Boston Red Sox Players Whom You Want Up with the Game on the Line
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Let's say it's the bottom of the ninth and the Boston Red Sox are down two runs to the New York Yankees, or there's two outs and no men on base in the 12th inning of Game 7 in the ALCS. Who are you going to be hoping and praying is stepping up next to bat?
In other words, who can Red Sox fans depend on to be clutch when the game or season is on the line?
Some players might be an obvious nomination, while a few others could surprise us in 2013.
Here's a look at five Red Sox players who could be difference-makers between victory and defeat or between September and October.
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There's no question: If the game is on the line, the Red Sox want their slugger, David Ortiz, to come in and send their victory flying out of the ballpark.
Ortiz is currently finishing up some rehab for his Achilles injury, but if all goes well, he'll return soon and be the same hitter he's always been: the walk-off king.
Throughout his career, he's hit more than 20 walk-offs, more than 10 of which were homers.
The 2004 playoffs say it all. Without Ortiz, the Red Sox would never have won their first World Series championship in 86 years.
He hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning of Game 3 of the ALDS against the Angels to clinch the series. Then in the ALCS, his 12th-inning, two-run homer in Game 4 against the Yankees marked the start of the Red Sox's historical comeback.
The very next night, Ortiz kept the Sox alive once again with a 14th-inning single that sent Johnny Damon home from second base.
Ortiz is the definition of clutch. He may not be the same hitter he was in 2004, but he's still one of the most dependable players on the Red Sox roster in a game-winning situation.
The biggest draw to catcher-turned-first baseman Mike Napoli is that he can send balls flying, especially over Fenway's green wall.
According to WEEI, Napoli is fifth in active players for home runs per plate appearances, averaging a home run every 18.2 at-bats. He's hit 148 career home runs and has already collected two with the Red Sox this season.
The best part? Napoli hasn't even gotten started hitting at home yet. Before joining the Red Sox this offseason, Napoli crushed it at Fenway Park. In 19 career games at Fenway, he has a 1.107 OPS with seven homers and four doubles.
His .710 career slugging percentage at Fenway is his highest at any ballpark that he's played at least 19 games.
And of course, don't forget that Napoli hit not one, but two homers in Game 3 of the 2008 ALDS against the Red Sox, leading the Angels to a 5-4 victory that went to 12 innings. It was the only game that series that the Angels won.
Next to Ortiz, Napoli is likely Boston's best slugger. It's too soon to tell if he's the player who can single-handedly bring home W's when his team needs him to come up big, but he's definitely a promising option—especially if Ortiz isn't available.
Dustin Pedroia is a guy that the Red Sox can always count on.
He's not powering homers on the level of Ortiz or Napoli, yet, he's extremely consistent (.303 career average) and has often come through in high-pressure situations.
In his rookie season, he hit a 2-run homer in 7th inning of Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS, in addition to a 3-run double in the bottom of the eighth. That game sent the Red Sox to the World Series.
Then in the World Series, Pedroia started things off with a home run at his first at-bat. And that was just his rookie year.
In 90 career home runs, Pedroia has hit nine tying and 33 go ahead.
The 2008 AL MVP and 2x Golden Glove winner is batting .357 in 2013 and is sure to be as dependable as always.
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Third baseman Will Middlebrooks made a big push onto this list on Sunday when he hit three home runs, plus a double, during Boston's 13-0 victory over Toronto. He's collected four home runs total in 2013.
Middlebrooks started to turn heads last year when he hit nine home runs in 100 plate appearances with Pawtucket. When called up, he launched 15 dingers in 286 at-bats before injuring his wrist and missing the rest of the season.
With the way this year is already going, Middlebrooks could emerge as a Boston hero.
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Daniel Nava is a huge wild card here—huge—but he deserves a look.
Nava's seventh-inning, three-run homer on Monday broke a 0-0 deadlock and handed the Red Sox a 3-1 win over the Orioles at Fenway Park's Opening Day. It was his second home run in just four games this season, and he's batting .500 for 2013.
This is the same player who hit a grand slam off the first pitch he ever saw in the majors—only the second player ever to do so.
Nava's career has been up and down. He went from equipment manager to solid senior in college. He's bounced back and forth between the majors and the minors. Following that first grand slam, Nava didn't hit another homer for almost two seasons.
But if Nava gets a chance to stay up in the majors this season and develops consistency at the plate, he could be the underdog nobody saw coming—which seems to be his style.