Some of the game’s biggest superstars -- including former American League Most Valuable Players Mike Trout of the Angels and Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander of the Astros -- take center stage this weekend with Major League Baseball south of the border for the Mexico Series in Monterrey.
AL West division rivals -- the Astros and Angels -- will face off Sunday (weather permitting) at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. The forecast in Monterrey is predicting a 50 percent chance of rain.
“It sounds like the weather will be a challenge, more than anything,” first-year Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "There are a lot of logistics that both the Angels and MLB are involved in to make this a smooth process. But the one thing you can’t control is the weather, and they are expecting thunderstorms. A lot of them.”
The Mexico Series will mark a homecoming for Astros closer Roberto Osuna and president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow, both of whom were born in Mexico. Luhnow, born in Mexico City, spent more than 15 years living there and traveled all over the country as a child. His father still lives in Mexico.
“Going to Mexico City [to play exhibition games] a few years ago was a lot of fun, and now during the regular season makes it not only fun but an important series against a division rival,” Luhnow said. “I’m excited to see Monterrey. I haven’t been to that city in more than 20 years. It’s really close to Houston so it’s going to be a fun experience for everybody.”
Osuna, 24, was born in Juan Jose Rios and grew up in nearby Los Mochis in Sinaloa, where he still lives in the offseason. It’s about a 12-hour drive from Monterrey. His father, Roberto Osuna Sr., pitched in the Mexican League for 16 years, including a stint with Monterrey from 1987-91. Osuna signed with the Blue Jays on Aug. 30, 2011, out of the Mexican League.
“It’s super special for us,” said Osuna, whose foundation, RO54 Foundation, helps Mexican children play baseball for free. “Playing in Mexico in front of my people and playing in the stadium that my dad played at some point in his career is going to be special. I’m happy to be going back to Mexico.”
Astros All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman, who can speak Spanish, played in Mexico as a teenager for Team USA, facing Osuna when he was still a starting pitcher.
“They love baseball,” Bregman said of Mexicans. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
A star player who won’t be on the field is the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and could return as a hitter next week for the Angels in Detroit. The two-way phenom will not pitch this season, but there’s hope that he could return to DH sometime this month.
This weekend’s series is the second regular-season series Major League Baseball played this year in Monterrey. Ahead of Sunday's game (3:10 p.m. CT/1:10 p.m. PT), here is all the relevant information fans need to know about the series:
Where will the games be played?
Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, with a capacity of approximately 27,000 seats, is hosting the two-game series with the Angels serving as the home team. Built in 1990, the Monterrey Sultanes of the Mexican League are the primary tenant at the ballpark and have won four of the franchise’s nine league championships there. Major League Baseball has been played numerous times there. The Dodgers and Padres played three regular-season games in Monterrey last season, as did the Reds and Cardinals earlier this year. The Padres have played four other regular-season games in the facility, in '96 and ’99. The first time MLB visited the facility was '91, when the Brewers and Dodgers played in an exhibition game.
What should I know about Monterrey?
According to Lonely Planet, Monterrey is the third-largest city in Mexico and boasts a population of more than 1 million people. Although the Sultanes began in 1939, the city really put itself on the baseball map when its youth team won the '57 and '58 Little League World Series tournaments in Williamsport, Pa. The Sultanes are currently managed by former Reds outfielder Roberto Kelly.
What is the Mexico Series?
The Reds and Cardinals played two games in Monterrey last month. The Reds beat the Cardinals, 5-2, on April 13 in front of 16,496 fans and the Cardinals beat the Reds, 9-5, on April 14 before 16,793 fans. In Spring Training, the D-backs and Rockies played two exhibition games in Monterrey.
Who is the home team?
The games are designated home games for the Angels, so the Astros will be the visiting team in both games and bat first.
Have the Astros and Angels ever played internationally before?
In 2016, the Astros played a pair of exhibition games against the Padres during Spring Training in Mexico City. They also played in Mexico City in a two-game Spring Training series against the Marlins in '04. Houston has also participated in international Spring Training contests in the Dominican Republic ('00) and Venezuela ('01). The Angels previously played in Puerto Rico in a three-game series against the Expos in '03.
How can I watch the games?
For the Angels, Sunday's game (3:10 p.m. CT/1:10 p.m. PT) will be televised on FOX Sports West and can be heard on KLAA 830 AM (English) and ESPN 1330 AM (Spanish). In Houston, the game will be televised by AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on SportsTalk 790 AM. Astros Spanish announcers Francisco Romero and Alex Trevino -- a native of Monterrey -- will make the trip and call both games on La Ranchera 850 AM. The series finale is also scheduled to be nationally televised by ESPN.
Who will join each team as a 26th man for the series?
The Astros called up outfielder Derek Fisher for the two games. Fisher, who was hitting .296 with six homers at 14 RBIs at Triple-A Round Rock, provides speed and a left-handed bat off the bench. The Angels called up Taylor Ward for the weekend's games.
• Albert Pujols of the Angels needs one RBI to become the third player in Major League history to reach 2,000 RBIs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, trailing only Hank Aaron (2,297) and Alex Rodriguez (2,086).
• Trout had reached base safely in all 29 games this season and led the AL in on-base percentage (.492) entering the series. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the opening game, ending the streak. The only longer on-base streak in Trout’s career is 40, accomplished back in 2013.
• The Angels have won six of their last eight games, scoring 45 runs in that span.
• With his start on Saturday, Angels right-hander Trevor Cahill became the first pitcher in Major League history to make a regular-season start in four different countries (including Puerto Rico games). Cahill has previously pitched in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
• Saturday marked the 500th career game for Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who ranks second in RBIs, fifth in doubles and walks and sixth in hits through 500 games in club history. Entering Sunday he had a 14-game hitting streak.
• Osuna has converted 22 consecutive save chances dating to last season, which is the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.
• Ausmus and Astros manager AJ Hinch, both former big league catchers, are close friends. Ausmus has caught more games than any other catcher in Astros history.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.