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.
This is an ongoing series where I recount some of the memorable moments of 2015 involving Virginia ballplayers. In this installment, I look at Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford).
Parker, a LF, was a 2nd round pick (74th overall) in the 2010 FY Player Draft. He would spend the 2011-2012 seasons with Single-A San Jose and for 2013-2014 he came back home, sort of. He would play with the Richmond Flying Squirrels of AA, and just 75 minutes from home. Over the course of his first 4 pro seasons, Parker slammed 61 HR, stole 73 bases, and batted .255. His main struggle was his high strikeout total, as he did top 100 in each of the 4 seasons.
While with Richmond in August 2014, the Giants happened to be on the east coast for a series with the Mets, and Parker was called up to the big team and spent one game in the dugout with them. He did not get into the game and flew back to the west coast with the team, who then sent him down to nearby AAA Fresno.
On June 10 of this year, Parker was called back to the big team, but 4 games and one hit in 11 AB later, he was returned to Fresno. He came back on September 11 and got his first ML RBI that night. He was rewarded with a string of games of playing time, and through September 25th, was batting .318. Parker was starting to show a lot, A LOT of promise, as the Giants settled in for a game against their cross-bay rivals, the Oakland As, on the night of Saturday, September 26.
If Parker was showing promise before this game, he made Giants brass stand up and take notice afterwards.
Parker slammed 3 Homeruns, and drove in 7 runs, in a Giants 14-10 win over Oakland. He became the first Giants rookie to ever slam 3 homers in a single game, and the first Giants player with 3 HR and 7 RBIs in a game since……Willie Mays.
This game followed up homers in previous 2 games, giving him 5 HR in 3 games, and this monster game raised his batting average up to .370 and his on-base % to .414.
Parker continued his hot streak the next day, with 2 more hits, raising his average to .400 and his on-base % to .455. He leveled off after that, and when he got 2 hits in the season finale, he finished with a .347 batting average and a .407 on-base %.
From Colonial Forge HS in Stafford to success at UVA, to the major leagues, Jarrett Parker appears to have won himself a permanent spot with the San Francisco Giants. On Opening Day 2016, he will be 27.
The San Francisco Giants are now in a rebuilding mode. Winners of 3 World Series championships this decade, the Giants are on the verge of missing the postseason altogether in 2015. With that in mind, they are starting to give some younger players a chance to prove themselves by giving them regular playing time and seeing what they can do. While they have a solid nucleus of a lineup already (Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford), they are looking to add from within.
One such young player is OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford/UVA). Parker got a cup of coffee with the big club earlier in the summer, and after going 1-9 in 4 games, was returned to Triple-A. He came back to the big club with the September roster expansion, and after a few appearances as a pinch-hitter, got a start on September 20. Parker was starting to show a lot of promise, batting .318, when he entered Saturday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.
If Parker was showing signs of promise beforehand, his game yesterday afternoon across the Bay made Giants brass take notice, BIG TIME!
Parker clubbed three homeruns and drove in 7 runs, including a grand-slam homerun in the 8th inning to put the Giants ahead for good, as San Francisco won the slugfest 14-10.
A few other tidbits about Parker’s career game:
- He became the first rookie to hit 3 HR in a game since Andrew McCutchen in 2009 for the Pirates.
- The last Giants player to club 3 HR and 7 RBIs in a single game? Willie Mays.
- Parker has 5 HRs in his last 3 games-in fact, his last 9 at-bats! The last Giants player to homer in 3 straight games, including a multi-hr game in that binge? Brandon Belt in 2011.
Parker is batting .500 with 8 runs scored, 6 HRs, and 12 RBIs since coming back to the big club on September 11.
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!!!!!!!!
When minor league baseball returned to Virginia’s capital city in 2010, it marked a rebirth of pro baseball in the city. From 1966-2008, Richmond was home to the R-Braves. the AAA affiliate of the Richmond Braves. But stadium issues plagued the team’s final years. and the Atlanta Braves finally gave up on seeing a badly needed new facility in Richmond, and pulled the team out and moved them to suburban Atlanta.
After a dark 2009 at the Diamond, baseball returned in 2010, as the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders, AA for the Giants, moved south to Richmond and became the Flying Squirrels. Part of the agreement of the team coming to Richmond was that a new facility would be forthcoming.
2015 marked the 6th season at the Diamond for the Squirrels, and no new stadium, and none on the horizon.
