40 MLB Players with the Most Pressure on Their Shoulders in the Home Stretch
As Major League Baseball enters its final 10 days of regular-season play, 18 of its teams are still in contention for a postseason berth.
While several of those teams face almost insurmountable odds, we have seen the improbable turn into possible—one only has to go back to last year to witness examples (Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals).
As each team fights to have a chance at postseason glory, several players from each contender will be largely expected to deliver during the final 10 days.
Bleacher Report will take a look at 40 MLB players who will no doubt feel the pressure on their shoulders as they vie to carry their teams into the playoffs.
1. Buster Posey: San Francisco Giants
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
By the time the weekend is completed, the San Francisco Giants could well have the NL West Division wrapped up.
Heading into Saturday's games, the Giants' magic number to clinch the division stood at two, so they're almost assured a playoff berth as of this writing.
However, there is still some drama in San Francisco, but it is more along the lines of personal achievement.
With the announcement on Friday that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera will not be eligible for the NL batting title, catcher Buster Posey is now in a heated race with Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen for the title. Entering Saturday night, McCutchen held a three-point advantage over Posey, .338 to .335.
While the story about Cabrera's willingness to take his name out of consideration for the batting title was the focal point, the fact that his teammate has a legitimate shot for the title was definitely at the forefront as well.
Posey has stated on numerous occasions that his priorities lie with team success. However, if the Giants in fact clinch a playoff berth this weekend, Posey could very well put pressure on himself to go after the batting title that would have belonged in the hands of the Giants in the first place.
It's entirely possible Cabrera recognized that his popular teammate had a fighting chance, thereby helping to fuel his request.
Update: Posey and the Giants clinched the NL West Division on Saturday night with an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres. The Giants' catcher also entered Monday with a .332 average, four points behind McCutchen's league-leading .336.
2. Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburgh Pirates
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will have a few things on his mind as he prepares for the final 10 days of the regular season.
First, McCutchen will seek to lead his Pirates into the postseason for the first time since 1992. However, it's a tall order at this point—the Pirates have been positively awful in the month of September and are barely clinging to life in the race for a Wild Card slot.
Second, McCutchen will also be trying to keep the Pirates above .500, a task also not achieved since 1992. Entering play on Saturday night, the Pirates are 74-76.
Third, now that Melky Cabrera will be ineligible for the National League batting title, McCutchen will be vying for individual honors, currently leading San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey by three points. McCutchen is hitting .296 thus far in 19 September games, but Posey has been on fire, hitting .368 for the month.
McCutchen no doubt has pressure on his shoulders from several different fronts.
Update: The Pirates fell to 74-77 on Saturday afternoon with a 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros. McCutchen was 0-for-4, dropping his average to .336 on the season, just three points ahead of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. McCutchen followed up with a 2-for-5 effort on Sunday in a 8-1 win over the Astros.
3. A.J. Burnett: Pittsburgh Pirates
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett has been snake-bit thus far in the month of September.
In four starts, Burnett has posted a respectable 3.42 ERA but with nothing to show for his efforts. Burnett lost three of the four starts, with the Pirates losing the fourth start on a walk-off home run by Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart.
Burnett will get a chance to turn things around for himself and the Pirates with his start on Sunday against the Houston Astros. Burnett will likely have two more starts after that as well.
While Burnett himself can't lift the Pirates back up, three good starts could spell the difference between a winning or losing season for his team.
Update: Burnett delivered on the first of his final three starts, holding the Astros to just one run on four hits in eight innings in the Pirates 8-1 victory.
4. Ian Kennedy: Arizona Diamondbacks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Much like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Arizona Diamondbacks are barely hanging on to hopes for a postseason berth.
Already eliminated from contention for the NL West Division title, the D-Backs' only hope is to climb past several teams for the second Wild Card slot. At 75-75 entering play on Saturday, it's safe to say the Diamondbacks' chances are slim at best.
Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy will have three starts left starting on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies. Kennedy has pitched brilliantly in his last two starts, resulting in much-needed wins.
As the staff ace, Kennedy will no doubt be looking to continue his role as he looks to guide his team back from what appears to be an improbable deficit in the standings.
5. Justin Upton: Arizona Diamondbacks
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton has put together a solid month of September thus far, hitting .323 with four HR and nine RBI in 17 games.
Upton will be called upon to continue his hot play as the Diamondbacks seek to erase a five-game deficit in the Wild Card race with 11 games to play.
6. Ryan Braun: Milwaukee Brewers
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Following the Milwaukee Brewers' loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday, they currently sit 2.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the National League.
