MLB Team of the Week: Adrian Beltre, Starling Marte and Jake Arrieta Star
Hang on to your helmets, baseball fans. We've got the green light, and we're streaking down the third base line of the 2015 MLB season.
In less than two weeks, the 162-game grind will end, and the playoffs, with all of their drama and spectacle, will begin. Every pitch, every out, every error and every run will mean something big. It's coming, ready or not—and here's guessing your answer is "ready."
In the meantime, for your amusement, we'll squeeze in a couple more editions of Bleacher Report's Team of the Week.
You know the drill: These are 10 players—one per position, including a starting pitcher and a designated hitter—who've blown up box scores between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24.
(Seriously, we're strict about those dates. So before you complain that your favorite star or unsung hero was left out, make sure you aren't remembering a monster game from, say, Sept. 17. Then feel free to complain.)
To qualify, a player needs at least two starts at the position in question, or one start in the case of pitchers.
And while this is an individual thing, bonus points are awarded if cartoonish stats translated to ticks in the win column—particularly for clubs with designs on October.
Catcher: Derek Norris, San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres perfectly encapsulated their mediocre letdown of a season with a 3-3 week.
Derek Norris, on the other hand, did good things, going 7-for-19 with three doubles and a home run for the Friars.
Norris has also been upping his game behind the dish, as interim manager Pat Murphy explained, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"For an offensive catcher sometimes, they get caught in their home run totals or whatever," Murphy said. "I think he’s taken real pride in his relationship with pitchers and taken pride in his defense."
Salvador Perez (KC): The Kansas City Royals clinched their first-ever American League Central title this week. And backstop Salvador Perez was right there, rapping out six hits in 17 at-bats, including a double and a home run.
First Base: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Speaking of those division-clinching Royals, they also enjoyed a big week from Eric Hosmer.
Kansas City's first baseman went 11-for-27 with two doubles, two dingers and four RBI, good for a .407 average and 1.117 OPS.
With question marks in the bullpen and starting rotation, Kansas City will need Hosmer—and the rest of its balanced, potent lineup—to keep raking into October.
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI): Paul Goldschmidt kept his name on the fringes of the National League MVP conversation by going 10-for-26 with a double and three home runs.
Second Base: Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
On Thursday, Daniel Murphy banged out three hits, including a go-ahead triple, as the Mets trimmed their NL East-clinching magic number to three.
It's not quite in the bag, but no one's talking meltdowns or LOLMets anymore.
Overall, Murphy went 12-for-26 on the week, with three doubles, two three-baggers, a pair of home runs and six RBI.
"He's locked in," manager Terry Collins said of his veteran infielder after Thursday's win, per the Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com). "When that guy gets hot, nobody can get him out. And it's coming at the best time for us, too."
Jose Altuve (HOU): Jose Altuve did his darndest to keep the Houston Astros in the AL playoff picture, going 10-for-25 with four doubles and a triple.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Anytime you collect 11 RBI in a seven-day span, you're doing something right.
In fact, a lot is going right for the Texas Rangers, who have moved into first place in the AL West. And a Lone Star State-sized share of the credit goes to their seasoned third baseman, who rapped out 10 hits in 23 at-bats, spanked a pair of doubles and a home run and served up more rib-eyes than a steak joint during the dinner rush.
Beltre has battled an array of minor injuries, including a sprained thumb and jammed index finger, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
Counterintuitively, that might actually be feeding his production, according to manager Jeff Banister.
"Most everybody is banged up at this time of year," Banister said, per Grant. "But he seems to just really be able to focus when he has something going on."
Matt Carpenter (STL): Five of Matt Carpenter's eight hits this week went for extra bases, including two doubles and three home runs.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor remained on a strong AL Rookie of the Year trajectory, going 10-for-25 and hitting for the "weekly cycle" with seven singles, a double, a triple and a home run.
Yes, the Cleveland Indians are virtually out of the American League playoff scramble after a 3-3 week. But with his scalding bat and clean-picking glove, Lindor is making a compelling Rookie of the Year push, and more importantly, he's proving he's an invaluable part of the Tribe's future.
