NL Playoff Outlook: Stars the Nationals could face
NL playoff outlook: potential stars the Nationals could face
The Nationals have officially clinched their second NL East division crown in the past three years and are headed to the 2014 postseason. With the focus now shifted towards the playoffs, which of these superstars could stand in the way of Matt Williams and his ball club?
SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright has been one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2014 sporting a sub 2.50 ERA and winning 19 games through mid-September. After experiencing difficulties in July and August, Wainwright righted the ship in the final month of the regular season. The St. Louis ace will anchor manager Mike Matheney's starting rotation come October.
LF Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Holliday remains one of the most consistent hitters for St. Louis since he landed in free agency in 2009. The 34-year-old Holliday is batting .270 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs as the end of the regular season approaches and played arguably his best ball in September. Holliday's hot hitting will make St. Louis a difficult opponent this postseason.
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
It's no coincidence the Cardinals have taken over first place in the NL Central since their backstop has returned from a thumb injury. The bad thumb forced Yadier Molina to miss a month-and-a-half of action, but he returned just in time for the September push. Molina provides excellent defense, a reliable bat and leadership for Mike Matheny's club.
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
There aren't many superlatives left to describe Clayton Kershaw and the type of season he's having. With 19 wins in the bank as well as a sub-2.00 era, Kershaw is well on his way to a third NL Cy Young award. Despite his impressive numbers, the Los Angeles southpaw will be locked in on winning his first World Series title.
RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 had its ups and downs for the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who is batting a shade below .300. More bad news from the Los Angeles clubhouse has Puig and fellow outfielder Matt Kemp engaging in a not-so-friendly verbal altercation. Despite his off the field shenanigans, the Dodgers will need Puig's electric bat and big play-making abilities during the 2014 postseason.
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Arguably Los Angeles' most consistent hitter in 2014, Adrian Gonzalez will be a key bat for Don Mattingly's postseason lineup. The team leader in home runs and RBI enters the playoffs after a fifth consecutive regular season with at least 100 RBI. Despite question marks about the team's chemistry, Gonzalez has remained a bright-spot in an otherwise dreary clubhouse.
C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey is arguably the most important hitter in the San Francisco Giants' lineup this upcoming postseason. Posey will finish another season batting above .300 and also leads Giants hitters in home runs and RBI. Posey's hot hitting has continued in September as he has shown flashes of power. The backstop's success at the plate will be key moving forward as 3B Pablo Sandoval and OF Angel Pagan have all been bitten by the injury bug.
SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants lefty hurler Madison Bumgarner is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball winning five out of his last six outings highlighted by a nine strikeout shutout against the rival Dodgers on Sept. 12. Bumgarner tallied 18 wins through mid September along with a sub-3.00 ERA. Like Kershaw, Bumgarner is one the most dominant lefty pitchers in the MLB.
CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
The reigning NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen will be vital to the Pirates success this postseason. The face of the franchise has battled rib and ankle injuries in 2014 causing him to miss about two weeks of the regular season. Despite missing time, the Pirates' center fielder is batting above .300 and ranks among the top 15 in WAR.
3B Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pirates' third baseman Josh Harrison is enjoying a massive breakout season and will look to continue his stellar production in October. The third year pro owns a team best .318 batting average and sports a stellar 5.3 WAR. Harrison heated up in September, just in time for the post season and will look to compliment Andrew McCutchen.