The Brewers suffered just their fifth loss in the month of September, climbing back into contention by winning 24 of their last 31 games since Aug. 20.
A main reason behind the Brewers' surge over the past month has been the play of left fielder Ryan Braun.
Braun is hitting .354 with four homers and 16 RBI in September, and his offense will be counted on as the Brewers fight to overtake the Cardinals in the final 10 days.
7. Yovani Gallardo: Milwaukee Brewers
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo has not lost a game since July 26. If his Brewers are to have a shot at overtaking the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the National League, Gallardo will be called upon to extend that streak.
Gallardo will have that opportunity starting on Sunday in a key matchup with the Washington Nationals.
Gallardo could potentially have two more regular-season starts after Sunday, the last coming on the final day of the regular season.
With nine quality starts in his last 10 outings, Gallardo has certainly gotten hot at the right time. The Brewers can only hope that Gallardo doesn't cool down anytime soon.
Update: Gallardo gave up two runs and six hits in five innings of work against the Washington Nationals on Sunday, earning a no decision. However, the Brewers kept pace in the Wild Card standings with a 6-2 victory.
8. Aramis Ramirez: Milwaukee Brewers
Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez hasn't had many opportunities to step it up in the clutch during his 15-year career. Ramirez made three postseason appearances with the Chicago Cubs during his eight-plus years there, and none in his first six seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, in his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Ramirez finds himself in the thick of things in the NL Wild Card race.
Ramirez has been terrific in the second half, hitting .332 with 15 HR and 45 RBI, including a .320 average with four HR and 11 RBI in the month of September.
Ramirez will be counted on to team with Ryan Braun to continue leading a hot-hitting offense as the Brewers enter the final 10 days of the regular season.
9. Cliff Lee: Philadelphia Phillies
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
On Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies will hand the ball off to their erstwhile ace Cliff Lee in an attempt to get themselves back on track.
The Atlanta Braves battered the Phillies and Roy Halladay on Saturday, keeping the Phillies 3.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the National League.
Lee has been on fire in the month of September with a 3-0 record and 0.95 ERA. He could potentially pitch three more games before the end of the regular season, so Lee will be counted on to continue his torrid pace, starting on Sunday against the Braves.
Update: Lee pitched brilliantly on Sunday against the Braves, giving up just two runs in eight innings while striking out 11. However, he fell victim to poor run support as Tim Hudson baffled Phillies' hitters, allowing only one run on two hits as the Braves prevailed, 2-1.
10. Ryan Howard: Philadelphia Phillies
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is on a nice little streak recently, hitting four home runs in his last five games. It's certainly refreshing given the fact Howard had only three home runs in his previous 33 games.
Howard's power surge will be expected to continue as the Phillies try to climb back from a five-game deficit in the Wild Card standings with nine games to play.
11. Tim Hudson: Atlanta Braves
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The Atlanta Braves enter play on Sunday with a six-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for the top Wild Card slot in the National League.
Starting pitcher Tim Hudson will be given the ball on Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves will be counting on Hudson to finish the year strong as they look to avoid the collapse that befell them last season in one of the worst late-season collapses in MLB history.
Hudson has been inconsistent in the month of September, however. Entering Sunday's start, Hudson is 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA in September.
Hudson and the rest of the rotation will need consistent efforts throughout the final 10 games in order for recent history not to repeat itself.
Update: Hudson delivered the consistency the Braves were looking for on Sunday, allowing only one run on two hits over 7.1 innings in a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
12. Brian McCann: Atlanta Braves
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann has suffered through a miserable season, on the way to his worst offensive performance of his eight-year career.
McCann will set career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, and through Saturday is also hitting just .171 with runners in scoring position.
McCann is an integral part of the middle of the batting order for the Braves. He will be counted on to step it up as the Braves attempt to finish strong heading into the playoffs.
13. Carlos Beltran: St. Louis Cardinals
Scott Rovak/St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are fighting to hold on to the second Wild Card slot in the National League, now holding a slim 2.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers entering play on Sunday.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran has been fighting through a miserable second half after a scorching start to the season. Beltran is hitting just .224 in the second half with 10 HR and 26 RBI. Beltran has hit somewhat better in the month of September after hitting just .211 in the month of August.
The Cardinals will need Beltran to help lead the charge as the Cardinals look to remain in position for a postseason berth over the final 10 days of the regular season.
14. Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals
John Gress/Getty Images
The St. Louis Cardinals undoubtedly were concerned on Saturday afternoon, as star catcher Yadier Molina was removed from the game with the Chicago Cubs.
