After a late November blip, the Charros de Jalisco have comfortably qualified for the Mexican Pacific League (LMP) baseball playoffs, which are due to start Monday, January 1.
The Charros went into the final game of the regular season on Thursday, December 28 against the Tomateros de Culiacan in fifth position in the overall standings, with a 34-31 win-loss record.
Just 6.5 games behind leaders Aguilas de Mexicali, the team hit a low point in November when a string of losses put their qualification for the playoffs in doubt. The Charros had enjoyed a flying start to the season winning seven of their first eight games, but were unable to maintain the same pace as the season’s segunda vuelta (second half) began.
The past two weeks, however, have seen the Charros recapture their offensive magic, led by team captain Manny Rodriguez. The change in fortunes coincided with a change of coach – Roberto “Chapo” Vizcarra replacing Tony Tarasco on November 28. The new leadership has been crucial. Under Vizcarra’s guidance, the team has posted a 14-10 record (as of Thursday, December 28) that includes December whitewashes against the Ciudad Obregon Yaquis and Mayos de Navajo.
Fans kept faith with the team during their barren run. Average attendances at the Charros Stadium in Zapopan are around the 10,000 mark for the season. A crowd of over 11,000 turned out on Christmas Day for the 7-6 victory against the Mayos.
Sinaloa-born Rodriguez, a 35-year-old now in his fourth winter with the Charros, has led by example, clocking up 57 RBIs at an average of .360. Agustín Murillo, also 35, is the Charros’ second-best hitter, knocking in 31 RBIs in 58 encounters.
Opening pitcher Octavio Acosta (7-3, ERA: 4.06) is another standout, and a candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award. Meanwhile, U.S. pitcher Tyler Alexander (4-1, ERA: 3.33) has struck out 65 batters in 12 appearances on the mound.
The Charros are hoping that Vizcarra’s influence can extend through the playoffs. Back in February, he led the Aguilas de Mexicali into last season’s Serie del Caribe (Caribbean Series) final and was named “Best Manager” of the tournament,
The incentive for the Charros to win this year’s LMP title is huge. The Zapopan Stadium will host the 2018 Serie del Caribe, which features the champions of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. (The games are a sellout.)
Six teams from the eight-team league qualify for the LMP playoffs. The first round pits the first-placed team against sixth, second against fifth and third against fourth. The winners, plus the “best loser,” advance to the semi-finals.
Although the LMP playoff schedule was known before this newspaper went to press, the make up of the games was not finalized. First-round playoff games (seven-game series) are held on January 1, 2, 4, 5 (and 6, 7 and 8, if necessary). Semi-finals are on January 10, 11, 13, 14 (and 15, 17 and 18, if necessary). The finals are on January 20, 21, 23, 24 (and 25, 27 and 28, if necessary).
Full details of the Charros games can be found at charrosjalisco.com, while the LMP site at lmp.mx provides details on all the games.