The Major League Baseball playoffs are well underway, and sprinkled around the postseason rosters are 7 players who hail from our Commonwealth.
North of the Border, the BlueJays are attempting to capitalize on last year’s success, and joining Toronto this summer in a trade was OF Melvin Upton, Jr. (Chesapeake). Upton had 7 career postseason HRs-all with the 2008 Rays, so he will be counted on to contribute and help the Jays try and bring a championship to Canada for the first time since the 1992-1993 championships.
In the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals are NL East champions for the 3rd time in 5 years. While each of the playoff teams have had some turnover, one constant remains, the last player left over from the very first Washington Nationals team-1B Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach/UVA). Zimmerman has shifted to 1B in recent years, but still remains a key member of a team that is just a few hours from home.
In the City by the Bay, the San Francisco Giants will attempt to continue their even-year run of championships. They won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Since this 2016, an even year, they will try to win again. They have a solid lineup and decent starting pitching, and a bullpen that includes veteran LH Javier Lopez (Fairfax/UVA). Lopez is the only active major leaguer with 4 World Series rings, having won with the 2007 Red Sox as well as all of the Giants titles this decade.
In Beantown, the Boston Red Sox, the only other team besides SF to win 3 titles since the turn of the century, expect to be competitive in the final playoffs for their longtime franchise player, Big Papi, DH David Ortiz. All of the pieces are there for the Sox to make a run at this, and arguably their best weapon at their disposal is their starting outfield, which includes a guy who had a breakthrough year in 2016, OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Prince George). Bradley hit .267 with 26 HRs and 87 RBIs and even stole 9 bases-the last 3 items more than double his career high-so he will be counted on to continue his breakout year in the postseason.
In the Lone Star state, the Texas Rangers fortified themselves at the trading deadline with a couple of key deals and secured their 4th AL West title in this decade. One of the keys to the Rangers late push was Closer Jeremy Jeffress (South Boston). Acquired from the NL’s Brewers, Jeffress posted a 2.70 ERA in 13 games with Texas. While he did not pick up any saves, he will be a key part of the postseason bullpen.
The 2 longest active championship droughts in MLB both made the postseason, and have role players who hail from the Old Dominion. The Chicago Cubs have not won a title in over 100 years, and this year seem poised to break through, with a bullpen that includes RH Justin Grimm (Bristol). In Cleveland, the Indians have not won a title since 1948, and have not won a pennant since winning 2 of them in the 1990s. This year, OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon/UVA) is a key role player on their bench.
We will soon see if one of our Heroes of the Old Dominion can bring home a title.
For years, even decades, the University of Virginia has been known as a hotbed of talent for the sport of football. (Every NFL draft since the early 1980s has seen at least one NFL player get drafted out of UVA.) But make way, football, Major League Baseball is gaining steam.
As of Tuesday, September 15th, when the Orioles recalled P Tyler Wilson (Midlothian) from Triple-A Norfolk, a record 10 Wahoos appear on major league rosters. Here is the rundown of the UVA-to-MLB pipeline:
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax) played at Virginia from 1996-1998. He currently leads all active major league players with 4 World Series rings. (2007 with the Red Sox and the three SF titles of the 2010s.)
St Louis Cardinals IF Mark Reynolds (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2001-2004. His 236 career homers are 23rd among active major league players.
Washington Nationals IF Ryan Zimmerman (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2003-2005. In the 2005 draft, he was selected in the first round by Washington, the very first draft choice in the history of the Washington Nationals, who had just moved to DC from Montreal. Zimmerman is the last player left from the team’s inaugural season in Washington, and has clearly become the face of the franchise. His 10 career Walk-off homers are 2 short of the NL record). On March 30th, 2008, he christened the new Nationals Park with a walk-off HR to beat the Braves. In the summer of 2015, he cracked the 200 HR milestone. In his time as a National, his resume also includes an all-star game, a Gold Glove, and 2 Silver Sluggers.
Oakland Athletics P Sean Dolittle played at Virginia from 2005-2007. In 2014 he was 10th in the AL with 22 saves, and made his first all-star game.
Also currently on Major League rosters: Cleveland Indians P Kyle Crockett (Poquoson), Arizona Diamondbacks IF Phil Gosselin, Tampa Bay Rays OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon), Seattle Mariners C John Hicks (Richmond), San Francisco Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford), and Wilson.
Major League Baseball, Wahoo strong!!!!!!!!
In this series, I will highlight facts about ballplayers from Virginia that may not have been known. In this first installment, lets head to San Francisco, and talk about LH reliever Javier Lopez.
Lopez (Fairfax/UVA) leads all active major leaguers with 4 World Series rings.
He won his first one in 2007, with Boston, as the Red Sox defeated the Rockies. Lopez posted a 15.43 ERA in the playoffs that year-most of that in the ALCS.
In 2010, he got his second ring, pitching 2 scoreless appearances in relief in the title round, as the Giants defeated the Rangers.
In 2012, he was on the playoff roster, but did not get into any of the Series games, as the Giants swept Detroit to win the title, and give Lopez his third ring.
In 2014, he pitched three scoreless appearances in the Fall Classic as San Francisco beat Kansas City in 7 to win the title and give Lopez his 4th World Series ring.
For his career, Lopez has pitched in 6 scoreless appearances in the World Series.
After a lengthy season and postseason, the 2014 World Series is set.
Representing the American League will be the Kansas City Royals, streaking through their first postseason in 29 years. They earned their way here by beating Oakland in the Wild Card Game, then sweeping Anaheim and Baltimore.
Representing the National League will be the San Francisco Giants, who are no strangers to recent postseason action, as they have won 2 World Series titles this decade-2010 and 2012. They got here by pounding Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game, then besting Washington and St. Louis.
When the two teams take the field Tuesday in Game 1, the Giants will do so with a strong Virginia connection.
Baseball fans in coastal Virginia will watch with pride, as former Norfolk Tides player Travis Ishikawa will go for his second ring. In fact, it was Ishikawa who got the Giants to this point; on October 16, Ishikawa hit a 3-run walk-off homer to win the game and the series for the Giants and send them roaring into the Fall Classic. Ishikawa played in 49 games with the 2013 Norfolk Tides.
Just up I-64 in central Virginia, baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital City will also be watching with pride. Since 2010, when pro baseball returned to Richmond in the form of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, not only has Richmond gone to 2 EL finals, but a slew of players who played here have gone on to the Bay Area and are on the postseason roster for the Giants. When San Francisco takes the field, 8 former Squirrels will be among them: starting 1B Brandon Belt, starting second baseman Joe Panik, starting shortstop Brandon Crawford, infielder Matt Duffy, outfielders Juan Perez and Gary Brown, catcher Andrew Susac and reliever Hunter Strickland.
When we head up I-95 to the Potomac Capital region, fans here, who are probably still smarting over the Nationals losing to the Giants in the NLDS, might still have an interest in watching two of their own try to win the World Series. Veteran LH reliever Javier Lopez grew up in Fairfax County, went to Robinson Secondary school, and went on to play at UVA. The 37-yr old Lopez won World Series rings previously with Boston in 2007 and San Francisco in 2010 and 2012. Also of interest to Northern Virginians is manager Bruce Bochy, who spent his teen years in Falls Church and still has a loyal following here.
Giants. Royals. Game 1 Tuesday.
Giants LH reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax, UVA) had a hot start, having not given up a run in his first 11 games totaling 5 innings. His streak finally ended on April 28th when he gave up a run against San Diego in one inning of relief. His ERA ballooned all the way up to 1.50.