October is here, meaning the Major League Baseball Playoffs are in full swing. This year’s expanded postseason format features a handful of Long Beach natives seeking World Series glory.
In this past weekend’s Wild Card round, the Seattle Mariners finally ended their 21-year postseason drought. With help from Lakewood’s J.P. Crawford, the M’s won their series in Toronto, punching their ticket to the ALDS in Houston.
Crawford started both games at shortstop for Seattle, and came up with a huge hit during their epic Game 2 comeback. The Mariners trailed 8-1 against the Blue Jays, but stormed all the way back to tie the game in the 8th inning when Crawford blooped a three-run double into center field.
Fellow Lakewood alum Travis d’Arnaud was able to rest last weekend along with the rest of his Atlanta Braves teammates. The defending champs are hosting their NL East rival Phillies in the NLDS this week.
Elsewhere in the National League, former Long Beach State Dirtbag Jeff McNeil and his New York Mets came up short in their Wild Card series against the San Diego Padres. It ended a terrific season for McNeil, who was the National League Batting Champion with a .326 average–the best mark in all of MLB.
McNeil set career highs in hits (174), doubles (39) and walks (40), and closed the season on an impressive hot streak. Over his last 10 games of the season, McNeil hit .465 with a pair of home runs and nine runs scored. That included a 10-game hitting streak, with a whopping eight of those being multi-hit efforts. During the NLDS, McNeil hit a key two-run double in Game 2, which led to New York’s lone postseason win.
A couple more veterans will be making return trips to the postseason this week. Long Beach native Justin Turner remains with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are among the World Series favorites after a 111-win season and will be taking on division rival San Diego. In the American League, Long Beach Wilson grad Aaron Hicks will be in the outfield mix for the New York Yankees as they face the Cleveland Guardians in the ALCS.
Long Beach State alum Bryan Shaw had been a staple in the Cleveland bullpen for much of his 12-year big league career, but he was designated for assignment just before the end of the regular season, leaving him off the postseason roster. Still, Shaw remained with the team as a veteran clubhouse presence during their Wild Card series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which the Guardians swept in two games. Shaw’s willingness to embrace a new leadership role while inactive drew praise from Cleveland’s front office, including President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti.
“Bryan’s a phenomenal teammate,” Antonetti told the Akron Beacon Journal. “We had to have a really difficult conversation with him about not making the postseason roster but his immediate reaction was how can I stay around, I want to be part of this, I want to be part of the team and help in any way I can. That’s just who Bryan has been throughout his time with us.”
That leaves Long Beach baseball fans with a rooting interest in all four Division Series this week.