Bowden: 13 MLB players who need to step up as the postseason races heat up

Only three extra weeks stay in the MLB common season and the postseason races are heating up. The Braves path the Mets by solely half a sport in the National League East and the White Sox are simply three behind the Guardians in the American League Central. The AL wild-card groups have separated from the pack, with the Blue Jays, Rays and Mariners heading in direction of the playoffs, however the high spot — and home-field benefit in the first spherical — is up for grabs, as the three groups entered Wednesday tied in the loss column. In the NL wild-card race, the Brewers have received 5 of their final six and path the Padres by two video games. The Phillies are 3 1/2 video games up on Milwaukee (and personal the tiebreaker), however they nonetheless have to face the Braves seven occasions, the Blue Jays twice and the Astros thrice, so their schedule just isn’t simple.

Playoff spots, home-field benefit and first-round byes are at stake. Here are a few of the key players who need to step up in these tight races to assist their groups over the subsequent 21 days.

Stats are up to date via Tuesday’s video games.


Mets — 1B Pete Alonso

Alonso has been the Mets’ MVP all season lengthy, slashing .268/.344/.505 with 24 doubles, 34 dwelling runs and an NL-leading 110 RBIs. However, in the final 30 days he is been comparatively quiet, hitting .226 with seven extra-base hits in 27 video games and 106 at-bats. To win the NL East and declare a priceless first-round bye, the Mets need Alonso to carry out like the impression participant he’s over the remaining three weeks. The excellent news for New York: In his final seven video games, Alonso has picked it up, batting .345/.387/.586.

Braves — RF Ronald Acuña Jr.

Acuña has been a disappointment this season in his return from ACL surgical procedure a yr in the past, however thanks to the manufacturing of rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom, the stress on Acuña to carry out has lessened. But as the Braves attempt to edge the Mets for the division crown, they need extra from their famous person proper fielder. Over the final 15 video games, Acuña has batted .258 with a .310 on-base proportion and only one dwelling run. However, he has stolen three bases in as many makes an attempt throughout that span. Acuña’s base-stealing skill will probably be key down the stretch in serving to the Braves batters after him get extra fastballs to hit.


(*13*)Rookie Oscar Gonzalez has batted .319/.396/.596 this month, however the Guardians need extra offense. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Guardians — their lineup, from high to backside

The Guardians’ pitching workers is doing every little thing potential to lead them to a stunning AL Central title. Over the final 30 days, their group ERA is 2.65, third greatest in baseball. However, their offense has struggled throughout that span, rating twenty ninth in the majors with solely 3.25 runs scored per sport. To maintain off the White Sox, the Guardians need their lineup to begin producing. In the final 30 days, solely Oscar Gonzalez (5 dwelling runs) and José Ramírez (4) have hit greater than two lengthy balls. Cleveland hitters have been working the depend and getting on base however they have not been in a position to string collectively hits, which has change into a late-season drawback, particularly after they’re not hitting for energy. (The Guardians rank final in MLB with 16 homers in the final 30 days.) Down the stretch, the Guardians need their two position-player All-Stars, Ramírez and Andrés Giménez, to ship at the plate, however additionally they need manufacturing from all through the lineup, together with their elite pitching and protection, to maintain off the White Sox, whom they face 4 extra occasions.

White Sox — RHP Lucas Giolito

The White Sox are approaching sturdy offensively, thanks partially to the bats of Eloy Jiménez and Elvis Andrus, who have mixed for 11 dwelling runs and 33 RBIs over their final 15 video games. Four of their hitters — Jiménez, Andrus, José Abreu and AJ Pollock — have batted over .340 and posted a .390 OBP or larger in the final 15 days. However, the key for the White Sox throughout the stretch run is perhaps Giolito, who has struggled to match his rotation mates this yr. Giolito’s numbers have deteriorated since final season, particularly after the All-Star break, as he posted a 6.04 ERA and a 1.638 WHIP in the second half. They need him to flip issues round in his remaining begins of the common season.