"The league has had time to adjust to him now, but he's adjusting to them as well," manager Terry Francona said, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com. "That's a good sign."
Xander Bogaerts (BOS): Speaking of pieces to build around, the Boston Red Sox have one in Xander Bogaerts, who went 10-for-29 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI.
Left Field: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
The good news: The Pittsburgh Pirates went 6-1 this week and clinched a playoff spot for the third straight year.
The bad news: They still trail the first-place St. Louis Cardinals by four games entering Friday and appear destined to fight it out yet again in the do-or-die Wild Card Game, this time with the young and immensely talented Chicago Cubs.
The other good news: Starling Marte is ready for the challenge. The Pirates left fielder cracked 16 hits in 32 at-bats, good for a cool .500 average, and collected nine RBI.
Thirteen of those hits came in a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies, which tied a franchise record set by Pie Traynor in 1928, per Jack Etkin and Owen Perkins of MLB.com.
There's a joke about sweet swings in there somewhere, but we'll leave it alone.
Khris Davis (MIL): Khris Davis gave us a reason to remember the Milwaukee Brewers exist, going 8-for-21 with two home runs and five RBI.
Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels went 4-2 this week and won series against the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, two of the teams they're currently chasing in the AL wild-card race.
Entering play Friday, the Halos sit at 78-74, tied with the Twins and 1.5 games behind the 'Stros for the second wild-card slot.
And, no surprise, Mike Trout has played a starring role, going 7-for-23 with two doubles and two home runs this week.
Trout remains locked in a tight battle for AL MVP with the Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson. His performance over the season's final week-plus, and whether it's enough to propel the Angels into the playoffs, will decide who gets the hardware.
Angel Pagan (SF): As the San Francisco Giants crumbled into a pile of odd-year maladies, oft-injured Angel Pagan looked like a new man, going 6-for-20 with three doubles, a home run and a pair of stolen bases.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
If the New York Yankees are going to have a shot this postseason, they'll need their veteran bats to keep Father Time at bay.
Carlos Beltran did exactly that this week, going 8-for-25 with a double, three home runs and 10 RBI.
It's been an astounding stretch for the 38-year-old, as ESPN's Wallace Matthews highlighted:
At the point of a baseball season when even young bucks are wearing down, Beltran continues to heat up. His August was exceptional—he batted .353 with five home runs and 15 RBI and had a 1.067 OPS—and while his batting average has dipped somewhat in September (.265), he already has matched his August total for home runs and runs batted in.
For the Yankees, who have seen [Mark] Teixeira break down and A-Rod wear down over the second half of the season, Beltran's resurgence could not have come at a better time.
Now, the Yanks need him to keep it going through a likely Wild Card Game and, the Bronx faithful hope, beyond.
Torii Hunter (MIN): Score another one for the old dudes, as 40-year-old Torii Hunter went 7-for-23 with a pair of home runs to keep the Twinkies in the mix.
Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals
Another Royals player makes the cut, and why not?
Kendrys Morales undoubtedly deserves it. Of his seven hits this week, five went for extra bases, including a triple and four home runs.
The triple and three of those taters came in a single game Sept. 20 against the Detroit Tigers, and Morales set a franchise record with 15 total bases.
"Just one of those days," Morales said afterward in what might qualify as the season's biggest understatement, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. "Got good swings."
Victor Martinez (DET): Victor Martinez cracked a double and two home runs among his six hits and tallied seven RBI.
Pitcher: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Jake Arrieta added a compelling piece of evidence to his Cy Young case, twirling a three-hit, complete game shutout with one walk and 11 strikeouts Sept. 22 against the Brewers.
It was also Arrieta's 20th win, a stat that's lost much of its luster in this era of analytics and advanced metrics, but one that still carries a share of symbolic weight.
Enough, when stacked on top of his other numbers and accomplishments, to win the Cubs right-hander a prestigious pitching prize? Stay tuned.
Marcus Stroman (TOR): Marcus Stroman continued his improbable comeback from a devastating knee injury by allowing one earned run in 14 innings scattered over two starts, both Blue Jays victories.
All statistics current as of Sept. 24 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.