Clutch late homers in consecutive games on Friday lifted New York Mets utility man Jeff McNeil into the semifinals of the MLB The Show Players League, where he will meet Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell.
McNeil, the fourth seed, earned a two-game sweep of fifth-seeded Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., 3-2 and 3-1. In the second quarterfinal, Snell knocked out eighth-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux in two tight games, winning 3-2 and 5-4.
McNeil and Snell will square off in a semifinal series on Saturday.
The remaining two quarterfinals are scheduled for Saturday, beginning at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Second-seeded Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo will oppose seventh-seeded Chicago Cubs utility man Ian Happ, and third-seeded Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette will meet sixth-seeded Chicago White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito.
The first best-of-three semifinal will follow the last two quarterfinals Saturday afternoon on ESPN2. The second semifinal is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.
The best-of-five championship series will air Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The first game of the Smith-McNeil quarterfinal was tied after the regulation three innings, and Smith’s Orioles grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth. However, virtual J.D. Davis belted a walk-off, two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to give McNeil’s Mets a victory.
In the second game, McNeil got back-to-back homers from a virtual Brandon Nimmo and the virtual version of himself to snap a third-inning tie and top Smith.
“Huge at-bats right there,” McNeil said. “First game, J.D. came up big for me with that walk-off, and then the back-to-back homers ... and I happened to hit a homer myself, which is pretty cool.
“Just got a few good at-bats, and I’m lucky to be moving on.”
After Snell held on for a win in his first quarterfinal game, Lux jumped on top 3-0 in the second inning of the second game, thanks largely to a two-run home run from the virtual Lux.
“The first Gavin Lux homer of the year!” the real Lux declared.
However, Snell rallied for five runs in the top of the third, capped by a three-run shot from a virtual Brandon Lowe.
“There is no way you hit that, brother,” Lux said of the pitch from a virtual Joe Kelly. “That was 102 (mph) above the zone. ... That’s sickening. I’m sick to my stomach.”
Lux got a run back in the bottom of the third but couldn’t stop Snell from completing the sweep.
“Snelly’s good,” Lux said. “Snelly’s probably the best player in the league. I gave him a run for his money. I’m happy.”
Snell replied regarding the compliment, “I appreciate that,” before adding, “Five runs in the third. That’s (crazy). I was in your head.”
—Field Level Media