The postseason provides an opportunity for players to raise their stature in the MLB hierarchy. With the spotlight squarely on a select group, it’s also a time in which others becomes victims to playoff pressure.
If ever there was a best to have a hot streak or worst time to have a slump, this would be it. Here is a list of those who are thriving or suffering through October.
4. Andrew Miller/Roberto Osuna
Most relief pitchers today can’t go an inning per outing, much less two. Miller vocalized his willingness to help the Cleveland cause in any way possible. Manager Terry Francona took him at his word — summoning the left-hander in the fifth inning of Game 1 in place of starter Trevor Bauer. Over two frames, Miller allowed just one hit and fanned four while earning the victory. In Game 3, he tossed two more one-hit innings to hold Boston in check. Osuna has also worked overtime in the postseason (despite physical ailments) — totaling five innings over three outings and earning a win and a save. During that span, his opponents could only muster up a single hit.
3. Daniel Murphy
Haven’t we seen this before? Granted, it’s not exactly the unbelievable power display of a year ago with the Mets, but Murphy’s steadiness at the plate lately has rekindled some of that October magic from 2015. Arguably the MVP for Washington, he showed not a beat has been missed following a late-season injury. Murphy went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in a critical Game 2 victory, then bettered that with two hits — driving in four of the Nats’ five runs — during Tuesday’s narrow defeat at Dodger Stadium.
2. Jon Lester
If Lester is going to win the NL Cy Young, he’ll have to beat out at least one of his Chicago teammates. As far as the postseason is concerned, no Cub pitcher is better. In Game 1 on Friday night, he tossed eight shutout innings against the Giants (holding them to five hits without a walk) over just 86 pitches. A late Javier Baez homer and a solid ninth from Aroldis Chapman finished off Lester’s well-earned 1-0 win. He’ll get his chance to build on that outstanding effort — as well as his strong playoff resume — when he likely gets the ball for either Game 1 or 2 of the National League Championship Series in the Windy City.
Jon Lester’s postseason resume:7 yrs., 12 series, 2.63 ERA, 92 K 25 BB, 2 rings
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) October 8, 2016
1. Blue Jays hitting
It would be impossible to single out just a member of Toronto’s four offensive heroes. But if we had to, it would be Edwin Encarnacion. The AL RBI leader has hit .375, driven in seven and hit three home runs — including the game-winning blast to beat Baltimore in the one-game wild card showdown. Josh Donaldson had his moment Sunday with a mad dash for home that proved to be the winning run in an ALDS sweep of the Rangers, which punctuated a four-game stretch of nine hits (including five doubles) in 18 at-bats. Troy Tulowitzki took over Texas with a 5-for-9 clip and five RBIs over the two contests in Arlington, while unheralded Ezequiel Carrera has been remarkably consistent — reaching base eight times and scoring four times.
4. Anthony Rizzo
The Cubs posses so much depth and diversity of talent that the struggles of a star of his caliber doesn’t get a tremendous amount of focus. One of the two premiere hitters in Chicago’s batting order (along with Kris Bryant), Rizzo has been held in check by San Francisco pitching. Over the first two games at Wrigley Field, Rizzo went 0-for-7. Those struggles would continue in the Bay Area. But although the 27-year-old could only muster one hit, his walk in the ninth inning was instrumental in the Cubs’ amazing Game 4 rally.
3. David Price
A change in teams can’t change his personal history. It’s yet another October to forget for Price, who was tagged by the Indians for six hits and five runs over 3.1 innings last Friday afternoon at Progressive Field as his Red Sox fell into an 0-2 hole. This only added to the continuing narrative of a long string of postseason failures. Following his Game 2 destruction in Cleveland, his playoff pitching line looks this way: a 2-8 record with 68 hits over 66.2 innings and a 5.54 ERA.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr.
Boston’s big money pitcher wasn’t the only player who came up short in the ALDS sweep. The Indians held the Sox – a team that led the league in runs scored with 878 over the course of the regular year – to just seven over the three-game set. Bradley’s lack of production was most glaring. He was held hitless until his tenth and final at-bat – when he recorded a two-out, ninth inning single to temporarily keep hope alive. But more often than not, Bradley was tied in knots – fanning seven times.
1. Danny Espinosa
He’s not exactly the poster child for plate discipline. Espinosa — who did manage 24 home runs — struck out 174 times in 601 plate appearances during the 2016 regular season (up from 116 in 412 turns at bat in ’15). Even so, this recent run of futility is quite staggering. He was 0-for-3 and a strikeout victim on three occasions in the series opener with Los Angeles. Combining Sunday and Monday, he was held hitless in four at-bats and was punched out three more times. Danny finally broke through to go 1-for-4 on Tuesday, but still struck out twice to remarkably bring his NLDS ‘K’ total to eight.