(*13*)Wander Franco was on the IL from July 10 to Sept. 9. (Nick Turchiaro / USA Today)

Mariners — OF Mitch Haniger and OF Jesse Winker

The Mariners lead the majors with a group ERA of two.42 over the final 30 days and are in place to safe the high AL wild-card spot — and finish their 20-season playoff drought — if their lineup can step up down the stretch. Their wild-card competitors, the Rays and Blue Jays, have scored extra runs than them in the final month, however the Mariners have been approaching over their final 12 video games and have outhomered each AL group throughout that span. Julio Rodríguez and Eugenio Suárez have carried them, combining for 10 dwelling runs and 15 RBIs and reaching base at a forty five % and 36 % clip, respectively. However, these two will need assist from Haniger and Winker if the Mariners are to lock up home-field benefit for the first spherical. Over the final 15 days, Haniger has batted .143 with three extra-base hits in 49 at-bats, whereas Winker has hit .074 with one extra-base hit in 27 at-bats.

Rays – INF Isaac Paredes and SS Wander Franco

The Rays rank thirtieth in the majors over the final 15 days with simply six dwelling runs and though they’ve the pitching and protection to end atop the wild-card standings, they will need some lengthy balls to do it. With 18 homers, Paredes ranks second on the group behind Randy Arozarena, however he has not hit one in September. The Rays need him to go yard just a few occasions throughout the stretch run. Meanwhile, Franco is lastly again from the injured listing and off to a good begin, going 6-for-20 with three RBIs in his first six video games again, however the Rays will need their 21-year-old sensation to dwell up to his 11-year, $182 million contract in the remaining weeks to greatest the Mariners and Blue Jays for home-field benefit in the wild-card spherical.

Blue Jays — RHP José Berrios

Berríos has been a serious disappointment this season, posting a 5.07 ERA, 4.68 FIP and 1.376 WHIP — all career-worst marks since his 2016 rookie yr — after signing a seven-year, $131 million extension final November. However, he is pitched higher in his final 5 begins, yielding two earned runs or much less in all however considered one of them. The Blue Jays need him to preserve pitching that means to end with the greatest file amongst the AL wild-card groups and change into a postseason menace. If the high of their rotation — Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling and Berríos — pitches to its potential, the Blue Jays might do actual harm in the playoffs. Berríos is the key, and though he appears to be like like he is getting on monitor, the Blue Jays will need him to be persistently good the remainder of the means.


(*13*)Acquiring Josh Bell hasn’t paid off but for the Padres. (Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)

Phillies — RHP Seranthony Dominguez

The Phillies are relieved to have their high reliever again from the IL as a result of they blew 5 saves and the bullpen struggled in his absence. They shut down Domínguez (proper triceps tendinitis) after an Aug. 17 outing however activated him Sunday and he has made two scoreless appearances since. From June 17 to Aug. 17, Domínguez was dominant: 18 of his 21 reduction appearances have been scoreless and he transformed 9 of 9 save alternatives. On the season, Domínguez has logged a 1.57 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. To preserve their wild-card spot and finish their postseason drought, the Phillies need Domínguez to carry out at his greatest in the late innings.

Padres – 1B Josh Bell

The Padres need to get their bats going. They rank twelfth in the NL over the final 30 days with 98 runs scored and twelfth over the final 15 days with 42. Manny Machado has led the means for greater than a month in nearly all offensive classes, together with hits, extra-base hits, dwelling runs, RBIs and OPS. However, opposing groups will pitch round Machado or stroll him in the remaining weeks if he does not get any assist. Enter Josh Bell. When the Padres acquired Bell at the commerce deadline he was raking for the Nationals, slashing .301/.384/.493 with 24 doubles, three triples, 14 dwelling runs and 57 RBIs in 103 video games. But since the blockbuster Juan Soto commerce, Bell has batted .206/.320/.313 with simply 5 doubles and three dwelling runs in 131 at-bats. It’s his time to shine for San Diego. Oh, and so they need Soto — .120/.313/.180 in his final 15 video games — to get going as effectively.

Brewers — OF Christian Yelich, SS Willy Adames and DH Andrew McCutchen

The Brewers need their veterans — particularly, Yelich, Adames and McCutchen — to carry them. Over their final 15 video games, Yelich is batting .298, Adames is hitting .246 and McCutchen is at .236. And they are not getting a lot assist from Rowdy Tellez (.204 in his final 15 video games) and Keston Hiura (.208). However, Yelich, Adames and McCutchen have accomplished it earlier than and should flip it on now to carry Milwaukee over the Padres or Phillies. The Brewers have the pitching and protection to make the playoffs if this veteran trio offers the run assist.

(Top picture of Ronald Acuña Jr.: Brett Davis / USA Today)

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