MLB Playoffs 2012: Players Who Need a Killer Performance
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So much has already happened in this year's MLB Playoffs as teams begin their quest for a World Series title.
The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles are shockingly in the playoffs. The A's captured the division crown after sweeping the Texas Rangers, who blew a five-game lead with nine to play, to end the regular season. The Orioles earned one of the two AL Wild Card berths and took down the Rangers in a winner-take-all game to advance and face the Yankees.
The National League's winner-take-all game was marred with controversy on an infield fly rule call that tainted the Cardinals' 6-3 win.
With the Divisional Series games already underway, five players in these playoffs must have a killer performance to propel their teams one step closer to the World Series.
Baltimore's Adam Jones
Jones must deliver in a big way if the O's want to knock off the Bronx Bombers.
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Adam Jones and clutch have been used in the same sentence quite frequently this season.
Jones has gotten better each year of his career, and in 2012, he hit .287 with a career-high 32 homers and 82 RBI. The two-time All-Star has been the heart and soul of this underdog team all year.
With the Orioles down 1-0 to the Yankees, Jones must put up killer numbers for the rest of the series. It starts at the top of the lineup with Nate McLouth and J.J. Hardy.
If those two guys are able to get on base, Jones must drive them in. The Yankees are favored to win this series, but the Orioles can win it with determination, clutch hitting, and enough pitching to hold a very potent Yankees offense in check.
Jones went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the Orioles' 7-2 Game 1 loss. He must play exceptionally for the Orioles to have any chance at reaching the ALCS.
Washington's Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman must step up in his first playoff appearance.
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The Nationals won a remarkable league-best 98 games in 2012 behind excellent pitching and a formidable lineup.
Zimmerman played in 145 games, hitting .282 with 25 home runs and 95 RBI in the middle of the lineup for Washington.
Even though Stephen Strasburg was shut down for the season in early September, the Nationals still have a great shot at reaching the World Series with 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez anchoring the staff.
The Nationals edged the Cardinals 3-2 in Game 1 with two runs in the eighth inning, but they will need more from Zimmerman to move onto the NLCS. Washington will not be able to win every game of this series by scoring only three runs.
Zimmerman must step up with big numbers for the rest of the series if the Nationals are to overcome the pressure of high expectations and reach the World Series.
Detroit's Prince Fielder
Fielder must put up killer numbers to take some of the attention away from Miguel Cabrera.
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All of the talk in Detroit in September and early October was of Miguel Cabrera'a chase for the Triple Crown, an award he won by hitting .330 with 43 homers and 139 RBI.
Cabrera became the first player since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to accomplish the feat.
Lost in the conversation of the Detroit slugger is a slugger himself, Prince Fielder. Fielder hit a quiet .313 with 30 homers and 108 RBI this year, overshadowed by Cabrera's greatness. If the Tigers want to reach the World Series, Fielder must be the one to deliver and take the Tigers to the next level.
Pitchers will try to avoid getting beat by a red-hot Cabrera, so Fielder will have to drive in key runs and not make any costly errors at first base.
St. Louis' Allen Craig
Craig has played exceptionally this season.
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In 119 games in 2012, Allen Craig hit .307 with 22 homers and 92 RBI for the Cardinals.
His amazing play helped give the Cardinals a Wild Card berth and helped fill the void in the middle of the lineup when Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels last offseason. (Pujols' team fell short of the playoffs).
Matt Holliday and other Cardinals' veterans will produce, but it is Craig who must deliver a killer postseason performance.
The 28-year-old must continue to do his best Albert Pujols impersonation in October.
New York's C.C. Sabathia
Sabathia must lead the pitching staff if the Yankees are to win it all.
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C.C. Sabathia started only 28 games in 2012, going 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA. He struck out 197 batters in 200 innings for the Yankees but spent time on the disabled list on two separate occasions.
For most MLB starters, Sabathia's season would be considered highly successful. But for Sabathia, winning 15 games just isn't his standard of success.
Sabathia threw 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Orioles on Sunday night, and he must perform similarly if his Yankees are to win their second World Series in four years.