Rays Winter Ball Recap: Wes Bankston’s HR Lifts Navojoa to Finals

By Robbie Knopf

Everyone dreams of being the hero. Wes Bankston has had an up-and-down postseason for the Mayos de Navojoa and was far from perfect on Thursday as well. But he had one big swing, and that was enough to lead his team to the Mexican Pacific League Finals. The funny thing, though, was that Bankston was far from the only current or former Ray to hit a big home run on Thursday.

Dominican Winter League Postseason: Gigantes del Cibao 9, Tigres del Licey 6

The Gigantes scored 8 runs between the 2nd and 3rd, and capping things off was Mayo Acosta, who slammed a 3-run homer, his first of what has been a tough playoffs. Acosta had a strong .292/.329/.472 line in the regular season before slipping to just a .227/.277/.273 line entering Thursday. But there is no time better than the present and Cibao needs all the help they can get as they hope to fend off Licey to advance to the Dominican Winter League Championship Series.

Mexican Pacific League Playoffs Second Round: Mayos de Navojoa 1, Aguilas de Mexicali 0

In the 4th inning, Wes Bankston drilled a solo homer off Edgar Osuna. That would be all the scoring in the game in what was an excellent pitchers’ duel. Osuna, a former Kansas City Royals prospect, went 5.1 innings and that was the only hit he allowed. He labored quite a bit, throwing 99 pitches in those 5.1 frames as he struck out 8 while walking 4, but it was only Bankston that was able to get to him.  For the Mayos, Mexican League veteran Salvador Robles had a big start of his own, going 6 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. He wasn’t as overpowering as Osuna, but he got the job done to lead the Mayos to the clinching victory. The Mayos advance to the Mexican Pacific League Finals, where they will await the winner of the Caneros-Naranjeros series.

Venezuelan Winter League Postseason: Leones del Caracas 12, Aguilas del Zulia 11

What a night it was in offense in Zulia, and it was the Leones’ trio of former Rays that were crucial to their victory. Tim Corcoran did not have nearly his best start, allowing 5 runs in 4.2 innings, but it looks much better when you compare him to Jason Lane, he allowed 5 runs in just 2.2 innings. He was at least able to get through those 4.2 frames and save the Caracas bullpen for just long enough that the lead did not slip away. In terms of the run support, Bobby Abreu began the scoring with a sacrifice play before driving what proved to be the deciding run on a solo homer in the 8th. Daniel Mayora, meanwhile, delivered RBI singles in both the 2nd and 7th. Both had huge games, with Abreu going 2 for 3 with the homer, a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored while Mayora went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Abreu has been the Leones’ rock all postseason while Mayora only returned two games ago, but both of them are leading Caracas right now. At 7-5, the Leones sit just one game back of the Navegantes for first place in the postseason round-robin.