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


Solely three extra weeks stay within the MLB common season and the postseason races are heating up. The Braves path the Mets by solely half a recreation within the Nationwide League East and the White Sox are simply three behind the Guardians within the American League Central. The AL wild-card groups have separated from the pack, with the Blue Jays, Rays and Mariners heading towards the playoffs, however the high spot — and home-field benefit within the first spherical — is up for grabs, because the three groups entered Wednesday tied within the loss column. Within 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 must face the Braves seven instances, the Blue Jays twice and the Astros 3 times, so their schedule isn’t simple.

Playoff spots, home-field benefit and first-round byes are at stake. Listed below are among the key gamers who have to step up in these tight races to assist their groups over the following 21 days.

Stats are up to date by way of Tuesday’s video games.


NL EAST RACE

Mets — 1B Pete Alonso

Alonso has been the Mets’ MVP all season lengthy, slashing .268/.344/.505 with 24 doubles, 34 residence runs and an NL-leading 110 RBIs. Nevertheless, within 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 worthwhile first-round bye, the Mets want Alonso to carry out just like the affect participant he’s over the ultimate 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 12 months in the past, however because of the manufacturing of rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom, the stress on Acuña to carry out has lessened. However because the Braves attempt to edge the Mets for the division crown, they want extra from their famous person proper fielder. Over the past 15 video games, Acuña has batted .258 with a .310 on-base proportion and only one residence run. Nevertheless, 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.

AL CENTRAL RACE


Rookie Oscar Gonzalez has batted .319/.396/.596 this month, however the Guardians want extra offense. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA At present)

Guardians — their lineup, from high to backside

The Guardians’ pitching workers is doing every thing doable to cause them to a stunning AL Central title. Over the past 30 days, their staff ERA is 2.65, third greatest in baseball. Nevertheless, their offense has struggled throughout that span, rating twenty ninth within the majors with solely 3.25 runs scored per recreation. To carry off the White Sox, the Guardians want their lineup to start out producing. Within the final 30 days, solely Oscar Gonzalez (5 residence runs) and José Ramírez (4) have hit greater than two lengthy balls. Cleveland hitters have been working the rely and getting on base however they have not been in a position to string collectively hits, which has turn into a late-season drawback, particularly after they’re not hitting for energy. (The Guardians rank final in MLB with 16 homers within the final 30 days.) Down the stretch, the Guardians want their two position-player All-Stars, Ramírez and Andrés Giménez, to ship on the plate, however additionally they want manufacturing from all through the lineup, together with their elite pitching and protection, to carry off the White Sox, whom they face 4 extra instances.

White Sox — RHP Lucas Giolito

The White Sox are approaching robust offensively, thanks partly to the bats of Eloy Jiménez and Elvis Andrus, who’ve mixed for 11 residence runs and 33 RBIs over their final 15 video games. 4 of their hitters — Jiménez, Andrus, José Abreu and AJ Pollock — have batted over .340 and posted a .390 OBP or larger within the final 15 days. Nevertheless, the important thing for the White Sox throughout the stretch run could be Giolito, who has struggled to match his rotation mates this 12 months. 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 within the second half. They want him to show issues round in his ultimate begins of the common season.

AL WILD-CARD RACE


Wander Franco was on the IL from July 10 to Sept. 9. (Nick Turchiaro/USA At present)

Mariners — OF Mitch Haniger and OF Jesse Winker

The Mariners lead the majors with a staff ERA of two.42 over the past 30 days and are in place to safe the highest 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 within the final month, however the Mariners have been approaching over their final 12 video games and have outhomered each AL staff throughout that span. Julio Rodríguez and Eugenio Suárez have carried them, combining for 10 residence runs and 15 RBIs and reaching base at a forty five p.c and 36 p.c clip, respectively. Nevertheless, these two will need assistance from Haniger and Winker if the Mariners are to lock up home-field benefit for the primary spherical. Over the past 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 within the majors over the past 15 days with simply six residence runs and though they’ve the pitching and protection to complete atop the wild-card standings, they will want some lengthy balls to do it. With 18 homers, Paredes ranks second on the staff behind Randy Arozarena, however he has not hit one in September. The Rays want him to go yard just a few instances throughout the stretch run. In the meantime, Franco is lastly again from the injured listing and off to an honest begin, going 6-for-20 with three RBIs in his first six video games again, however the Rays will want their 21-year-old sensation to stay as much as his 11-year, $182 million contract within the ultimate weeks to greatest the Mariners and Blue Jays for home-field benefit within the wild-card spherical.

Blue Jays — RHP Jose Berrios

Berríos has been a significant disappointment this season, posting a 5.07 ERA, 4.68 FIP and 1.376 WHIP — all career-worst marks since his 2016 rookie 12 months — after signing a seven-year, $131 million extension final November. Nevertheless, he is pitched higher in his final 5 begins, yielding two earned runs or much less in all however one in every of them. The Blue Jays want him to maintain pitching that approach to end with the perfect document among the many AL wild-card groups and turn into a postseason risk. If the highest of their rotation — Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling and Berríos — pitches to its potential, the Blue Jays may do actual harm within the playoffs. Berríos is the important thing, and though he seems to be like he is getting on monitor, the Blue Jays will want him to be constantly good the remainder of the best way.

NL WILD-CARD RACE


Buying Josh Bell hasn’t paid off but for the Padres. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA At present)

Phillies — RHP Seranthony Domínguez

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 outings 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 aid appearances had 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 maintain their wild-card spot and finish their postseason drought, the Phillies want Domínguez to carry out at his greatest within the late innings.

Padres—1B Josh Bell

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

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

The Brewers want their veterans — particularly, Yelich, Adames and McCutchen — to hold them. Over their final 15 video games, Yelich is batting .298, Adames is hitting .246 and McCutchen is at .236. They usually’re not getting a lot assist from Rowdy Tellez (.204 in his final 15 video games) and Keston Hiura (.208). Nevertheless, Yelich, Adames and McCutchen have carried out it earlier than and should flip it on now to raise Milwaukee over the Padres or Phillies. The Brewers have the pitching and protection to make the playoffs if this veteran trio gives the run assist.

(High picture of Ronald Acuña Jr.: Brett Davis / USA At present)

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