Molina dodged an inside pitch from Cubs closer Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning, immediately wincing in pain.
The immediate thought was that Marmol had suffered a dreaded oblique injury. However, St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Derrick Goold later tweeted that Molina left the game due to back spasms.
That's certainly good news for the Cardinals, who have come to rely on Molina's great all-around game. Molina may possibly miss one or two games to rest the injury, but he will absolutely be counted on to get back into the lineup as soon as possible and continue doing what he's been doing all year long.
Update: Molina was held out of Sunday's game with the Cubs. Manager Mike Matheny said that Molina felt better, but wanted to give him an additional day off.
15. Chris Carpenter: St. Louis Cardinals
John Gress/Getty Images
You might find it hard to believe that starting pitcher Chris Carpenter would be on this list, considering he just made his first start of the season on Friday night.
However, Carpenter has become an inspirational leader for the St. Louis Cardinals, and his return this season after undergoing surgery in July to repair a thoracic outlet syndrome is remarkable in itself.
Carpenter's performance during the postseason last year was a key to the Cardinals' World Series win. While he's still winding himself into game shape after missing five-plus months, his return and performance could be a key to the Cardinals' chances this season once again.
16. Adrian Gonzalez: Los Angeles Dodgers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
After a loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers now sit three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second and final Wild Card slot in the National League.
With their large deficit in the NL West Division, it's the only shot the Dodgers have at qualifying for a postseason berth.
The Dodgers largely expected to get there after the blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox that netted Nick Punto, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, the centerpiece of the deal, hasn't yet found his comfort zone, hitting just .245 with one HR and 16 RBI in 26 games.
If the Dodgers are to make a late-season run, Gonzalez will need to find that comfort zone, and fast.
17. Josh Beckett: Los Angeles Dodgers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
It would be a little rough to say that Josh Beckett has been a bust in his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In five starts since joining the team, Beckett has a respectable 3.45 ERA, certainly far better than his 5.23 ERA in 21 starts for the Boston Red Sox. But Beckett has only one win to show for his efforts thus far.
Beckett likely has two starts remaining for the Dodgers. Given the uncertainty surrounding Clayton Kershaw and his injured hip, Beckett will need to step up and be a force in the Dodgers' rotation.
18. Matt Kemp: Los Angeles Dodgers
Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
As Matt Kemp goes, so go the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That's pretty much been the story in the 2012 season thus far. With their slugging center fielder getting off to a blazing start over the first six weeks, the Dodgers raced off to a substantial lead in the NL West Division.
Through Kemp's two separate stints on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, the Dodgers struggled offensively as the San Francisco Giants ate into their division lead.
Now, with Kemp obviously not playing at 100 percent, the Dodgers are struggling just to remain in contention for a postseason berth.
Kemp has struggled in September, hitting just .187 in 17 games.
As Kemp goes, so go the Dodgers.
19. Hanley Ramirez: Los Angeles Dodgers
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez had a very productive month of August, hitting .282 with seven HR and 26 RBI in 28 games with an .872 OPS.
However, the month of September has seen Ramirez not nearly as sharp, hitting just .227 with two homers and eight RBI with a .616 OPS.
With Matt Kemp ailing and Adrian Gonzalez not finding his comfort level in L.A. as of yet, Ramirez will need to revert to his August form. Without it, the Dodgers have no hope of catching the St. Louis Cardinals for the final Wild Card slot over the final 10 days of the regular season.
20. Ryan Zimmerman: Washington Nationals
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the face of the franchise, and for the first time in eight seasons will finally be able to experience postseason baseball.
However, the Nationals' work in the regular season isn't quite done yet as they look to clinch the NL East sometime in the next few days.
Zimmerman has been on fire in the second half, hitting .329 with 15 HR and 49 RBI entering play on Sunday. While pressure isn't there for Zimmerman to put his team into the playoffs, he will be counted on to continue leading his team and keeping them hot for the upcoming playoffs.
Considering how Zimmerman has responded with his play in recent weeks, that doesn't look to be an issue.
21. Adam Jones: Baltimore Orioles
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The Baltimore Orioles ended play on Sunday just a game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East Division and one game ahead of the Oakland Athletics for the top Wild Card slot.
Over the final 10 days of the regular season, the O's will be counting on center fielder Adam Jones to continue leading the offense. Thus far in September, Jones has largely delivered, hitting .297 with five homers and 11 RBI in 21 games.
The Orioles have sported a negative run differential all year and yet still find themselves on the verge of postseason play. However, a negative run differential over the final 10 games would not be something the O's would like to see continue.
