The 2018 LMB spring tournament regular season is over and it is now time for the postseason to begin. The Tijuana Toros made the LMB final in 2016 and were crowned champions of the competition last year.
The Border City Bulls will be looking to defend their league title and will start with a manageable task against Rieleros de Aguascalientes in the first round of the playoffs. Aguascalientes finished third in the LMB Zona Norte division with a 33-24 record, while Tijuana had a 33-23 record and finished in second place.
Rieleros do have some decent batters, like Tony Campana and Saul Soto, but their lineup does not amass the same force as the Toros. Pitching is a plus for Homar Rojas’ team, with players like Yohan Flande, Carlos Fisher, Roy Merritt, and Anthony Carter, but again, Tijuana also has the edge in terms of starting pitching.
The series will commence in Tijuana at the Estadio Gasmart this Wednesday, May 30, and Game 1 and 2 will be played in the border city.
The series will then shift to the Estadio Alberto Romo Chavez in Aguascalientes where Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) will be disputed. Finally, Game 6 and 7 will be played back at the Estadio Gasmart if the series is prolonged.
Pedro Mere’s team must take advantage of these first two games at home to roll into the Estadio Romo Chavez and take the series. The Border City Bulls have the bats to do it and will also be backed up by the pitching in these two games at the Estadio Gasmart.
Roy Merritt (4-2; 4.05 ERA) vs Carlos Hernandez (8-2; 2.64 ERA) Wednesday, May 30 (7:35 P.M. PST)
Francisco del Rosario (3-2; 3.18 ERA) vs Kyle Lobstein (4-2; 2.95 ERA) Thursday, May 31 (7:35 P.M. PST)
The Tijuana Toros do have the edge in both pitching matchups that will be seen at the Estadio Gasmart this week. Carlos Hernandez was arguably the best pitcher in the LMB this year as he led the league in wins with eight to his name. The left-hander will have a tough outing against Roy Merritt, who has been in these high-pressure situations with Mexican Pacific League teams in the past. Merritt allowed seven runs against Tijuana in two starts this season while Hernandez only allowed five in over 10 innings of work against Aguascalientes. The matchup set for Game 2 is also enticing, but the clear pitcher to take it is the American hurler, Kyle Lobstein. The former Pirates and Tigers’ southpaw allowed a maximum of two earned runs in 10 of his 11 starts this season. Francisco del Rosario was used out of the bullpen and as a starter this season, but the veteran did find success. The Dominican hurler allowed a maximum of two earned runs in his last five outings and should be tough to break down.
Players to Watch
The Tijuana Toros do have the LMB batting champ on their side in Isaac Rodriguez, who hit .394 on the season. The Mexican infielder also hit four dingers with 30 RBI and 20 stolen bases, which was the second-most in the league. Rodriguez was 0-for-6 to end the regular season and will be looking to get back on track.
Soto is still going strong at 39 years old and was one of the better bats in the LMB this season. The veteran posted an impressive .332 batting average with six home runs and 30 RBI in 54 games. Soto is a leader for Aguascalientes and is a patient hitter with a steady bat that will be tough to face throughout this series.