Top 40 'One-Man-Army' MLB Performances of 2011

Dan Tylicki@DanTylickiAnalyst IDecember 16, 2011

Top 40 'One-Man-Army' MLB Performances of 2011

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    Every MLB season has those games that we all remember. Last year, we had two perfect games for only the second season in major league history, and while we were not that lucky this year, we did get to see three no-hitters.

    Besides that, we saw many other great performances throughout the year. Some were historical, such as Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, while others were by unknown players, one of whom became a local hero; that one you'll know when you see it.

    Here are the top 40 one-man-army performances of 2011, the games where a player took it on himself to win the game for his team, whether it was in one game or a group of games.

39-40. Evan Longoria and Dan Johnson's Season-Ending Heroics

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    This is the exception to the one-man army, since it was really a two-man army. The Tampa Bay Rays won their final five games to sneak into the Wild Card after the Red Sox collapsed, and their final game on Sept. 28 was among the best.

    The Rays came back from being down 7-0, Dan Johnson came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth and hit a solo home run to move the game to extra innings. Evan Longoria and his 4-RBI game followed that in the 12th with a home run of his own, winning the game 8-7.

38. Matt Kemp's Six RBI

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    On June 4, Matt Kemp had his greatest performance in a season that should have earned him the MVP award (though that's an argument for another time).

    In a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Kemp had two home runs, 6 RBI, and helped the Dodgers win the game, 11-7 in extra innings. He batted in the 11th run, though had he hit the game-winner, he would have made it higher on this list.

37. Cliff Lee's 16 Strikeouts

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    Cliff Lee had an amazing year in his first full season with the Phillies, setting one particularly impressive mark that comes later. Another that he did set was throwing the most strikeouts in a game this year, with 16.

    On May 6 against the Atlanta Braves, he struck out 16 in seven innings, allowing only one walk over 117 pitches. Why is he only 37th on this list then? To put it simply, he allowed three runs and the Braves lost, so he was a one-man army who did not succeed in the main objective.

36. Dan Haren's Two-Hitter

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    Dan Haren was a big-time workhorse for the Angels in 2011, pitching nearly 240 innings. He had two great games in particular, one being a one-hitter. However, his two-hitter in July may have been even better.

    On July 5, Haren faced the Detroit Tigers, and the Angels only scored one run. That was all Haren needed, throwing nine strikeouts, no walks, and throwing 87 of 122 pitches for strikes in the 1-0 win.

35. Erick Aybar's Late-Season Attack

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    I bounced back and forth between including this, but in the end went for it. Erick Aybar may be better known for his defense, but for a game on Sept. 18, he was a great offensive player.

    Against the Baltimore Orioles, he had two home runs, four RBI, and scored five runs in an 11-2 victory. ESPN rated his performance an 84.25, fourth highest on their list. I'm not sure I buy that, but it was an underrated game for him.

34. Jose Bautista's Three Homers

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    Only a handful of players had a three-HR game this season, and Jose Bautista was one of them. In the first couple months of the season, he was especially hot, and this was most clear on May 15 against the Minnesota Twins.

    In the game, he hit three home runs on three hits, scoring 4 RBI in the process. Those four were all that were needed, as Toronto won 11-3.

    After that game, Bautista's batting average was .368 to go with 16 home runs, so that shows just how hot he started out.

33. Allen Craig's World Series

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    Allen Craig came out of nowhere in 2011, hitting .315 in 75 games for the Cardinals. He was a pinch-hitter in the NLCS and hit .375 then, which led to him playing throughout the World Series.

    In 19 at-bats, Craig hit three home runs, 5 RBI, and helped close the gap in multiple games, including hitting the first run in the Game 3 blowout.

    Of course, there was another Cardinal who really was a one-man army who appears later on.

30-32. Derek Holland's Three July Complete-Game Shutouts

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    Derek Holland had a season that was either good luck or good on its own; he had a nice 3.95 ERA, though it went along with a great 16-5 record.

    He had four shutouts, which all blend together somewhat. One came early in the year, but three came in the same month, and I'm touching on those.

    On July 7, 14, and 30, Holland beat the Athletics, Mariners, and Blue Jays, allowing 4-5 hits, striking out 5-8 hitters, and allowing at most two walks in what was an amazing month for him. His efforts helped Texas finish July with an 18-9 record, which made the playoff race simple for them.

29. Roy Halladay's 14 Strikeouts

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    Roy Halladay was a consistently great pitcher this year for the Phillies, as he usually is. For the most part, he did not have any truly dominant games, though April 24 was perhaps an exception.

    Against the San Diego Padres, Halladay struck out 14, allowed one run and five hits as he finished just shy of completing the game, hurting his ranking here. The Phillies won that game, 3-1.