Jones and the rest of the batting order will need to come up big in order to overtake the Yankees.
22. Mark Reynolds: Baltimore Orioles
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds picked the perfect time to get hot.
After Sunday's game with the Boston Red Sox, Reynolds continued a torrid pace in the month of September with eight homers and 22 RBI in 21 games.
Reynolds needs to continue supplying the big bat as the Orioles look to secure their first postseason berth in 15 seasons.
23. Jim Johnson: Baltimore Orioles
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Entering play on Sunday afternoon, Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson has been on a roll, saving five games just within the past week.
The strength of the Orioles all season has been their bullpen. In fact, the bullpen is 9-0 with six saves in the month of September.
Johnson has been the anchor at the back end all season. He'll need to make sure that anchor doesn't suddenly lose its grip.
24. Albert Pujols: Los Angeles Angels
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
As of Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels are fighting to stay alive in the American League playoff race, 2.5 games behind the Oakland A's for the second and final Wild Card slot.
This was not where the Angels envisioned being at this point in the season, especially after spending $317.5 million to acquire starting pitcher C.J. Wilson and first baseman Albert Pujols.
Pujols eclipsed the 30 HR/100 RBI mark for the 11th time in 12 seasons but will also end up with the lowest batting average, slugging percentage and OPS of his career as well.
However, none of that will be criticized if Pujols can help put the Angels into the postseason over the final 10 days of the regular season.
25. Dan Haren: Los Angeles Angels
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
On Saturday evening, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren held the Chicago White Sox to just two runs on six hits in six innings. Haren lifted his record above the .500 mark to 12-11 on the season.
Haren has settled down nicely in September after an up-and-down season, winning three of four decisions in the month with a 3.00 ERA.
The Angels will be counting on Haren to continue his upward trend over his final two starts of the regular season. Right now, the Angels need wins, and they need their starting rotation, including Haren, to help deliver those wins.
26. Jered Weaver: Los Angeles Angels
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels will hand the ball off to ace Jered Weaver, hoping for a weekend sweep over the Chicago White Sox.
Weaver could potentially have two more regular-season starts after Sunday, the last one possibly on the final day of the season. Each start is equally important as the Angels look to overtake the Oakland Athletics for a berth in the playoffs.
As the unquestioned leader of the starting rotation, Weaver will be expected to stay in top form and help the Angels avoid going home early for the third consecutive season.
Update: Weaver held up his end of the bargain on Sunday afternoon against the White Sox, allowing just one run on five hits in 6.1 innings for his AL-leading 19th win of the year.
27. Mike Trout: Los Angeles Angels
Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE
Honestly, you could probably list just about every player on the Angels in terms of pressure on their shoulders heading down the stretch.
But more pressure is on the shoulders of key performers, including center fielder Mike Trout.
All year long, Trout has been a one-man wrecking crew, helping to lead the Angels out of an awful early-season slump and setting rookie records along the way.
However, Trout has cooled in September, hitting .256 with three homers in 21 games.
Trout's bat at the top of the lineup helps to set up the offense, and that bat will be needed in the final 10 days if the Angels are to have any hope of achieving a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.
28. Brandon Moss: Oakland Athletics
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Since taking over at first base in June, Brandon Moss has been a solid producer for the Oakland Athletics.
However, in September Moss has come up big, hitting .340 with four HR in 15 games. The A's have come to rely on solid pitching and home run power to help deliver them within reach of the postseason, and Moss will be counted on to continue riding a hot bat and to continue delivering a power stroke.
29. Josh Reddick: Oakland Athletics
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
For the first five months of the regular season, Oakland A's right fielder Josh Reddick was a major producer, hitting .262 with 28 HR and 73 RBI.
However, Reddick has hit a wall in September, hitting just .138 with one home run in 21 games.
Reddick needs to break through that wall and return to his form seen earlier in the season. With the A's battling to continue play in the month of October, they need every piece of offense they can find. Reddick needs to find that offense that has thus far eluded him this month.
30. Dan Straily: Oakland Athletics
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
The Oakland Athletics enter the final 10 days of the regular season without three of their stalwarts in the starting rotation—Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson.
The A's are counting on 23-year-old rookie pitcher Dan Straily to help pick up some of the slack.
Straily will be tested on Monday as he replaces Anderson in the rotation against the Texas Rangers. Straily has shown flashes of excellence with three quality starts in five outings thus far.
However, none of them will be bigger than his next two outings as the A's look to hold their slim lead in the Wild Card chase over the Angels, Rays and Tigers.
