The Undercards: Bankston Drills Clutch Homer, Weber Breaks Out as Mexicali Forces Game 7
By Robbie Knopf
Everyone wishes they could be that player who comes to the plate with 2 outs and their team down a run in Game 7 of the World Series and delivers a hit that will be remembered for a long time. Wes Bankston will have to settle for a hit as clutch as they come to force a Game 7 in the Mexican Pacific League Playoffs.
Dominican Winter League Postseason: Aguilas Cibaenas 11, Estrellas de Oriente 3
It was a dynamic duo of players briefly on the Rays who came up huge for Cibaenas to lead them to victory. Hector Luna and Manny Ramirez, the Aguilas 3 and 4-hole hitters in their lineup, have been trending in opposite directions the entire DWL Playoff Season, with Manny hot and Luna not so much, but in this game they were perfectly in sync. Luna went 1 for 5 but made the 1 count, drilling a 3-run homer, and he also drove in a run on a groundball to total 4 RBI for the game. Ramirez, meanwhile, went 1 for 3 with a homer of his own, a solo shot, in addition to a walk. Ramirez was pinch-hit for when the game was out of hand by another ex-Ray, Omar Luna, who wound up singling, walking, and scoring a run, and Ray Olmedo went 1 for 5 with an RBI in the loss for Oriente. It was a huge win for Cibaenas, and it’s nice to see ex-Rays playing big roles.
Mexican Pacific League Playoffs: Aguilas de Mexicali 6, Venados de Mazatlan 5
It was a microcosm of the series for Mexicali- they took an early 2-0 lead only to watch it slip away as they allowed 3 runs in the 4th inning, with the Venados delivering three 2-out RBI singles. The Aguilas’ frustration was only beginning. Geronimo Gil tied the game for Mexicali with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, but then Mazatlan re-took the lead on another string of two-out singles to make it a 4-3 game. A Saul Soto solo shot in the 7th extended the Venados’ lead to 5-3 and suddenly a promising game had slipped away again. An excellent season for Mexicali was going to amount to nothing but exasperation and regret and Aguilas fans could not believe what was happening to their team. But suddenly everything had the potential to change. Yuniesky Betancourt singled to begin the bottom of the 8th and then Jon Weber. There were no outs and the tying runs on base. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. You had to have the feeling that it would. Nothing had gone right for Mexicali in 4 games. Why would this time possibly work out any better? The batter was Wes Bankston, who had slammed 2 homers in Game 1 of the series and done little else since. The pitcher Felix Diaz dealt the pitch, and then everything changed. Bankston drilled a high flyball to left field. The left fielder Ivan Terrazas went back to the track and could only watch helplessly as the ball soared into the seats for a go-ahead 3-run home run. Oscar Villareal worked around a single in the 9th for the save, and Mexicali had come away with a 6-5 win in about as dramatic fashion as you’ll see. Bankston came away the hero with his big 3-run home run, and he also had a sac fly earlier in the game. But the home run would have only tied the game if not for Jon Weber, who finally broke out of his slump, going 1 for 2 with a double (his first hit of the playoffs), 2 walks, a stolen base, and a run scored. He’s hitting just .059 in the playoffs for Mexicali but picked the perfect time to have a great game. All postseason, the Aguilas were waiting to get their 3-4 tandem of Weber and Bankston and sync, and everything finally came together as the Mexicali-Mazatlan series is going to Game 7.