This 2014 MLB Playoffs has had more drama than a soap opera, more subplots than a mini-series and more excitement than an MMA heavyweight brawl.
In a season where pitchers regained control of the MLB throne, the offensive displays during the playoffs have been timely and plentiful. The emergence of certain young lefty hitters in particular, has stolen the show so far. Many of these hitters have been on the cusp of stardom, but haven’t tallied that monster season yet. They picked the perfect time to break out of their power-feeble shells and start cranking balls into the deep seats. If this is just the tip of the iceberg for these studs, we could be witnessing the emergence of a left-handed takeover in upcoming MLB seasons.
Brandon Crawford (Giants): The 27-year-old had just 22 homers in his previous 1,425 regular season at-bats, but his grand slam off Edison Volquez in the NL Wild Card game helped San Fran into the NLDS where they now lead the Nats 2-1 in a best-of-five game series.
Brandon Belt (Giants): After hitting just 12 homers all season, the 26-year-old Belt became an unlikely power broker when he blasted an 18th-inning homer to seal a 2-1 win for San Fran in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Eric Hosmer (Royals): KC’s first-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft has been tailing off in the power department since hitting 19 as a rookie in 2011. The 24-year-old hit a career-low nine homers this season, but has regained his power strut during these playoffs. His first postseason home run was a go-ahead two-run shot in the 11th inning in Game 2 of the ALDS. He’s batting .500 in the playoffs and has two clutch dingers.
Mike Moustakas (Royals) – In his sophomore MLB season in 2012 Moustakas hit 20 homers and looked like he was on his way to becoming a big-time slugger. Two subpar seasons later and heads are wondering if the 26-year-old third baseman will ever be more than the 15-homer, low average guy he was in 2014.
The playoffs have helped Royals fans regain the faith. Moustakas led off the 11th inning with a home run to break the tie as the Kansas City Royals beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 in 11 innings to win Game 1 one of the American League Division Series. He added another to help the Royals complete the three-game sweep.
Bryce Harper (Nationals): Harper’s hit game hasn’t lived up to his Sports Illustrated hype. While he’s already made an All-Star squad and shown flashes of his pre-destined greatness, the 21-year-old hasn’t played more than 139 games (rookie season) in any of his three pro seasons and after hitting a combined 42 homers at the ages of 19 and 20, Harper’s power numbers OPS, Slugging % and homers (13) dropped this season.
However, that didn’t stop Harper from continuing his postseason mash as the baby-baller’s two NLDS dingers give him three homers in eight career postseason games. Harper’s moon shot to the upper deck off Giants flamethrower Hunter Strickland put the Nats on the board in their 3-2 National League Division Series Game 1 loss to San Fran. The Young Don’s Game 3 blast helped the Nats stave off elimination, setting up Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup at AT&T Park (9p.m. ET).
Matt Carpenter (Cardinals): Carpenter can handle the lumber and work a pitcher silly, but he’s never hit more than 11 homers in his four-year MLB career. He led the NL in plate appearances and walks in 2014 but only launched eight homers.
Enter the 2014 postseason and Carpenter is adding his name to the list of past Cardinals playoff heroes who have entered the zone of invincibility and achieved incredible feats with their bats in the postseason.
Carpenter is feasting on the game’s most potent arms, having already taken Clayton Kershaw deep. On Monday night, he hit a third inning blast off the Dodgers’ Hyun-jin Ryu to help give St. Louis a 2-1 edge in their NLDS matchup. It marked the third consecutive game Carpenter has gone yard.
Kolten Wong (Cardinals): Wong hit 12 homers all season, which is decent for a 23-year-old developing player, but few predicted his power outburst—a two-run bomb in the bottom of seventh inning to give St. Louis the lead and the Game 3 NLDS win. The Cardinals are up 2-1 and look to wrap that series up tonight at home against the Dodgers. First pitch is at 5:07 ET.
In Game 3 of the NLDS, the Dodgers ran into St. Louis’ crafty veteran John Lackey (7 innings, 1 run, 8Ks, 100 pitches) who recorded his seventh career postseason win by pitching out of some tough spots against a loaded LA offense and displaying the intensity and focus of an experienced playoff veteran.
Lackey, acquired in August in a trade with the Red Sox for fan-favorite and playoff hero Allen Craig and righty pitcher Joe Kelly, is known as a pit bull on the mound. He's tossed in six ALDS, 4 ALCS, an NLDS and two World Series. He helped pitch the Anaheim Angels to the franchise’s first WS win in 2002 and he was part of Boston’s worst-to-first WS season in 2013.
If we are talking postseason earned run averages since 2008 based on a minimum of 30 innings pitched, Lackey ranks third in baseball and second in innings pitched:
Matt Cain (51.1 innings, 2.10 ERA) is the leader. He’s followed by Colby Lewis (50 innings, 2.34 ERA) Lackey (66.1 innings, 2.44 ERA) Tim Lincecum (54.2 innings 2.47 ERA) and innings leader Cliff Lee (82 innings, 2.52 ERA).
St. Louis is one of the few teams that can match the Dodgers' starting depth. What an unlucky draw for Magic and Mattingly’s high-priced LA squad to have to face such a potent team in a Division Series. LA needs to get it together because the reality is they are one game away from another World Series-or-bust pie face. Since his Game 1 collapse, Kershaw's been thirsting for a second shot at justifying his soon to be three Cy Young awards. His quench will be satisfied with a possible playoff-elimination start on Tuesday.