MLB Playoffs 2013: Stars Who Need to Step Up the Most over the Weekend
Postseason success can define a baseball player's career.
Without his three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson probably isn't remembered. Conversely, Alex Rodriguez is probably looked at more fondly if he made a better account of himself in the playoffs.
So who's going to be the hero of this postseason?
It's still way too early to tell. Fans generally don't remember a great performance in the ALDS or NLDS. Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS? So what? It was great and all, but the Philadelphia Phillies ended up losing in the NLCS.
That doesn't mean some of the biggest stars can afford to fall asleep for a series and then turn it on in the next round.
These four players will have to lead the way for their teams if they hope to advance to the LCS.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
When most people think of Carlos Beltran in the postseason, they immediately jump to him getting frozen by that Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006. It's an extremely unfair portrayal of a player who's been otherwise great in the playoffs, via ESPN Stats and Info.
Babe Ruth: 15 HR in 129 postseason AB; Carlos Beltran: 15 HR in 129 postseason AB— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 4, 2013
Even at 36 years old, Beltran is a vital part of the St. Louis Cardinals offense. During the regular season, he was first in home runs (24), second in slugging percentage (.491) and third in runs batted in (84).
While that home run was big, it's only one of two hits Beltran has had in nine NLDS at-bats. It's not going to be a problem if he keeps hitting homers. More than likely, he won't, so he'll at least have to find some consistency at the plate.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays don't have a great offense. The hitters have been good enough to get Tampa this far. It's the Rays pitching staff that has had to do the most work.
Although he hasn't been at his best, David Price is the unquestioned ace of the staff. When Tampa is in a must-win game, it turns to Price.
That's exactly what the Rays could be looking at on Saturday. Having dropped Game 1, it's important to get that win before Game 3. That way, you can lock up the series at home and not have to go to Boston for the decider.
Price is 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox this season. He'll have to be at his best, because it's unlikely the offense will give him much help.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Staying with the aces, Justin Verlander looked decidedly unlike Justin Verlander this season. While his strikeout averages have been about the same, his walks and hits allowed have increased.
Before the season, you never would have thought he'd be the third-best starter in the Detroit Tigers pitching staff. In the regular season, Verlander could get away with not being his best and watching Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez do the heavy lifting.
It's a courtesy he won't be afforded in the playoffs.
Game 1 between the Tigers and Oakland Athletics has yet to start, so this could end up changing by the end of the night. But much like with Price, it will be vital for Verlander to get that win before going back home.
Detroit was only 42-39 on the road during the regular season. It won't want to leave its hopes of advancing up to getting a win in Game 5 at Oakland.
Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
If you have found Justin Upton, please notify the proper authorities. He went missing on October 2 and hasn't been seen since. His family is very worried about him.
Upton led the team in home runs (27) during the regular season and was second in runs batted in (70). Having a big bat like this absent isn't going to help the Atlanta Braves going to Los Angeles.
Perhaps you'd be a little less discouraged if the outfielder was making good contact, only hitting it right at people.
Only Upton looks to be really pressing and not hitting the ball well at all, especially through his first six at-bats of the postseason, via FOX Sports' Jon Morosi.
Justin Upton threw his bat in frustration after last groundout. He hasn’t hit the ball out of the infield in 6 at-bats this series.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 4, 2013
Whatever is wrong with Upton, he must figure it out before Game 3.
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