October isn’t just for aces.
Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels are a few of the star pitchers teams are counting on this postseason.
But closers and middle-rotation pitchers can steal the spotlight, too.
Dennis Eckersley (1988 A’s), Sterling Hitchcock (1998 Padres), Mariano Rivera (2003 Yankees), Jeff Suppan (2006 Cardinals), Michael Wacha (2013 Cardinals) and Koji Uehara (2013 Red Sox) all were MVPs of the league championship series. Livan Hernandez (1997 Marlins) and John Wetteland (1996 Yankees) were World Series MVPs.
Here’s a Pick 6 of relievers and other pitchers who could dominate this month:
KYLE HENDRICKS: Jon Lester, Arrieta and John Lackey have more hardware in their trophy cases, but Hendricks (16-8) led the league with a 2.13 ERA. The righty began the season as the No. 5 starter for the Cubs. Now he gets the ball in Game 2 of the NL division series.
TANNER ROARK: While Scherzer had 20 wins and Stephen Strasburg was 15-4 for the Nationals, Roark (16-10) led the team with a 2.83 ERA. The right-hander allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 13 starts.
KENLEY JANSEN: If Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda do their job and the Dodgers give Jansen a lead in the ninth, he’s got lights-out stuff. Jansen had 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA and a 104/11 strikeout/walk ratio. Batters hit just .147 against him.
J.A. HAPP: The lefty was Toronto’s most consistent pitcher, going 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA. Happ starts Game 2 of the AL division series against Texas. He was 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA down the stretch in his final five starts, helping the Blue Jays secure a wild-card spot.
TREVOR BAUER: The Indians will send Bauer to the mound for Game 1 against the Red Sox and their high-powered offense. If Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) pitches like he did in the first half, Cleveland could steal an important game and turn the series in its favor.
BRAD ZIEGLER: The sidearm-tossing righty is one of the toughest relievers to hit in baseball. Ziegler had a 1.52 ERA for Boston after being acquired from Arizona and saved four games in 33 appearances. Craig Kimbrel closes games for the Red Sox, but Ziegler is their most dependable and versatile reliever.
BONUS PICK: Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.71) is a proven postseason pitcher. He’s 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine playoff games and is slated to start Game 3 against the Blue Jays.
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