Writing > October baseball in August

August 8, 2011: October baseball in August

Diablos Rojos del México 7 Pericos de Puebla 5
4:00pm Saturday August 6, 2011
Time: 3:32
Attendance: 11,199

I spent the last month in Toronto. Mostly hanging out with friends, my trip was timed to coincide with a decent amount of Blue Jays home games and a four-game series against my team of choice. I saw ten games in all. Aside from the Yankees series, and getting to see Ichiro play during the Mariners' mammoth losing streak, the one thing I took away from being up there was that, really, I am just as happy watching Mexican baseball as I am watching Major League Baseball. There is, of course, a quality gap, but the essentials are the same. And the beer is way cheaper.

After seeing 20 regular season Liga Mexicana games, my trip coincided with the first few games of the first round of the playoffs. Every morning for the last few days of my visit, I was checking the scores, hoping that either the Diablos would win their quarter-final best-of-seven in four or five games so that I could at least see the Zona Norte Championship series upon my return. They didn't, but were leading 3-2 in the series, so I would have at least two more live baseball games in 2011. Two possible home games against the Pericos.

They only needed one game. And a fine game it was, too. Even though attendances at Diablos games are generally small, I arrived an hour early to get a ticket. There was no queue. I walked straight up. Before that, I'd seen no-one in Diablos gear on the subway. Playoff baseball in Mexico City is clearly not like playoff baseball in New York, Boston, St. Louis, Philadelphia...

With fifteen minutes to go before first pitch, the stands were still pretty empty. There were a couple of hundred Pericos fans who'd made the two-hour trip from Puebla, and they were making the most noise.

Puebla's pitching is what got them to the playoffs. the Diablos' offense is what got them there. Diablos had the best record in the Liga (63-40, .612). As a team, the Diablos batted .334, with a .400 OBP. They also hit 192 home runs. The next best team hit 139. I guess it's kind of fitting that me, a Yankees fan, ends up with a local team like this.

For the first time since opening day, the national anthem was played before the game. I'm not patriotic in any way, and I am still slightly bemused by the playing of the anthem before every game in the States and Toronto, but standing up, removing my cap, and hearing an anthem is something I kind of enjoy doing now. It means baseball is about to begin. The Himno Nacional Mexicano is a nice jaunty number, and rather than having Cindy from Tacoma High School Mariah Carey her way through the anthem, they played a recording over the PA.

An aside about the people who perform the anthem in the majors: have any of these people ever been to a sports event before? Do they not realise that they aren't on stage in a theatre? Their job isn't to add syllables where syllables don't exist in the melody. People in a baseball stadium kinda wanna sing along to their anthem. And it's tough to do that if Cindy is showing off her vocal range or signing it too slow, showing off her passion with her closed eyes and open palms. I'm not an expert on the American anthem, but it seems to me, and I'd much rather not blame him, but Jimi Hendrix is probably to blame for messing around with the song.

The Diablos' starting pitcher, Marco Duarte, got off to a poor start. After a groundout, three Pericos reached on a couple of walks and an error before Rene Reyes singled in a couple of runs. The Diablos got one back in the bottom of the first. In the fourth, Duarte loaded up the bases with two outs. Serafin Rodriguez singles to right. One scores, a second runner thrown out at home to end the inning. Carlos Valencia hits a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth to keep the gap to one run. After a Pericos solo home run in the sixth, Japhet Amador hits a two-run shot to tie the game at 4-4.

Bottom of the seventh, lead-off hitter Leo Heras is at second. Two outs. At the plate, Luis Terrero. Pretty much a lock for the MVP award this season. Batting .396, with a .499 OBP. So two outs, speedy fella in scoring position. Terrero bunts. 1-3. Three outs. Estupido. Still tied in the eighth, and the Diablos bullpen takes over. Walk, walk, walk, single. 5-4 Puebla. And then the Puebla 'pen decides to imitate the Diablos'. Single, walk, hit-by-pitch, and another base on balls to walk in the tying run.

Bottom of the ninth. Luis Alfonso Cruz singles to left. Luis Terrero bunts again. Cruz to second, Terrero out. Mario Valenzuela strikes out. Up steps pinch hitter and former Athletic and White Sock, Mario Valdez. Ball. Strike. Home run! Walk-off series homer!

Fantastic stuff. It's not often that I get animated at a baseball game. It's one of the things I enjoy about baseball: it doesn't really affect my emotions as much as watching a soccer game does. That Earl Weaver quote is applicable to my enjoyment of baseball. But on Saturday, I leapt out of my seat, arms in the air. Diablos win. They'll play Monterrey in the Zona Norte championship series. Diablos have home field advantage, so I will get to see at least two more live baseball games this season. Hopefully more. Vamos Diablos!