With the World Series set to begin on Wednesday in St. Louis, both the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals have had enormous performances from their players. Over the course of the postseason, there have been great individual plays that may decide who wins the series.
The Rangers, who are the first American league team to reach the World Series back-to-back since the Yankees in 2000-2001, have shown a great balance on offense and defense.
On the other side, the Cardinals have made an incredible run into the playoffs, as they were 10.5 games behind in the wild-card race coming into the end of the regular season.
With that said, here are the six players who will light up the big stage for their teams.
Hamilton who? With Nelson Cruz erupting for the Rangers, Josh Hamilton has been under the radar playing solid baseball in October.
In his 41 at-bats, Hamilton has had 12 hits, five runs and seven RBI. His .293 batting average shows how valuable he is to the Rangers offense. At the same time, it appears as though he is entering into an offensive rhythm as the postseason continues.
In the last seven days, his batting average has jumped to a .364 with eight of his 12 hits coming in that span. Expect Hamilton to continue at this pace, as he will help the Rangers offense and continue to put up above average numbers.
Albert Pujols, similar to Hamilton, is entering into a rhythm that should make the Rangers worry.
In the past week, Pujols has had 19 at-bats with 10 hits, nine RBI and two homers. His .526 batting average during that span is simply amazing and should continue into the World Series.
Considering the threat he is to opposing pitchers, Pujols only seems to begin to gain his batting swing at the right time. Perhaps being the best hitter in the series, Pujols will be an enormous part for the Cardinals chances of winning the championship.
The Rangers are known for their bats. Yet in this World Series, their bullpen has to carry the load. In particular, Alexi Ogando has to be given credit for the work he has done.
A started for most of the season, Ogando has made a great transition into the bullpen and his numbers are simply remarkable. In his last seven days, he has a 0.71 WHIP and a 1.59 ERA. At the same time, he has only allowed one walk and one run in the last 5.2 innings he's pitch.
If manager Ron Washington and the Rangers want to succeed against the Cardinals, they will have to rely on their bullpen. Expect Ogando to continue to dominate when he enters the came, as his pitches are simply getting better.
There should be no surprise why David Freese deserved to be the NLCS MVP. His numbers simply were incredible in the last seven days.
His .579 batting average, 11 hits and six RBI in the last 19 at-bats show that he is another bat that the Cardinals can rely on. As Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday get most of the attention, Freese should continue to add enormous numbers during the World Series.
Expect him to continue to swing the bat and bring in hits for the Cardinals.
Without a doubt, Nelson Cruz has been the most energetic and best player during the postseason. Although he went 1-for-15 in the division series, Cruz has turn it around.
The ALCS MVP has 12 RBI, seven hits and five homers in the last seven days. At the same time, Cruz has also made great plays on defense. Take for example the throw on Cabrera against the Tigers in Game 4 of the ALCS.
His performance on both sides of the field shows that he will be a key factor in determining whether the Rangers have success.
Chris Carpenter has risen to the moment when manager Tony La Russa has needed him the most.
During the postseason, Carpenter has been enormous for the Cardinals. Although his numbers (3.71 ERA and seven runs in October) do not support this claim, his Game 5 performances against the Phillies was incredible.
Allowing no runs and pitching the whole game, Carpenter has allowed the Cardinals to be in the position they are in today.
Expect Carpenter to continue to rise in the moment as he will need to be consistent and dominant against the Rangers.
Prediction: Rangers over Cardinals in five
When the dust settles down, the three players that will lead their team to victory are the Texas Rangers.
Although the Cardinals have home field advantage, Hamilton, Ogando, and Cruz will have a bigger impact in games. At the same time, the Rangers have a better bullpen, perhaps the best hitters in the game and have the experience from last year's run.
If the Rangers can sneak one game in St. Louis, expect them to end the series back home in Texas.