31. Chris Sale: Chicago White Sox
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
With a 17-7 record and 2.82 ERA, Chris Sale has positioned himself as the leader in the starting rotation for the Chicago White Sox.
Sale will get the call on Monday against the Cleveland Indians and one more time on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sale has never pitched this many innings (181.2) during his entire professional career—he will need to dig deep and deliver over his final two outings if the White Sox hope to hold off the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division race.
32. Kevin Youkilis: Chicago White Sox
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
One of the reasons the Chicago White Sox traded for third baseman Kevin Youkilis was to add an experienced bat to the lineup. Youkilis' postseason experience with the Boston Red Sox didn't hurt his cause, either.
However, Youkilis has gone stone cold in the month of September, hitting just .175 with three home runs in 18 games.
With the White Sox battling to stay ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division race, they need the leadership from their veterans to help lead the way. Youkilis absolutely needs to help provide that veteran leadership.
33. Prince Fielder: Detroit Tigers
David Maxwell/Getty Images
The Detroit Tigers are fighting to stay alive in the AL Central Division race, just one game behind the Chicago White Sox as the two teams entered play on Sunday afternoon.
First baseman Prince Fielder certainly helped lead the charge for the Tigers in the month of August, hitting .370 with seven homers and 21 RBI. However, after an 0-for-3 in game one of Sunday's doubleheader with the Minnesota Twins, Fielder's average in September dropped to .246.
The hitting duo of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will be a major factor for the Tigers down the stretch, and Fielder will be expected to deliver in the final 10 days.
34. Justin Verlander: Detroit Tigers
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
On Monday, the Detroit Tigers start a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park, with Justin Verlander scheduled to open for the Tigers.
While Verlander hasn't been quite as dominant as last season, he's still put up numbers worthy of consideration for a second consecutive AL Cy Young Award.
Verlander will need to continue putting up those big numbers for the Tigers, especially against divisional rivals with worse records (Royals, Minnesota Twins).
35. Yu Darvish: Texas Rangers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
After a rough two-month stretch in July and August, Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish has found his groove once again.
Darvish is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in for September starts and will have two more appearances for the Rangers before the end of the regular season.
With a 16-9 record, Darvish has delivered on the promise that led the Rangers to invest a total of $111.7 million to acquire his services.
However, Darvish still needs to show that he can deliver in the clutch as well. The Rangers will be looking to see if Darvish can be their go-to pitcher as the regular season winds down and they seek to clinch the AL West Division title for the third consecutive year.
36. Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Texas Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton has missed five consecutive games due to a sinus infection that has caused blurriness and balance issues.
It's not known yet whether or not Hamilton will be available when the Rangers open a key four-game series at home against the Oakland A's.
The Rangers suffered offensively without Hamilton, scoring only six runs in three games before Sunday's matchup with the Seattle Mariners.
Hamilton's return to the lineup will be a major factor for the Rangers as they look to hold off the A's in the race for the AL West Division title.
37. Andy Pettitte: New York Yankees
Jason Szenes/Getty Images
On Monday, Andy Pettitte will take the mound for his second start since returning from the disabled list.
Pettitte was solid in his first outing back, pitching five scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Pettitte will have two starts remaining, first against the Minnesota Twins and again against the Blue Jays. Having Pettitte return to form will be a huge lift for the Yankees as they look to hold off the surprising Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.
38. Curtis Granderson: New York Yankees
Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson will likely reach the 40 HR mark for the second consecutive season, but his overall offense of late has been less than stellar.
Since Aug. 1, Granderson is hitting just .194 with 57 strikeouts in 160 at-bats. As the Yankees look to hold off the Baltimore Orioles in the final 10 days of the regular season, they'll need all hands on deck. Granderson needs to help lead that charge.
39. David Price: Tampa Bay Rays
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price will likely start two games next week, first against the Boston Red Sox and possibly next Sunday against the Chicago White Sox.
Price could become a 20-game winner if he takes both decisions. However, more importantly, he can continue giving his Rays a fighting chance for a Wild Card slot if he continues pitching as he has all season long.
The Rays are streaking right now, having won five straight to keep themselves in the hunt. Price can keep his Rays streaking with a victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday.
40. Evan Longoria: Tampa Bay Rays
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has become known as a guy who can deliver in the clutch. His home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in the final game of the regular season last year helped put the Rays into the postseason.
This season, Longoria has also been clutch, hitting .393 with runners in scoring position. On Sunday, Longoria's two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Rays important insurance in their eventual 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Longoria's ability to deliver in the clutch will be needed over the final 10 days if the Rays seek to erase a three-game deficit in the Wild Card standings.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.