Ranking the 10 Most Clutch Players of the 2013 MLB Postseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Clutch Players of the 2013 MLB Postseason

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    With both ALDS matchups set for Game 4 on Tuesday night, and a decisive Game 5 between the Cardinals and Pirates on tap for Wednesday, there will be plenty of opportunities for clutch performances over the next couple days.

    There was no shortage of drama on Monday night, either, as Jose Lobaton delivered a walk-off home run to keep the Rays' hopes alive and Juan Uribe delivered a game-winning long ball of his own to allow the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS.

    Anyone is capable of stepping up and being a hero in October, that's the beauty of postseason baseball, and elimination games are tailor-made for clutch performance, sometimes on both the losing and winning side of things.

    So while there is still a ton of baseball to be played and names to add to this list, here is a look at the top 10 clutch performers of the 2013 MLB postseason so far.

10. SP Freddy Garcia, Atlanta Braves

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    Postseason Stats

    1 GS, 6 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 6 K, ND


    How He's Been Clutch

    The Braves have been eliminated from the postseason, and it was Garcia who was the starting pitcher in what turned out to be the decisive Game 4, and even though he came away with a no-decision, it was a clutch performance by the veteran, nonetheless.

    Squaring off against the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, the 37-year-old Garcia matched him for six innings, scattering eight hits and allowing just a pair of solo home runs to Carl Crawford.

    Garcia turned it over to the league's best bullpen with the Braves in a position to win the game, which is really all the Braves could have hoped for out of a guy who was on the bubble to even make the postseason roster.

    Demoted by the Orioles after going 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA in 11 games (10 starts), Garcia was purchased from Baltimore on Aug. 23, and he posted a 1.65 ERA in six games (three starts) after joining Atlanta. He took the ball with the season on the line, and did everything he could to get the Braves a victory.

9. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

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    Postseason Stats

    3 G, 4-for-9, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, 1 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    Arguably the best clutch hitter of his generation, David Ortiz will forever go down in Red Sox and baseball lore for his performance against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and he still has already shown this year that he can still be lethal in October.

    One of the few players not to drive in a run during the Red Sox 12-2 drubbing of the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS, Ortiz led the way in Game 2 with a pair of home runs off of Rays ace David Price.

    The Red Sox dropped Game 3 on a walk-off home run by Jose Lobaton, but Ortiz again got in the on the action, walking three times and hitting an RBI single in the fifth inning.

    The run didn't help the Red Sox to a victory, but it did make Ortiz just the fifth player in baseball history with 50 career postseason RBI, according to Matt Snyder of CBSSports.

8. SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Postseason Stats

    2 GS, 1-0, 13 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 18 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    Looking to avoid going back to Atlanta, where the Braves were an MLB-best 56-25 on the season, the Dodgers opted to throw ace Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 with a chance to clinch the series and advance to the NLCS.

    The left-hander threw a gem in Game 1 of the series, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out 12 in seven innings of work to get the Dodgers out to a 1-0 series lead.

    That was nothing new, though, as Kershaw has been the league's best pitcher all season, going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA during the regular season.

    He came away with a no-decision in Game 4, as the Braves scored a pair of unearned runs on a single, throwing error by Adrian Gonzalez, wild pitch by Kershaw and then an RBI single from Chris Johnson and RBI groundout from Andrelton Simmons. Still, he allowed just three hits in six innings of work, and the Dodgers came away with the victory as planned.

7. C Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics

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    Postseason Stats

    3 G, 2-for-9, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    The A's opted to carry three catchers on their postseason roster, but it's been Stephen Vogt who has drawn starting duties in each of the team's first three games.

    Vogt backed up Derek Norris for most of the season, hitting .252/.295/.400 with four home runs and 16 RBI over 135 at-bats, but he found his name in the lineup more and more down the stretch.

    After dropping Game 1 to the Tigers, the A's needed to come away with at least one win at home, and they found themselves in a pitcher's duel, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning with things still scoreless.

    Back-to-back singles by Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith and an intentional walk to Josh Reddick brought Vogt to the plate with the bases loaded and no one out, and he came through with an RBI single the other way to left field for the walk-off winner.

    He also tripled and scored a run to tie things up 3-3 in Game 3, as the A's came away with a 6-3 victory and now have the Tigers on the brink of elimination.

6. 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Postseason Stats

    4 G, 5-for-13, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    After a big rookie season in 2010, Pedro Alvarez struggled to the point of demotion in 2011, but bounced back with a solid season last year as he hit .244/.317/.467 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI.

    His numbers dropped to .233/.296/.473 this season, and he struck out an NL-high 186 times, but he also tied for the NL lead with 36 home runs and drove in 100 runs as a key cog in the Pirates' lineup.

    The 26-year-old slugger is currently leading the way in the postseason with three home runs, and he hit a big one on Monday off of Michael Wacha to break up his no-hitter in the eighth inning, though it wasn't enough and they fell 2-1.

