It's finally October, and the first leaves are starting to change color. Twenty teams are closing shop, sitting on their couches, popping beers and wondering why they're not popping champagne in the clubhouse instead.
There are 10 teams currently toweling off the bubbly and preparing for the postseason, which begins this Friday with the wild card matches.
It's that time of the year again, and look, the Braves didn't crash and burn down the stretch. They're in the National League Wild Card matchup for the reigning champs, and they've got a bone to pick. St. Louis capped off for the Braves what was the worst collapse in NL history this time last season.
The Nationals arrived in sterling fashion, co-leading the league in wins with the Reds, who are a familiar face from last season. The Giants, who won it all two years ago are back in and looking to make some noise.
On the American League side, the Yankees are sitting pretty as usual, as are the Detroit Tigers. The Baltimore Orioles surprised everyone and eased into a wild card spot, and they'll face the Texas Rangers who lost today to the Oakland A's. The A's will face Detroit as the No. 2 seed.
With the playoff picture set, who will be this year's David Freese and lead their team to the promised land? Who's ready to breakout and go off in the playoffs?
Here are three candidates for your consideration:
Uggla, or "Thuggla" as he's come to be known, had a woeful season at best. He's just started to come alive, though, and if he carries his form into the postseason, he might be the extra bat the Braves need to get over the hump.
With Uggla hitting up to his standards, the Braves lineup is quite daunting. St. Louis could have a real problem on their hands.
Essentially, the Braves made it to the postseason in spite of Uggla. They have a stable of capable hitters and all the extra motivation to send out Chipper Jones on top. Don't be surprised to see the Braves in the final week of October.
In his first 77 games, Uggla hit .151 and struck out 90 times. In his last 22 games, he's hit .301 and only struck out 18 times, a marked improvement. He could be getting hot at just the right time.
Machado has been relatively consistent since the Orioles brought him up on August 9. He hit .243 for the remainder of August and .289 in September, with seven home runs. So far, in the last seven days of the season, Machado has hit three homers and is batting .300.
David Freese hit an eerily similar .256 last August and .284 in September. He finished the last seven days hitting .364.
At 20 years old, Machado is going to be playing in October. Is there anything better for a 20-year-old than beating the Texas Rangers in the wild card game?
Okay, Bryce Harper isn't sleeping on anyone's list, but there really isn't an easier pick to make here. Harper is absolutely crushing it right now.
He hit 13 home runs in August and September and improved his average to .330 for September from .243 in August.
In the last seven days, he's hit a face-melting .462 and is primed to go off in the postseason. So long as the 19-year-old doesn't throw his hat down at first, he'll be wreaking havoc in October.
The Nationals will face the winner of the Atlanta vs. St. Louis wild card game on Sunday. Harper has hit .258 and four homers against Atlanta this season, and if St. Louis wins, all bets are off. Harper crushed them, going 12 of 28 at the plate and two home runs.
He's hit the most home runs at National's Park with 10 and the second most at Turner Field with three.
You can never really tell what's going to happen in October, and it's never easy to predict where that extra push will come from to get one team over the hump. Few, if any, had David Freese doing what he did last October.
There are a host of other players with the potential to give their teams that extra bit, here are three that are primed to do so.
Manny Machado and Dan Uggla will get their shots first this Friday. If they don't make them count, they might not get any more. Welcome to October in 2012.
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