5 Dark Horses Who Could Steal MLB Postseason Show
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Ever since the playoffs began, there has always been that player who comes out of nowhere and has a breakout "second season." For example, take David Freese from last year.
There are the superstars who must keep their weight and pressure upheld in order for their teams to make the postseason. Players like Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Derek Jeter are expected to lead their team's ship.
However, players like Freese and Cody Ross in 2010 are two past examples of dark horse players who made a difference.
Here are the five who might be in that same conversation this year.
No. 5: Alex Rios
Alex Rios' hot second half may carry over into the postseason.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Alex Rios is usually known for his defense, and this year, he's keeping suit to that with a .985 fielding percentage.
However, it's his offense that has South Siders talking.
Rios has a second-best 21 RBI after the All-Star Break, hitting .263 with seven home runs and a team-best 10 doubles.
However, for Rios to keep pulling forward, so does team leader Adam Dunn. Dunn goes as far as this team goes, but it never hurts for the White Sox to have a little backup.
Rios provides that.
No. 4: Manny Machado
Manny Machado just came up to the Big Leagues, but may make a big splash as the O's are still in the hunt.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Manny Machado is right where he belongs.
In his first six base hits, five of them were for extra bases. He had at least one hit in all but one of the first seven games he played. He has contributed right away.
If the Orioles organization trusts this kid by bringing him straight from Class-AA, then Machado must bring something new to the table.
Bringing in a new, fresh player might electrify the Baltimore clubhouse just enough to squeak into one of the two wild card spots.
No. 3: Brandon Belt
With Melky Cabrera out of the lineup, Brandon Belt will need to step up for the Giants.
Kent Horner/Getty Images
Brandon Belt's numbers may not be so striking at first, but how and when he contributes is what counts.
In the first week of August, Belt had a stretch where he had five multi-hit games that included a .500 batting average.
Since that point, Belt is hitting .348 with a .428 OBP, both fourth on the team in the last week.
The good part about Belt (and the rest of the players, for that matter) is that he doesn't have the pressure that the stars on the team have.
Buster Posey has to carry the team if the Giants want to make it to at least the wild card playoff. All Belt has to do is contribute to each game and have a big hit here and there.
That's what he started out the month doing, and he needs to continue that going into September.
No. 2: Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel will be the X-Factor for Atlanta down the stretch.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Some will say that Craig Kimbrel is not a dark horse because of the numbers he put up in 2011 and those that are similar right now.
Mind you, Kimbrel was one of the reasons why Atlanta fell apart last year, and that may make Atlanta fans trust him less if it comes down to the last night of the season again.
Also, he and Jonny Venters have not gotten the same attention they had received last season for multiple reasons.
Therefore, he becomes a dark horse.
Kimbrel's stats this season are on course to what he had last year.
Kimbrel does have a loss on the season, however. He has a 1.20 ERA, 79/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, holding his opponents to a .118 average, and has given up 18 hits on the season. Stats that will knock any hitter's socks off.
If I'm Fredi Gonzalez, I put all my chips on this kid, despite the lack of sustainability at the end of last year. The Braves are poised to make a nice run for the NL East, and Kimbrel is needed to shut the door.
No. 1: Gio Gonzalez
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
If Stephen Strasburg is indeed shut down on the season, then it's a good thing that the Nationals have Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has gotten very popular even back in his Oakland days, but now that he's in the nation's capital, he might be the ace who carries the Nationals.
On the season, Gonzalez is 16-6, tied for best in the Majors and has a fourth-best opposing batting average with a .214 average.
Gonzalez may be a dark horse in the Cy Young race in the National League, but he will certainly be a major key to the Nationals' run down the stretch.