28. Josh Hamilton's Walk-off Shot

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    Josh Hamilton had his share of great performances, though he was not quite as consistent as last year's MVP season. Nonetheless, he had his moment of glory on July 9.

    In a game against the Oakland Athletics, Hamilton had four hits in five at-bats, including a walk-off home run. With two outs, he hit a three-run shot to win the game, 7-6. His performance earned him a WPA of 1.078, the best rating of anyone in a game.

27. CC Sabathia's 14 Strikeouts

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    CC Sabathia is someone the Yankees are definitely happy to have, especially when he has great outings like the July 26 one against the Seattle Mariners.

    In a 4-1 win for the Yankees, Sabathia struck out 14, allowed only one hit (a solo home run), and walked three. He only went seven innings, though, having already thrown 102 pitches, so it wasn't as great as it could have been.

26. Tim Hudson's One-Hitter

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    Tim Hudson had another nice season this year, showing that he still has it while pitching alongside the young yet promising rotation.

    On May 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers, the second game of a doubleheader, Hudson threw six strikeouts and a walk in a 9-0 win on 102 pitches in his only complete game of the season.

25. Ben Zobrist's Eight RBI

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    Ben Zobrist had a rather hot and cold year, but early in the season, on April 28, he had a breakout game and helped the Rays appear dominant.

    Against the Minnesota Twins, Zobrist had 8 RBI, four hits, two doubles, and led the Rays to a 15-3 win. Only one other time that year did he have more than three RBI, so it appeared that much better and helped him reach 91 RBI on the year.

24. Nelson Cruz's Eight RBI

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    Like Zobrist, Cruz had a very good season, though in his case it was streaky due to injuries yet again. When he was healthy, though, he could light it up like he did on July 22.

    Against the Toronto Blue Jays, in a 12-2 win, Cruz had eight RBI along with a home run, and finished with four hits in four at-bats. The game also boosted his batting average over .250, where it stayed the rest of the year.

23. Yovani Gallardo's NLDS

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    The Milwaukee Brewers entered the playoffs having won 96 games, and they needed an ace to carry them through the NLDS against the Diamondbacks. That's where Yovani Gallardo came in.

    In the first game, he threw eight innings, allowing one run and throwing nine strikeouts in a 4-1 win. In Game 5, Gallardo returned and allowed one run over six innings, and would have had a second win had John Axford not blown a save.

    He's the reason Milwaukee made it to the NLCS.

22. Aubrey Huff's Three Homers

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    After a great 2010, Aubrey Huff struggled in 2011, and definitely did not have much power in his bat for 149 of the 150 games he played. The June 2 game, however, was a different story.

    Against the St. Louis Cardinals, Huff had 3 HR and 6 RBI in a 12-7 win, helping led the Giants to victory with what was an atypical performance for Huff; it was his only multi-HR game of the year.

21. Russell Martin's 5-for-5 Outing

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    Russell Martin had power for most of the season for New York, though he may not have had much of a batting average. That changed on Aug. 25 against the Athletics.

    In a 22-9 drubbing of Oakland, Martin had five hits in five at-bats. He has two home runs, six RBI, and scored three runs himself. He bumped his average to .243 after that game, the highest it got the rest of the year.

20. Derek Jeter's 3,000th Hit

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    Derek Jeter may have showed signs of slowing down his season, but for one game on July 9, he showed how great he can be on the diamond in one of two five-hit games he had this year.

    His first hit was a single, while his second was a home run, as well as his 3,000th hit. Three hits later and the Yankees won, 5-4 thanks to his two RBI as he finished a triple short of the cycle.

19. Anibal Sanchez's One-Hitter

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    Anibal Sanchez had a bit of a hard-luck season, and he knew that to get a win, he had to do it himself. That's exactly what he did on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    In that game, he allowed one hit, three walks, and threw 11 strikeouts in a 3-0 win. It took 117 pitches and 86 strikes, but he was able to grab a win and notch a game score of 93, one of the highest of the year.

18. James Shields's 13 Strikeouts

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    James Shields had a career year for the Rays, leading the young team back into the playoffs when few thought it could make it. He had several great games, but the crown jewel was perhaps on May 22.

    Against the Florida Marlins, Shields struck out 13, allowed one walk and three hits, and was a true workhorse, throwing 126 pitches as the Rays won, 4-0.

17. Corey Hart's Three Homers

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    Corey Hart is certainly the most underrated Brewer. With all the talk Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder get, Corey Hart has quietly been a great hitter, and he showed that against the Washington Nationals.

    On May 23, in an 11-3 win, Hart had three homers on three hits, seven RBI, and a walk and stolen base for good measure to help give the Brewers the win. It was his only multi-HR game despite hitting 26 on the year.

