Detroit Tigers' Isaac Paredes smashes clutch HR in Game 7 of Mexican championship series
Detroit Tigers third baseman Isaac Paredes was nearly the hometown hero Saturday in Game 7 of the Mexican Pacific Winter League championship series. Jogging around second base, he pounded his chest eight times. His teammates celebrated with him upon his return to the dugout.
Moments earlier, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo trailing 6-3 to Tomateros de Culiacán in the bottom of the seventh inning, the 21-year-old stepped into the batter's box with runners on second and third base with two outs.
Reliever Carlos Torres missed the strike zone with his first two pitches in the at-bat. The third pitch, in a hitter-friendly 2-0 count, went 88 mph down the heart of the plate. (Torres, 38, tossed in four games for the Tigers in 2019 as part of his 10-year MLB career.)
And Paredes didn't miss.
His three-run blast evened the score, but Naranjeros de Hermosillo allowed a solo home run to Jesse Castillo — his second of the game — in the top of the 10th inning. Paredes' squad went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame.
Fernando Salas, a 10-year MLB veteran, took the loss, as Tomateros de Culiacán secured their 13th league championship. Paredes finished 1-for-3 with three RBIs and two walks in Game 7. He is the Tigers' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
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As Paredes' winter league assignment comes to its conclusion, there were many memories along the way. He won player of the week in December, the league's batting title in early January and got to make a deep run through the postseason. He picked up the nickname "El Tigre" as his offensive tear continued and finished fourth in MVP voting.
But Paredes is not done yet. He made Mexico's roster for the 2021 Caribbean Series. The seven-day event features six countries: Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Paredes is slated for five round-robin games, and if Mexico advances, the semifinals Feb. 5 and championship Feb. 6.
Mexico's first round-robin contest is against Colombia at 10 p.m. Sunday. Mexico has nine Caribbean Series titles, behind the Dominican Republic (20) and Puerto Rico (16).
These notable players are competing, among others: Paredes (Mexico), Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico), Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic), Carlos Martinez (DR), Juan Lagares (DR), Melky Cabrera (DR), Jonathan Villar (DR), Ronald Guzman (DR), Jamie Barria (Panama) and Harold Ramirez (Colombia).
Paredes' offseason began with Venados de Mazatlán. He hit .379 with 17 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBIs — with 27 walks to 12 strikeouts — in 42 regular-season games.
During the regular season, Paredes paced the Mexican Pacific Winter League in on-base percentage (.480), on-base plus slugging percentage (1.060) and doubles (17). He was third in slugging percentage with a .579 clip.
He tied for fifth with 21 extra-base hits. He had hitting streaks of six games, 11 games and 12 games throughout the season and had 12 multi-hit games.
In the postseason, Mazatlán was axed in the first round, so Paredes' playoff experienced seemed short-lived. That's until the league's reinforcement draft, which allows the remaining playoff teams to add players from the eliminated teams.
Paredes joined Naranjeros de Hermosillo. Born and raised in Hermosillo, his Jan. 12 debut with the club was a special experience for many involved. Of course, so was the two-run homer he launched in his second at-bat.
He played for Hermosillo in the semifinals and finals, where he defeated Sultanes de Monterrey in six games and lost to Tomateros de Culiacán in seven games, respectively.
Paredes competed in 19 playoff games, between Mazatlán and Hermosillo, going 20-for-68 (.294) with three doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs, 12 walks and three strikeouts. He logged a .398 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage.
Defensively, Paredes played third base in 39 of his 42 games in the regular season — the other three games were as the designated hitter. He made four errors in 98 chances, good for a .959 fielding percentage. He was a mainstay at the hot corner for Mazatlán and Hermosillo in the postseason.
Once the Caribbean Series is in the books, Paredes' attention will turn to spring training for the Tigers. The first full-team workout in Lakeland, Florida, is scheduled for Feb. 22. The Tigers are going to test him at second base.
Parades went 22-for-100 (.220) with one home run, six RBIs, eight walks and 24 strikeouts across 34 games for the Tigers in 2020. He made his MLB debut Aug. 17 against the Chicago White Sox. From Sept. 12 through Sept. 24, the rookie put together a 10-game hitting streak.