If MLB players were able to pick a time during the regular season that they would be able dominate the competition, down the stretch would be one of, if not the most, popular selection.
Not only can a player carry his team into the playoffs—or play spoiler if his team is already out of contention—but it's the last time for soon-to-be free agents and players heading into arbitration to raise their value.
While multiple factors play a role in dictating whether a player is able to get hot and dominate, the biggest is the competition that they'll be facing. Remaining schedules played a major role in these selections. That said, let's take a look at five players who will dominate down the stretch, finishing the regular season on a high note.
A notoriously slow starter, few players in baseball have been as hot as Adrian Beltre has been since the calendars flipped to July.
In this case, "few" equals two—the number of players who have posted a higher OPS than Beltre since July 1:
|Mike Trout||.361||.493||1.113||21 (10)||29|
|Miguel Cabrera||.329||.426||1.109||23 (18)||48|
|Adrian Beltre||.376||.451||1.080||22 (14)||39|
Now it's true that the Rangers don't have the easiest schedule down the stretch, with playoff teams like Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay left to face.
Against the seven teams that remain on Texas' schedule, Beltre has manged to hit only .249—but 25 of those have gone for extra bases, including 13 of his 28 home runs for the season.
That, coupled with the way he's been swinging the bat for the past two months, makes Beltre as good a choice to dominate down the stretch as you'll find in MLB.
If the term "sophomore slump" appeared in a dictionary, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see a photo of Yoenis Cespedes in place of a written definition.
The Cuban sensation who finished 2012 as the runner-up to Mike Trout in the AL Rookie of the Year vote and 10th in the MVP race has struggled mightily in 2013, never having a month that saw him hit above .240 and only one month—April—that saw him post an OPS higher than .735.
That's all about to change in September.
The A's face only two playoff teams down the stretch, Tampa Bay and Texas. Of the team's 28 remaining games, 17 come against Houston, Los Angeles and Minnesota, three teams that boast some of the worst starting pitching in baseball.
While Cespedes has yet to face the Twins this season, he's hit a combined .282 (24-for-85) with 10 extra-base hits (two home runs) and 16 RBI against the Astros and Angels. Not only will Cespedes find his mojo over the final month of the season, but the confidence that he gains will only make the A's that much more dangerous of a team come playoff time.
Intentionally walking Chris Davis may be the only way to keep him from dominating the competition in September—and setting some history in the process.
Baltimore plays 20 of its last 27 games against the AL East, a division that Davis has dominated all season long. Take a look:
|Games Remaining Against||BA||XBH||HR||RBI|
While Davis remains 14 home runs shy of Roger Maris' single-season American League record of 61, set back in 1961, we've seen him crack double-digit home run totals in two months this season, May (10) and June (12).
Really, the slugger couldn't have asked for better competition down the stretch as he tries to break the 52-year-old mark. Davis has had only one month this year (July) where he didn't hit above. 290 or post an OPS above 1.000.
Whether he's successful in his pursuit of history or not, Davis is going to have a monster finish to the season, ensuring that July was the only down month of the best season of his career.
It's been a disappointing season for Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals, but the phenom is poised to finish 2013 on a high note.
After missing all of June with a knee injury and a so-so July, Harper has finally begun to look like himself, hitting .278 with an .871 OPS, a dozen extra-base hits (four home runs) and 14 RBI in 97 August at-bats.
He'll build on that success in September.
Washington faces the Marlins, Mets and Phillies in 19 of its final 27 games of the season, three teams that Harper has combined to hit .294 against with 13 extra-base hits, six home runs (nearly 32 percent of his season total) and 16 RBI (nearly 33 percent of his season total).
The Nationals may not manage more than a .500 record in the season's final month, but it won't be due to a lack of production from Harper.
Not only has Dustin Pedroia been the heart-and-soul of the Boston Red Sox since 2007, but the 2008 AL MVP has been one of the most consistent players in baseball.
Year-after-year, Pedroia hits around .300, has a high on-base percentage and provides some pop in the middle of Boston's lineup. He also spends one month a season where it looks as if he's forgotten how to swing a bat—and 2013 is no different:
|Month (Year)||G||BA||OPS||XBH (HR)||RBI|
|April (2007)||20||.182||.544||3 (0)||2|
|May (2008)||29||.260||.669||8 (3)||15|
|June (2009)||25||.222||.569||7 (0)||14|
|May (2010)||27||.213||.659||9 (2)||7|
|May (2011)||27||.227||.640||5 (2)||10|
|June (2012)||23||.194||.538||6 (0)||10|
|July (2013)||25||.216||.623||6 (3)||17|
But, as Pedroia has in every season before this one, he bounces back and finishes the season strong.
His miserable July has been followed up by a solid August, with Pedroia hitting .318/.383/.421 with 10 extra-base hits (no home runs) and 11 RBI. Over his last 10 games, Pedroia has posted a slash line of .385/.419/.590 with six doubles, a triple and six RBI.
With the way that he's swinging the bat and Boston facing AL East foes in 19 of its last 21 games of the season, against who Pedroia has hit .275 this season, look for him to build off of August's success and put together his best month of the season in September.