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.
In this latest installment of this series, where we choose an all-time Team Virginia, we round out the starting infield with our Shortstop.
And the clear choice here is Pirates SS, and Richmond-native Gene Alley.
Alley played for the Pirates from 1963-1973, a career that was cut short due to injuries. In his time, he was never a great hitter, but made his mark with his glove. He won 2 Gold Gloves in his career (1966-1967) turning double plays with Pirates HOF great Bill Mazerowski, one of only 8 middle-infield duos to win Gold Gloves together in the same year. In 1966, Alley worked with his double play counterpart to turn 161 DPs, a record that still stands today. Alley was a 2-time all-star (1967-1968) and won a World Series with the Pirates in 1971.
Alley was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
In this installment of this special series where we pick an all-time roster of players who came from Virginia, we turn to second base.
The clear choice to man 2B on Team Virginia is…..Tony Womack.
Womack, a Danville native, played in the major leagues from 1993-2006. He played his career with several different teams, but had his greatest success with Pittsburgh and Arizona.
Womack played in the steel city from 1993-1998, and became a regular second baseman in 1997. That was the year he led the league in Stolen Bases and made his only all-star team. 1997 would also be the first of 3 consecutive years he would lead the NL in stolen bases-a feat no one has accomplished since.
Womack was traded to the Diamondbacks in 1999 and set a franchise single-season SB record with 72, also leading the NL. He would spend five seasons playing in the desert, and amass 182 Stolen Bases while playing there. That remains a franchise record.
Womack was a key part of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks run to the title. His walk-off single won the National League Division Series against the Cardinals. The Dimaondbacks got all the way to the World Series and had to take on the 3-time defending champion New York Yankees. In the clinching game, Womack’s game-tying hit against the venerable Mariano Rivera would set the stage for Luis Gonzales’s bloop single to make the Diamondbacks the first team to win a title in only their 4th year of existence.
Womack left the Diamondbacks after the 2003 season and would go on to play for 5 more franchises over the next three years before retiring. He finished his career with a .273 batting average and 363 career stolen bases.
Interesting article about Mets franchise player David Wright (Chesapeake).
In this new series here at From VA to the Show, we pick an all-time team of players who have come from Virginia. This team will encompass a starting lineup, including a DH, a 5-man starting rotation, a bullpen, and a bench. Altogether, this will be a 30-man roster of the greatest ballplayers to come out of the Commonwealth.
We start with picking a first baseman.
The clear choice to man first base on Team Virginia is George McQuinn. A native of Arlington, McQuinn played from 1936-1948, a total of 12 seasons, with Cincinnati, the old St Louis Browns, the old Philadelphia Athletics, and the New York Yankees. He was a 6-time all-star-a 7th appearance, the 1945 game, was cancelled due to US travel restrictions in place related to the war. For his career, he played in 1550 games and batted .276 with 135 HR and 794 RBIs, and on three occasions, he batted north of .300.
One of those .300+ seasons came in 1947, as he batted .304 with 13 HR and 80 RBIs, a key cog for the New York Yankees, as they won the World Series. McQuinn retired after the 1948 season, and went on to do some scouting for the Senators and Expos in his post-playing days.
McQuinn was inducted into the Arlington Sports HOF in 1958, its very first inductee, and was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.
George McQuinn died on Christmas Eve, 1978.
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.
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.
The Wild Card Series is now a best-of-3, and is assured of going back to Kansas City.
OF Hunter Pence (Salem, ’05) had three hits and three RBIs, and 2B Joe Panik (Richmond, ’13) had 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, and scored 2 runs as the Giants rallied to defeat the Royals 11-4 and square the series up at 2 games each.
Game 5 is tonight in the City by the Bay, and the series will finish up one way or another in Kansas City this week.
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.