    However, his big hit so far was a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 3. Mark Melancon had surrendered the lead in the top of the inning when Carlos Beltran knotted things up with a solo home run, but Alvarez bailed him out and the Pirates came away with a 5-3 win to go up 2-1 in the NLDS.

5. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

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    Postseason Stats

    1 GS, 8 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K, ND


    How He's Been Clutch

    After dropping Game 1 of their series with the Tigers 3-2, the A's desperately needed to come away with a win in Game 2 to avoid heading to Detroit down 0-2 in the series.

    Rookie Sonny Gray took the ball for Oakland after going 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) during the regular season, and he squared off against Justin Verlander.

    Verlander threw a gem, allowing just four hits and striking out 11 in seven innings of work, but Gray matched him pitch-for-pitch, and the rookie gave way to closer Grant Balfour in the ninth inning with the game still scoreless.

    The A's managed to push one across in the bottom of the ninth to come away with the win, and while Gray wound up with a no-decision for his efforts, his big start has helped turn the tides in a series that the A's now lead 2-1.

4. 3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Postseason Stats

    4 G, 3-for-13, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    After dealing with injuries the past two seasons, Evan Longoria finally managed to stay healthy this year, and he posted an .842 OPS with 32 home runs and 88 RBI.

    While he is just a .198 career hitter in the postseason, Longoria has had a knack for coming up with the big hit when necessary, and he has nine home runs and 21 RBI in 29 career playoff games.

    The 28-year-old ended the regular season on fire, hitting .414/.419/.828 with three home runs and 11 RBI over his final seven games, but he started off the postseason slow heading into a potential elimination game on Monday.

    The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Rays finally got to Clay Buchholz in the bottom of the fifth, as Yunel Escobar singled and David DeJesus doubled before Longoria delivered a momentum-changing three-run homer.

3. 3B Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Postseason Stats

    4 G, 6-for-16, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 0 BB, 3 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    The entire Dodgers offense was fantastic in their NLDS series with the Braves, hitting .333/.390/.572, but it was Juan Uribe who delivered the big blow in the clinching Game 4 victory.

    Freddy Garcia held his own matched up against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, turning things over to the bullpen after six innings with the game tied 2-2. The Braves then broke through for a run against Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario in the top of the seventh and got a scoreless bottom of the inning from Luis Avilan.

    Brian Wilson kept things where they were at with a scoreless top of the eighth, and the Braves turned things over to David Carpenter instead of going with all-world closer Craig Kimbrel for two innings.

    Yasiel Puig led off the inning with a double, and Uribe followed that up with a go-ahead two-run blast to left field, giving the Dodgers the late lead. Kenley Jansen nailed down the save in the ninth, and the Dodgers were on their way to the NLCS.

2. SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Postseason Stats

    1 GS, 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 9 K, W


    How He's Been Clutch

    Trailing the Pirates 2-1 in the NLDS, the Cardinals turned to 22-year-old Michael Wacha for the Game 4 start. The rookie pitched in just 15 games (nine starts) during the regular season, but he got the nod over fellow rookie Shelby Miller for the start.

    In his final regular season start, Wacha threw 8.2 innings of no-hit ball against the Nationals, before an infield single by Ryan Zimmerman spoiled things, and he made another run at a no-hitter in his first career postseason start.

    Wacha breezed through seven innings, needing just 83 pitches and allowing just a sixth-inning walk to Russell Martin. 

    He struck out Marlon Byrd for the first out of the eighth, but gave up a towering solo home run to Pedro Alvarez to lose the no-hitter, then walked Russell Martin before getting the hook. Reliever Carlos Martinez got them out of the inning, though, and the Cardinals held on to win 2-1, forcing Game 5.

1. C Jose Lobaton, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Postseason Stats

    3 G, 1-for-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K


    How He's Been Clutch

    Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton split time behind the plate for the Rays for most of the season, as Molina gave the team a plus-defensive backstop and Lobaton provided some offensive pop at the position.

    In 277 at-bats during the regular season, Lobaton hit .249/.320/.394 with seven home runs and 32 RBI, as that represented the most extensive playing time the 28-year-old had seen to this point in his career.

    He started behind the plate in Game 1 of the ALDS going 0-for-3 with a strikeouts, and entered Game 2 after Jose Molina was pinch-hit for and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout, so it's safe to say he was flying under the radar entering Game 3.

    Facing elimination, the Rays pushed across a run on an RBI groundout by Delmon Young in the eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead, but closer Fernando Rodney couldn't nail down the save and the Red Sox tied things back up at 4-4 in the top of the ninth.

    The Red Sox then turned to closer Koji Uehara, who has been untouchable all season, to pitch the bottom of the ninth. After he retired Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria for two quick outs, Lobaton came to the plate as a pinch-hitter for the struggling Wil Myers, and he delivered a walk-off blast to keep the Rays' postseason run alive.