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#pounditWednesday, April 24, 2024

5 MLB hitters who need to step up down the stretch

Ryan Braun

We are into the final stretch of the MLB season, with playoff spots yet to be decided. There are clear favorites in every division but the NL Central, while both the AL and NL wild card races remain tight. That means plenty of teams remain in contention for a postseason bid right down to the wire.

These teams are going to need some big moments from important players down the stretch to earn the right to play in October. Here are five hitters who need to come up big in the final weeks of the season.

5. Ben Zobrist, IF, Cubs

Yes, it is asking a lot of Zobrist to pick up the slack for the Cubs after sitting out the majority of the season. The infielder only returned to the lineup on Sept. 3, though he’s essentially been the team’s regular second baseman ever since. With Javy Baez out for the season, the Cubs need Zobrist’s contributions badly. He’s hit over .350 since returning to the lineup, with the Cubs putting up a winning record in games he’s started.

4. Max Kepler, OF, Twins

The Twins remain clear favorites to see off the Cleveland Indians and win the AL Central, but to seal that, they’ll need to keep winning down the stretch. That may involve jump-starting a few players, and Kepler is one of them. Despite his 36 home runs, he has yet to hit one in September as he’s missed some time with a nagging shoulder injury. Kepler is hitting under .200 since the start of the month, and that’s not great for a key player. He’ll want to find his groove before the playoffs.

3. Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics

Chapman has 34 home runs for Oakland, and he’s still hitting them fairly regularly. However, his average has dropped by ten points in the month of September, and he’s struck out at least once in almost every game this month. There’s an acceptance that Chapman isn’t going to be a high-average, low-strikeout guy, but this is particularly bad, even by his standards. The A’s are only in the top wild card spot by a game. Chapman can help seal it if he can get going.

2. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians

The Indians are in a huge fight just to get to the playoffs and will need all hands on deck to avoid the disappointment of not playing in October. Lindor has slumped some in September, hitting below .250 despite five home runs. The shortstop might be Cleveland’s most valuable player and one of their best hitters, and for them to get into the playoffs, they probably need him to heat up. He’s capable of being a .300 hitter and needs to be that.

1. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers

With Christian Yelich lost for the season, the Brewers need someone to step up to keep them firmly in the playoff hunt. That may end up being Braun. The 35-year-old outfielder may not be the player he once was, but he’s still capable of hitting 20 to 25 home runs while batting close to .280. Braun has struggled in September but came up with a huge game-winning grand slam Sept. 15 against St. Louis. The Brewers will be hoping Braun can provide more big hits down the stretch.


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