While the lack of a new stadium remains a source of frustration for Flying Squirrels management, SF Giants management, and even the Eastern League powers-that-be, as well as throwing some doubt into the future of pro baseball in Richmond, that is not stopping fans from flocking to the ballpark to see future San Francisco Giants. Final attendance figures are in for the 2015 season, and for the 4th time in their 6 years, the Flying Squirrels were tops in the league in attendance. A total of 417,010 fans showed up to the Diamond in ’15 to watch their beloved Squirrels, pulling in approximately 800 fans more than 2nd-place Reading.
Richmond also won the EL title in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
10 former Squirrels now in the Bay Area.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels appear headed nowhere off the field with regards to the ongoing drama in Virginia’s capital city about replacing the aging Diamond. On the field, they are 27-26, 6 games out of first place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, have won three in a row, 7 of their last 10, and sit 2 games out of a playoff spot.
Yes, the same Richmond Flying Squirrels who not long ago went through the misery of a 15-game losing streak.
On April 13th, Richmond defeated Altoona in a rout 10-3, in the opener of a 3-game series. The next day, the game was rained out, and on the 15th, the Squirrels lost to Altoona 3-0, kicking off a losing streak that reached 15 games. It got so bad that team front office man Todd Parnell pledged to abstain from showering until the team won a game. That losing streak put the team at 3-17 after 20 games, by far dead last in the league. They broke their losing streak on May 4th, defeating that same Altoona squad by a score of 5-1, the first of 6 straight wins.
Since that hellish losing streak, they have gone 24-9, and are now just 2 games out of a playoff spot.
What has fueled this squad’s turnaround? SS Rando Moreno is batting .331 in 40 games, and has increased his batting average by 16 points in the last 10 games. 2B Kelby Tolmlinson is batting .421 over the 5 games, .359 in the last 10 games. On the mound, RHP Joe Biagini is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 9 starts, and has 35 strikeouts to only 12 walks. posting a 1.03 WHIP. Returning LHP Jack Snodgrass won 4 games for Richmond before he was promoted to AAA.
Should be an interesting summer for the Giants AA affiliate.
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.
Since moving from New York to San Francisco in time for the 1958 season, the San Francisco Giants have been, well, not inept, but highlights have been few and far between. Oh sure, they have had great players like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and other notable names. In 1989, they got swept in a World Series that was best known as the Earthquake Series. In 2012, Matt Cain joined a very exclusive fraternity by throwing one of only 23 Perfect Games in baseball history, and first in franchise history.
But in terms of winning, the Giants were not doing so. From 1958, the first year in San Francisco, until 2009, the franchise had only 7 playoff appearances. Think about that for a minute, 7 in 52 seasons, and only three of those resulted in pennants (1962, 1989, 2002).
Times have drastically changed in the City by the Bay. In this decade, the Giants have won three World Series titles, generating talk of whether of not the Giants have become a modern dynasty. At the same time, Minor League Baseball returned to Virginia’s Capital City, Richmond, in 2010, with the new Richmond Flying Squirrels, San Francisco’s Double-A developmental club.
Baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital have watched with pride as several former Flying Squirrels have gone on to stardom 3,000 miles away in San Francisco and help resurrect the Giants franchise.
1B Brandon Belt and SS Brandon Crawford both played for the inaugural Richmond Flying Squirrels squad of 2010. 2B Joe Panik (2013) completes 3/4 of the Giants starting infield that played here. OF Matt Duffy (2014) batted .332 in 97 games before bypassing Triple-A and going to the Giants, and at 23, was the youngest player on the Giants World Series roster.UTIL Andrew Susac (2013) batted .256 with 46 RBIs in 84 games with the Squirrels before debuting in San Francisco in 2014. On the mound, P Hunter Strickland (2014) recorded 11 saves for the Squirrels before heading west, and in the NLDS, he recorded the save in an 18-inning game against Washington-at 6 hours and 23 minutes, the longest playoff game in baseball history.
With the slew of players heading west from Richmond, who could be next? I like 2 names. OF Jarrett Parker (2014), a Stafford-native, hit .275 with 12 HR, 58 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases in 100 games with Richmond before actually getting promoted to San Francisco, where he sat in the dugout for one game, before getting sent down to Triple-A, where he hit .278 in 24 games. I also like SP Jack Snodgrass (2013-2014). Snodgrass has won 23 games while posting a 3.64 ERA at Richmond. Conventional wisdom says he will be at Triple-A to start 2015, but with the Giants rotation having some question marks after Madison Baumgarner, Snodgrass might get a chance to break camp with the big club.
Just in..Final Score Giants 5, Royals 0.
Brandon Crawford (Richmond, ’10) and Juan Perez (Richmond, ’11 &’12) combined to drive in all 5.
San Francisco is one win from the title.