The Tijuana Toros played the first game of their brief three-game homestand against Algodoneros de Union Laguna on Tuesday. Both teams had their top hurlers on the mound and a great pitching matchup was expected, but that was not really the case at the Estadio Gasmart. Kyle Lobstein did provide another solid start as he only gave up two runs and two walks in five innings of work and inclusively had nine strikeouts as well. Robinson Lopez also tossed five innings, but was not as sharp as Lobstein, as he allowed five runs on nine hits with just two strikeouts.
The border city side did get off to a promising start with a two-RBI double by Dustin Martin that drove in Justin Greene and Isaac Rodriguez. Corey Brown then hit his eighth home run of the season to make it a 3-0 game after just the first inning. Algodoneros did get two runs in the second inning, but Corey Brown struck again in the third inning with a two-run home run that made it 5-2 in the Toros’ favor.
The game then stayed quiet for a while and did not pick up steam until the bottom of the eighth inning. Roberto Lopez extended Tijuana’s lead with an RBI single to make it a comfortable four-run lead heading into the ninth inning. Pedro Mere’s team achilles’ heel has been the bullpen and that was demonstrated again on the chilly Tuesday night at the Estadio Gasmart.
Sergio Alvarado came on in the ninth inning and allowed two base runners. Closer Jason Urquidez then came on with the four-run lead in the ninth and had a total meltdown. The California native gave up a grand slam to Francisco Rivera that tied the game at 6-6 and eventually sent the game to extra innings. Luckily, the Toros did end up winning the encounter in a more dramatic fashion than anticipated with a walk-off home run by Juan Apodaca. The Venezuelan catcher improved to seven home runs in the tournament and has already exceeded his home run tally from last year.
The rest of the bullpen, except for Urquidez and Alvarado, was solid on the night as Gerardo Sanchez, Pedro Villarreal, Juan Sandoval, and Hector Galvan all tossed scoreless innings. Jesus Pirela was the most impressive player out of the ‘pen as he struck out all six batters he faced.
Juan Apodaca was named the MVP of the clash because of his extra-inning heroics that gave Tijuana the 7-6 win, but Corey Brown also played an important role with his two home runs and three RBI. Jorge Cantu did not get any RBI, but was one of the standouts on the night as he went 4-for-5 with a walk.
The win improved the Tijuana Toros to a 17-11 record on the season as the team tries to get a sweep and possibly overtake first-place Monterrey in the Zona Norte division. The offense continues to shine as Cyle Hankerd continues to lead the league in RBI, Dustin Martin in walks, Justin Greene in stolen bases, Isaac Rodriguez in hits, and Corey Brown now just a home run off of the LMB home run leader, Ricky Alvarez.