did not allow another baserunner and handcuffed the Diablos to achieve the Liga's first no-no of the 2021 season and number 96 in the history of the summer circuit.


            The former Mariners farmhand, who was about to not come to Mexico due to the complicated logistics to travel from South Africa to Veracruz due to the pandemic, became the seventh pitcher of the Eagle to toss a no-hit, no run game, joining a list inaugurated by Martín Dihigo in 1937.


            The Aguilas opened the scoring in the second inning off Mexico City starter Sasagi Sánchez when, with one out on the board , Héctor Gómez belted a homer right field to put Veracruz in front, 1-0. The Eagles again damaged the Diablos pitching in the fifth inning when Alexi Amarista stoked his fifth double of the season to send Kevin Flores and Alonso Gaitan home. Yasiel Puig then singled to left and brought in Amarista for Veracruz' fourth run.


            In the fifth entrada, the Aguilas put together a three-run frame as Alexei Amarista slashed a two-run double and later scored on a Puig single. One frame later, Alex Ortiz hit his first double of the season and drove in Héctor Mora. Then, with Puig at bat, Diablos reliever Armando Araiza uncorked a wild pitch to allow Amarista run from third to home plate, scoring the seventh run.


            In the top of the seventh, Unsworth lost his perfect game bid when Juan Carlos Gamboa reached base on a five-pitch walk.  However the Aguilas defense supported their pitcher and avoided any damage the rest of the way.  The Veracruz nine scored once more in the eighth inning, courtesy of Ortíz' single to right, which plated Kevin Flores with the final tally of the night. Ortiz finished with three hits and three RBIs in the contest.


            It was a masterful performance by Unsworth, a 28-year-old righty who pitched in the Dodgers chain as well as in Venezuela and Australia following his release by Seattle in 2017. He only required 75 pitches over nine innings (58 of them strikes) for a complete game last ended 20 minutes shy of three hours even with Veracruz' eight-run outburst in which 15 Aguila batsmen reached base via hit or walk. Sasagi took the loss for the Diablos after allowing four runs on five hits over 4.2 innings of work.



Martín Dihigo (1937) vs Nogales

Leroy Gaines (1940) vs Chihuahua

Anastacio Velázquez (1974) vs Chihuahua

Héctor Madrigal (1983) vs Ciudad Juárez

Leobardo Meza (1993) vs Laredo

Julio Hernández (1995) vs Diablos Rojos

Dylan Unsworth (2021) vs Diablos Rojos





            The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) revealed last Thursday that the Final Baseball Qualifier for the Olympic Games, to be played in Tokyo, will take place from June 22 to 26 at Estadio Hermanos Serdan, home of the Mexican League's Puebla Pericos.


            The qualifying tournament was originally going to take place in Taiwan at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, but safety concerns were raised over an increased outbreak of the Wuhan virus across the island nation that led to the cancellation of a week's worth of games in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The WBSC determined that the final qualifier would instead take place in Mexico (particularly in Puebla) due to its strategic location.


            "The Olympic baseball qualifiers will have a safe and successful conclusion in Puebla, at the home of the Pericos of the Mexican Baseball League," WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said in a press release. He added “The 'Road to Tokyo 2020' of baseball is already established, and for this I would like to extend the deepest gratitude of the entire WBSC family, to the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador; director of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (CONADE) Ana Guevara; to the authorities of the State of Puebla and the owner of the Puebla Pericos club."


            For his part, Pericos owner and team president José Miguel Bejos said, “We are very proud to host this important tournament and to welcome these teams. The work carried out in recent years allows us to showcase Puebla and the Pericos, and to stand out as one of the best organizations in the world.”


            The five teams that will compete in the last Olympic baseball qualifier include Australia, The Netherlands and Taiwan, while the other two teams will come out of the Baseball Qualifier of the Americas, a playoff that begins May 31 in Florida. The winner of that qualifier will punch their ticket to Tokyo while the second and third place teams will join the final playoff in Puebla.

            So far, four teams have qualified for the Olympics: Japan, Israel, Korea and Mexico.

The tournament organizers will later announce the details about the allowed capacity in conjunction with what the corresponding authorities determine.





Cantu 100th LMB HR            Mexico City Diablos Rojos veteran slugger Jorge “El Bronco” Cantu opened a special section for players who have also played in the Mexican League by becoming the first Mexicano to hit 100 home runs during the regular seasons of both MLB and the LMB.


            The historic blast came in the ninth inning of last Wednesday's game in Oaxaca against the Guerreros. With two teammates on board, Cantu smashed the ball over Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos' right field wall for the final score to the game that his Mexico City Diablos Rojos won, 5-1.


            After playing eight seasons in the Major Leagues with five different teams with which he hit 104 home runs, Cantú returned to Mexico and fulfilled a promise he'd given to Cuauhtémoc “Chito” Rodríguez, former president of the Mexico City Tigres, that he'd play with the Bengals when his MLB days were over. Following two-and-a-half seasons with Quintana Roo between 2013 and 2016 (plus a one-year a stint in South Korea), Cantú was sent to Toros de Tijuana after having hit 63 home runs with the Tigres.


            With the Toros, he hit 24 more longballs between 2017 and 2018 before he reached an agreement with the Diablos, a club with which in 2019 he socked 12 more home runs to end the season with his LMB home run total at 99. The season in which he hit the most home runs was 2013 when he hit 31, only six less than that season's home run champion, Carmen's Rubén Mateo (who belted 37).


            The 39-year-old Cantu was born in the border city of Brownsville, Texas but grew up across the border in Reynosa. He was spotted by a Tampa Bay scout as a 16-year-old high schooler while playing in Mexico City during a Junior Olympics tournament in 1998 and offered a contract with the Rays. After signing, he made his pro debut with Class A Hudson Valley one year later and eventually reached the Majors with Tampa Bay in 2004, primarily as a second baseman.


            Cantu went on to some good seasons with the Rays (socking 28 homers and driving in 117 runs in 2005) and the Marlins (45 roundtrippers and 195 RBIs between 2008-09) before wrapping up his MLB career with San Diego in 2011. His 2014 season with the KBO's Doosan Bears saw him hit .309 with 18 homers in 111 games, but he came back to Mexico for good in 2015.


            Last Wednesday's roundtripper against the Guerreros will be recorded as the first of the season for Jorge Cantu but with another two months left in the Liga's abbreviated 66-game schedule for 2021, it likely won't be his last.


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