Mexicali Wins First Half

The Mexicali Aguileras rode a nine game winning streak to take the first half of the Mexican Winter League, ensuring them of a playoff appearance to determine Mexico’s representative for the Series del Caribe.  They outdistanced the Culiacan Tomateros by two games.  Culiacan has the best pitching (3.07) and the second best hitting (.290) in the league, with Mexicali somewhere in the middle of the pack in both categories, so Mexicali’s first place finish is a surprise.  On the other end of the spectrum the Guasave Algodoneros stumbled towards the end of the first half with a 16 game losing streak to find themselves stuck at the bottom of the pack, eight games behind their closest pursuer.

The Aguileras are led by the bats of Jorge Guzman and ex-Phillies prospect Chris Roberson.  Jorge leads the team in RBIs with 28 and is tied for first in homeruns with eight, putting together a decent .286 batting average.  Chris is the lead off hitter and the main man that Jorge drives in.  His 31 runs scored and 11 stolen bases lead the team, with both figures second most in the Mexican League.  Chris is hitting .296 with a .368 OBA, so he is getting on base for Jorge and the rest of his teammates to drive him in.  It is a balanced attack with Oscar Robles (.325, 5, 20), Issmael Salas (.298, 8, 21) and Geronimo Gil (.215, 5, 27) all driving in 20 or more runs.

The starting pitching has been a bit inconsistent, with Marco Duarte (4-1, 2.06) their ace providing the only real quality starts.  He has not been a particularly durable pitcher, going into the seventh inning just once in his eight starts.  The ERA is good for second in the Mexican Winter League.  After that it is a flip of the coin whether another one of their pitchers will give them a good outing.  They were hoping that the addition of Esteban Loiza (2-2, 5.06) to the starting rotation would stabalize the staff, but he has only added to the dilemma.  Even their closer Oscar Villarreall (1-0, 3.71, 14 saves), who leads the league in saves with 14, has had some flameouts, as his 3.71 ERA attests.

The second half is eight games into the season and no team has taken charge.  Even Guasave has a two game winning streak to move its second half record to 4-4, just two games behind the current leader the Obregon Yaquis (6-2). Culiacan (5-3) is just a game out, while Mexicali (3-5) appears to be cruising after their first half championship ensures them of a playoff appearance.

The big bat is Culiacan’s Jorge Vazquez, who has the numbers that could garner him a Triple Crown.  His .352 average is 40 points behind Sendy Madera (.395) who is the traditional batting average leader.  That will be the big stumbling block for a Triple Crown accomplishment.  Jorge is currently tied for first in homeruns with 15 and leads by six in RBIs with 47.  Obregon’s Barbaro Canizares (.321, 15, 41) appears to be his biggest challenger in the homerun and RBI department.

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