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#pounditSunday, November 27, 2022

10 hottest players entering the MLB postseason

Christian Yelich

The MLB regular season is nearing its end, and several division titles and playoff spots have already been clinched. We also have an idea of which players are going to be worth watching once the postseason gets underway.

Can a player’s hot streak carry over from the end of the regular season into the playoffs? It’s certainly possible, especially with baseball’s notoriously short layoffs, so it’s worth checking out which players on likely playoff teams are performing the best with the playoffs looming. Here are ten players who have dominated for their clubs in September and will be looking to do the same in October.

10. Kyle Hendricks, P, Cubs

The Cubs’ starting rotation has given them some issues this season, but they appear to rounding into form at the right time. In addition to the acquisition of Cole Hamels, Hendricks has really settled in and looked like one of the more reliable pitchers on the staff. His ERA was over 4 in mid-August, but thanks to a September that has seen him allow just six earned runs and only four walks in 32.1 innings, it’s now dropped to 3.49.

9. Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers

Injuries hindered a lot of Turner’s season, but he got healthy in time to put up outstanding numbers down the stretch. In his last 15 games, Turner has hit .389, and nine of his 21 hits over that span have been doubles. Even if the home run power hasn’t been there — he has just one — he’s driven in eight runs and has more walks than strikeouts over that span. He’s a big reason the Dodgers have made their move in the division race.

8. Edwin Encarnacion, DH, Indians

Encarnacion isn’t going to end the year with a high average, but he is going to finish it up with a hot September. He has seven multi-hit games this month, including three since Sunday. More impressively, he’s been walking a ton to the tune of a .443 OBP over his last 16 games. The only thing missing is extra base power — he has only five extra-base hits this month. But Encarnacion has always had a lot of power and that will probably come, especially if he keeps this pace up.

7. Walker Buehler, P, Dodgers

It has been Buehler, not Clayton Kershaw, who has been the money starter for the Dodgers down the stretch. His September ERA sits at a paltry 1.95, with four of the seven earned runs allowed over the span coming in one slightly shaky start against the Colorado Rockies. He has been otherwise outstanding. Opponents are hitting just .152 off him during the last month of the season, with 42 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. He’s a huge key to the Dodgers’ playoff hopes.

6. Blake Trienen, P, Athletics

One of the big reasons the Athletics have been so surprisingly successful in 2018 has been their bullpen, and Treinen is the best they’ve got, which is saying something. He’s allowed two earned runs since the All-Star break, and none since Aug. 23, spanning 13 consecutive appearances. During that time, he’s given up three hits and one walk in 16.1 innings. Treinen has not only meant “game over” for foes, but he also means you’re probably not even getting on base to give the illusion of a rally.

5. Ender Inciarte, OF, Braves

One of the game’s most underappreciated players, Inciarte is an excellent defender. He’s also been scorching at the plate recently. Since Sept. 11, over a roughly two week span, Inciarte has hit .421 with seven multi-hit games out of 11. The Braves are taking full advantage — he’s gotten 16 hits and 7 walks, and has scored 14 runs during that time period. His OBP is a ridiculous .500, so he’s reaching base every other time he bats, essentially. He’s the ideal catalyst for the NL East champions.

4. Justin Verlander, P, Astros

Verlander has a long history of playoff success, and the late trends of the regular season are indicating there may well be more on the way. In four September starts, he’s allowed just four runs, good for an ERA of 1.33. Opponents have been limited to a .141 average against him, which translates to just 13 hits in 27 innings. The Astros have won each of those four starts. The Astros have also managed Verlander carefully — the most pitches he’s thrown over this stretch is 104 — so he’ll be ready to go for October.

3. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox

The potential AL MVP is certainly closing strongly. After a brief blip in early September, Betts is hitting .422 with a .518 OBP in his last 12 games. Over half of his 19 hits have been of the extra-base variety — seven doubles and three home runs, good for a .778 slugging percentage. His month has also included consecutive four-hit games, one on either side of a brief injury issue. It’s an emphatic closing statement in the AL MVP race,

2. Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros

On a roster that includes the likes of Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, it has been Gurriel pacing the Astros offensively down the stretch, and it’s been happening all month. Gurriel is hitting .367 in September over a full 79 at-bats, with five home runs and 21 RBIs. He’s gotten particularly hot in the last week, with five consecutive multi-hit games to the tune of a .545 average and three of those home runs. It’s safe to say he’s locked in right now.

1. Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers

Yelich has paced the Brewers offensively to a playoff berth, and potentially an NL MVP award. It’s really picked up over the last two weeks, with Yelich going 19-for-46 with five doubles, a triple, five home runs, and 18 RBIs. He’s reached base in over half his plate appearances during that spell, which included his second cycle of the season against the Cincinnati Reds and a Baker Mayfield shoutout. He is so hot the Cardinals walked him five times on Wednesday. All eyes will be on him in the postseason.

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