16. Jered Weaver's 15 Strikeouts

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    While he may have faded down the stretch, for most of the year Jered Weaver was phenomenal. On April 10 against the Toronto Blue Jays, he was exactly that.

    He only pitched 7.2 innings and did allow an earned run, but threw 15 strikeouts and allowed four hits, winning the game 3-1 and putting his ERA for the young year at 0.87.

10-15: Cliff Lee's Six Shutouts

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    For most of the past decade, a pitcher having multiple shutouts in a season was amazing. Cliff Lee had six on the year, which is nothing short of spectacular.

    One in April, three in June, one in August, and one in September, six walks to 38 strikeouts total, and the fact that most came against tough teams (Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, etc.) proved that Lee could hang with the aces for any who still doubted.

9. Francisco Liriano's Unlikely No-Hitter

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    Francisco Liriano had a rather poor season, and his April in particular was awful; his ERA was 9.13 after five games. On May 3 against the Chicago White Sox, though, everything went right.

    He threw six walks and two strikeouts in an ugly no-hitter, but that's exactly what it was in the 1-0 win. It knocked his ERA down two and a half points, and the Twins got the win, even if it took him 123 pitches.

8. Zach Stewart's First Good Game

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    Zach Stewart made 13 appearances, 11 starts, in his rookie season with the Blue Jays and White Sox.

    He had not had any good games yet when he came to the mound against the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 9, so not much was expected.

    He threw nine strikeouts and allowed only one hit, coming this close to a perfect game in a 4-0 win. In every other start, he allowed at least seven hits, so this was a special outing for him.

7. Prince Fielder's Last Hurrah

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    Prince Fielder became a free agent in the offseason, and he likely played his last game as a Brewer. On Sept. 27 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his second-to-last game as a Brewer, he gave the team something to remember him by.

    He hit three home runs and five RBI with the fourth plate appearance being a walk. The third home run broke open the game and allowed the Brewers to win, 6-4. He was able to single-handedly win that game for Milwaukee.

6. Jason Giambi's Last Hurrah

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    Jason Giambi was 40 this past season, and it is evident he is done as a pro, with his power mostly gone even in Colorado. On May 19 at the Philadelphia Phillies, though, we saw the Jason Giambi of old arrive in force.

    Giambi had a .115 average heading into the game and got a rare starting appearance. He nearly doubled his average, hitting three home runs and driving in all seven runs as the Rockies won the game, 7-1.

    It was just the catalyst he needed to turn his season around and finish off his career.

5. Justin Verlander's No-Hitter

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    Justin Verlander was the Cy Young and MVP winner for good reason; he was flat-out dominant this year. In fact, his no-hitter this year seemed rather mild compared to how tough he was that season.

    On May 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verlander only struck out four, with one walk keeping him from a perfect game. He faced the minimum 27 batters as the Tigers won, 9-0.

4. Chris Capuano's Return to Prominence

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    In his first full season since 2007, Capuano was rather unimpressive with the Mets. He had some bad games, and a few good games. One, however, stood out and showed us what we saw when he was just starting out with Milwaukee.

    On Aug. 29 against the Atlanta Braves, Capuano struck out 13, allowed no walks and two hits, and threw 122 pitches as the Mets won, 6-0. The game score of 96 is the highest recorded this season, though there is one game that stood out just a bit more.

3. Nelson Cruz's ALCS

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    When the Texas Rangers made the World Series this season, it was thanks to two guys. Alexi Ogando handled the pitching, and Nelson Cruz had one of the best postseason performances in some time.

    Over six games, Cruz had six home runs, and had 13 RBI and seven home runs in 22 at-bats for a .364 average.

    Doug Fister was the only pitcher to keep him from embarrassing the Tigers, as Cruz played amazingly in five of the six games.

2. Ervin Santana's No-Hitter

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    Despite a run somehow sneaking into the score against Santana, this was the best of the three no-hitters thrown this season. It also gave him a win, which were hard to come by for him this year.

    On July 27 against the Cleveland Indians, he allowed one walk which turned into an unearned run, but he also struck out 10, through only 105 pitches in the nine innings, and won the game 3-1.

    The game knocked his ERA under 3.50, where it stayed for the rest of the season.

1. David Freese's Postseason

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    As great as Nelson Cruz's ALCS was, it pales in comparison to the postseason David Freese had. He played decently against the Phillies in the NLDS, but the next two series were incredible.

    In the NLCS, he had three home runs and nine RBI against the Brewers, and finished the series with a .545 average, then had a .348 average in the World Series.

    Against the Rangers in Game 6, he hit the triple to tie the game in the ninth, and hit the game-winning home run to push the series to game seven. In short, he was the one reason the Cardinals won the World Series, and really was a one-man army.