Writing > Campeones de la Zona Norte
August 18, 2011: Campeones de la Zona Norte
Diablos Rojos del México 4 Sultanes de Monterrey 1
7:00pm Wednesday August 17, 2011
Time: 4:12 (inc. a 1:13 rain delay)
Firstly, a confession: I participated in the wave last night. I felt bad doing it, I really did. But I had been befriended by an elderly Mexican gentleman and his family, and they were doing it, so, I kinda felt that I should join in. Crucially, though: it was during the rain delay not whilst the game was going on.
For several recent games, I've been to see the Diablos with friends. And similarly, the ten games I saw whilst I was in Toronto in July, I went with friends to every game. This is something I'm not used to. I'm way more used to going to games alone. And for last night's Zona Norte Championship Series game seven, I was there alone. To begin with, anyway. Being alone at a playoff game here is kind of a good thing. When you buy a ticket, you are buying a ticket to sit in a section, not a specific seat. So I bought my usual 70 peso ticket (US$5.66), and instead of trying to find and guard four seats for tardy friends, I could scour the good seats right behind home plate for a single seat. And I was lucky. My preferred seating area during the regular season is about 15 rows up, a few feet to the first base side of home plate, and I was sat right. I asked an elderly guy if the seat next to him was free. He said no. Muy bien. He and I got chatting. His name was Trini, short for Trinidad. He had difficulty saying my name - Claig - and he was a golf teacher. He pointed out each of the family members sat beside him: that's my son, that's my granddaughter, that's my other son, that's his wife, etc. Within five minutes of chatting, he was ordering a round of beers for him and his sons and including me in the round. And he was a swift drinker. Keeping up, his sons and I getting our rounds in: we'd already been through six beers by the 4th inning.
I asked Trinidad about Leo Rodriguez, the guy who died recently and was honoured before Tuesday's game with a minute's applause. He was apparently a third baseman and "benissimo." Throughout the game, Trinidad got very animated. Shifting in his seat, constantly shouting "Venga, pitcher!" We'd occasionally chat about a play, he was a great person to sit next to. And it was a great game to attend. After the horrific 17-6 loss on Tuesday, it was encouraging to see Diablos starting pitcher Marco Duarte go three up, three down in the first. And to see the Diablos get a run in the bottom of the first.
Duarte pitched a good second too, the only hit he gave up took a wicked bounce off first base over Japhet Amador's head for a double. The Diablos tacked on a couple more runs in the third, and Duarte then loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. After seeing the Diablos about 30 times this season, bases loaded no outs never ends well. But this time, it did. Two strikeouts and a ground ball. Still 3-0. Duarte did give up a run off a lead off double and a single, and then in the bottom of the 5th, the heavens opened and we got stuck into a 75 minute rain delay.
Time for a hot dog and a Coke to ward off the slightly sloppy drunkenness that was approaching. The cheerleaders came out to dance while the grounds crew were prepping the field after the rain stopped. Diablos mascot, a kind of wolf-ish type of thing wore a wig and danced with them, and later with the Diablos midget batboy.
The rain delay was badly timed for the Diablos. Duarte had been solid. Giving up six hits, one run, one walk, and striking out five. In came Jean Machi, a former minor leaguer with the Pirates, Phillies, Rays, and Blue Jays organizations. Two strikeouts and a groundball. A solo homer from Carlos Valencia in the bottom of the sixth. 4-1. Top of the seventh, Machi allowed just one hit, a double by the number nine hitter, shortstop Carlos Orrantia. At the end of the seventh, Trinidad excitedly signalled with his fingers: just six more outs. Top of the eighth. Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout. There were looks and nods of appreciation amongst me and my new pals. Diablos went down in order in the bottom of the eighth. Machi came out again to finish it. Humberto Cota strikes out swinging. Sergio Perez ground out to short. One out away from the Serie del Rey. Pich hitter Robert Saucedo. Ball one. Second pitch over the middle of the plate, but he hits it right at second baseman Carlos Valencia. The crowd was on its feet cheering as Valencia scooped it up and tossed it to Amador. Campeones! And it was awesome.
I've not been a baseball fan long. This is just my seventh season. But in those seven seasons, I've been lucky enough to see over a hundred live games. And I've seen a few great games:
Yankees 2 Orioles 1, September 19, 2007 at Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte pitching 7.2 innings, Joba at the height of Joba-ness coming in to strikeout the last batter in the eighth, and Mo finishing it off.
Blue Jays 2 Mariners 0, June 30, 2008 at Safeco Field. A four hit shutout by Roy Halladay.
Orioles 11 Red Sox 10, June 30, 2009 at Camden Yards. Down 10-1 in the 7th, the O's rallied to give Papelbon a blown save and the biggest comeback in franchise history.
Blue Jays 1 Rays 0, August 8, 2010 at SkyDome. Brandon Morrow's very, very, near no-hitter.
And last night: Diablos Rojos 4 Sultanes 1, August 17, 2011 at Foro Sol. The Liga Mexicana's best offensive team pitching their way to the Serie del Rey.