Justin Verlander and the 10 Most Clutch Players Left in the ALCS/NLCS
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet and is also one of the most clutch players still remaining in the 2012 MLB postseason.
Verlander, a 17-game winner during the regular, has been lights out in the playoffs. He started Game 1 of the ALDS against the Oakland A’s and was flawless. He allowed just one run on three hits over seven innings of work while striking out 11 in a 3-1 victory.
Unfortunately, Detroit couldn’t contain a 2-0 lead and Verlander was forced to start Game 5 of the series, and was even better. Verlander tossed a four-hit, complete game shutout while matching his 11 strikeouts from his previous start.
The Tigers are in good hands as long as Verlander is on the mound. In total, he threw 16 innings on one-run baseball while striking out 22 in the ALDS.
Verlander is the definition of a big-game pitcher, but there several other players in the AL and NL Championship Series who are clutch.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
2012 NLDS Stats: .211/.318/.526, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Although Buster Posey may not have gotten too many hits during the NLDS series against the Cincinnati Reds, he did come up with a couple of big hits in big spots.
The biggest spot came in a pivotal Game 5 where the Reds had blown a 2-0 lead in the series and Posey stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Posey crushed a Mat Latos pitch to deep left field for a grand slam that propelled to the Giants to a 6-4 series-winning victory.
Posey also showed that he has the capability of hitting well late in the postseason, like he did in 2010 when the Giants won the World Series. In that five-game series, Posey hit .300 with a home run, two RBI and two runs.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
2012 ALDS Stats: 2-0, 1.53 ERA, 17.2 IP, 16 K
CC Sabathia is an ace, a big game pitcher, a go-to guy—whatever you’d like to call it. He is the pitcher that you want on the mound in a series-deciding game.
That’s exactly what the Yankees had on Friday when Sabathia took the mound in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Orioles. Sabathia pitched with poise, tossing a complete-game, four-hit gem for the Yankees.
Sabathia didn’t pitch too well against the Tigers in the ALDS last season, so look for him to redeem himself this time around. Despite winning nine career postseason games, Sabathia has had his issues with allowing runs to score, which will be something to look for going forward.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
2012 NLDS Stats: 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 6.1 ERA, 8 K
Tim Lincecum may not have been a starter during the NLDS, but he definitely contributed in two of the Giants’ games.
Lincecum’s pair of performances might be good enough to get him a spot in the NLCS rotation, as Barry Zito struggled in his one and only start. If manager Bruce Bochy decides to continue using him out of the pen, Lincecum should still be fine in pressure situations.
Lincecum, of course, was instrumental in the Giants’ World Series victory two years ago winning two games in the series and five games in the postseason.
Raul Ibanez, New York Yankees
2012 ALDS Stats: .444/.500/1.111, 2 HR, 3 RBI
If you caught even a glimpse of the ALDS, you know exactly why Raul Ibanez is on this list.
This postseason, the Yankees couldn’t ask for more clutch of a player. He knows exactly how to handle the pressure, and uses the short porch in right field to his advantage.
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
2012 NLDS Stats: .333/.381/.571, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Pablo Sandoval produced hits for the Giants in four of their five NLDS games against the Reds, including a massive performance in Game 4.
In that Giants victory, Sandoval went 3-for-4 with a bomb of a home run to add onto San Francisco’s lead. Sandoval also had two hits and scored a run in the Giants 6-4 Game 5 victory.
Hitting in the heart of the San Francisco lineup, Sandoval will have plenty of opportunities to shine against the Cardinals.
Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 NLWC & NLDS Stats: 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 2 K
Jason Motte is a big game closer and it doesn’t seem like anything gets to him late in the game.
Motte was relatively perfect in his first two postseason appearances, but did run into a little bit of trouble in Game 5 against Washington. Motte came in and allowed a run to the Nationals, giving Washington a two-run lead going into the ninth inning.
Luckily for Motte and the Cardinals, they came back to score four runs in the frame and he was able to shut the Nats down in the bottom half of the inning to pick up the win and send St. Louis to the NLCS
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2012 ALDS Stats: .250/.318/.350, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Miguel Cabrera didn’t have a great ALDS, but he did have one of the best regular seasons of all-time—winning the AL Triple Crown.
Facing the Yankees' pitchers will be no easy task, but Cabrera will be up for it. He had too great of a season to barely produce in the postseason. Now that he’s had a bad series, he’s due for a good one.
In the 2011 ALCS, Cabrera went off hitting .400 in six games with three home runs and seven RBI. Look for him to come up with some big hits in this upcoming series, and potentially beyond should the Tigers take down the Yankees.
Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 NLWC & NLDS Stats: .200/.385/.400, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Pete Kozma may just be a rookie, but he’s certainly making himself known during this postseason. He’s scored several key runs for the Cardinals and hit a home run in Game 3 to lead St. Louis to an 8-0 victory over Washington.
Kozma has been a great replacement for St. Louis’ every day shortstop Rafael Furcal. People aren’t even talking about Furcal being out anymore.
Kozma also had one of the biggest hits of the night on Friday when he singled home David Freese and Daniel Descalso to take the lead in the top of the ninth. He’s young, but could be a very impactful player the rest of the way.
Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees
2012 ALDS Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 2 K
When Mariano Rivera went down with a torn ACL, all the pressure landed on Rafael Soriano to come in during close games and seal the victories for the Yankees. So far, he’s done that.
Soriano has been as good as the Yankees could’ve asked for this year and has showed no signs of letting up during the postseason. Although he only appeared in two games for New York during the ALDS, he still was solid out of the pen.
As many of the Yankee starters will be throwing on short rest during the ALCS, the bullpen will have its work cut out for them. There’s the chance that Soriano pitches in at least four of the games and he needs to come through in the clutch.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 NLWC & NLDS Stats: .409/.500/.818, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Carlos Beltran is having a postseason for the ages so far, scoring a run in the wild card game and then five more during the Cardinal’s five-game series against the Nationals.
In Game 5 alone, Beltran went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two runs. He also drew two walks in the St. Louis victory.
Beltran has been lights out at the plate and could continue this hot streak in the NLCS. Not only is he lacing every ball he sees, he’s also been very patient and drawn five walks during the postseason.