Round one of the 2013 MLB Playoffs is in the books. Next up, the League Championship Series. The Boston Red Sox will take on the Detroit Tigers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers will square off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-seven series.
So far this postseason, we have seen walk-off home runs, come-from-behind wins and big-time hits. So, with the playoff crop narrowed down to four teams, who are the clutch hitters that are left? Who will these teams be leaning on to come up with the big hit when the game is on the line?
Here's a look at who could be "the guy" from each of the final four teams.
Carlos Beltran has been an offensive force for nearly nearly two decades worth of Major League service. Even at age 36, he enjoyed a very fine 2013 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, smashing 24 regular-season home runs while finishing with a .296 batting average.
Beltran's big swing continued on to the NLDS, in which the Cards outlasted the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games. Beltran provided two big home runs during the series, which now gives him a total of 16 career postseason long balls.
And we have to include Beltran's heroics in Game 1 of this year's NLCS against the Dodgers. He pretty much single-handedly gave the Cardinals the victory by driving in all three runs, including his walk-off hit in the bottom of the 13th. His tremendous throw from right field to nail Mark Ellis at the plate kept the score tied in the top of the 10th.
With the success that Beltran has had at the plate during October baseball—he has a lifetime .345/.453/.761 postseason slash—having him at the plate with a game on the line is certainly an advantage.
Of all the teams left in the playoffs, there might not be a better clutch hitter than Big Papi. For his career, David Ortiz has 14 postseason home runs in 70 such games.
Furthermore, in late-and-close situations (batting in the 7th inning or later, with his team tied, up by one or with the tying run at least on deck), Ortiz owns a lifetime .260 batting average with 54 home runs.
Papi has time and time again carried the Red Sox on his back each and every season (regular and postseason), and he's doing it again this year. In the Sox's recent 4-1 ALDS victory over the Rays, Ortiz hit .385 with two home runs and three RBI.
With Ortiz on their side, the Sox are in good shape to move on in the postseason, and they have a great chance to win the whole thing.
While dealing with leg injuries toward the end of the season, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers had a very poor September. He collected just seven RBI and one home run over the regular season's final month.
His woes continued into the ALDS against the Oakland A's, when it took until Game 5 for him to launch his first home run of the series. But that home run was a crushing blow, as it gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead (they would eventually win 3-0).
Cabrera has plenty of postseason experience, and he has 11 career home runs during the playoffs. In 2013, when the game was tied, Cabrera hit a robust .364 with 17 home runs.
The Tigers will be facing the Red Sox in the ALCS in what should be a very close series. There will likely be several key at-bats for Cabrera, and he has the poise and ability to excel with the best of them.
Juan Uribe isn't as well-known of a name as the rest on this list, but his postseason heroics have not gone unnoticed. Overall, his career postseason .236 batting average is nothing to write home about. However, Uribe has come up with some big hits for his club in the postseason.
In 2005, Uribe helped lead the charge as the Chicago White Sox claimed the World Series crown that year. In Game 2 of that Fall Classic, Uribe had two hits and an RBI, and he was the catalyst that allowed Paul Konerko to smack a grand slam that would give the Sox the victory. The White Sox went on to sweep the Astros in the Series that year.
Fast forward five years later, and Uribe finds himself in the World Series again, this time with the San Francisco Giants. In Game 1 against the Texas Rangers, Uribe capped off a six-run fifth inning with a three-run home run, helping the G-Men to an 11-7 win. This eventually led to a World Series victory.
Now with the Dodgers, Uribe has already shown some of his postseason magic. In the NLDS against the Braves, Uribe hit .375 with two home runs and four RBI. Of course, his two-run home run in the 8th inning of Game 4 carried the Dodgers to the series victory. Uribe also drove in the only runs the Dodgers would score against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS.