October 4, 2018 / 6:46 PM / 2 years ago

Take 5: Breakout stars of the MLB post season

In a game in which stars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each hit home runs, a relatively unknown first baseman had perhaps the biggest hit of all for the New York Yankees in their American League wild-card win over the Oakland Athletics.

Oct 3, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit (45) celebrates after hitting an 2-RBI triple in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 American League wild card playoff baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Voit stepped up with runners on first and third in the sixth inning and launched a two-run triple off the top of the wall in right field. The hit gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead and represented a finishing nail in the coffin of the A’s, who were unable to regain momentum and eventually fell 7-2.

Voit, 27, is in his second year in the majors. A 22nd-round pick in 2013 by the Cardinals, he has never generated much fanfare, and when the Yankees acquired him from St. Louis in July, few took notice.

Voit’s Yankees career got off to a slow start, and he was demoted to the minors on Aug. 13. He returned just over a week later, and has been on fire since, launching 14 home runs — 10 in September — and carving a role for himself in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.

As New York heads to Boston to face the Red Sox in what should be a highly publicized AL Division Series, Voit’s hot streak has him in position to further make a name for himself. October baseball has a way of making legends out of relative unknowns — just ask Voit’s manager, Aaron Boone — and this year figures to see more than a handful of players thrust themselves into the spotlight.

Here are four more names you could see break out this post season.

4. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies

Dahl is red-hot entering the divisional round of the playoffs. The 24-year-old outfielder homered in six of his final seven regular-season games, earning himself the No. 3 spot in Colorado’s loaded lineup against right-handed starters. A former top prospect, Dahl made his debut with the Rockies in 2016. He didn’t play for Colorado in 2017, missing nearly the entire season with a stress reaction injury to a rib and subsequent back spasms. A right foot fracture sidelined him for some time this season, but he hit .298 in September and is now a regular in the Rockies’ lineup. Dahl went 0-for-6 against Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs in the NL wild-card game, but against the Brewers’ righty heavy pitching staff, he should have a better chance to make an impact.

3. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

It isn’t often a rookie pitcher gets his number called in a must-win game, but Buehler got the nod against the Rockies in the NL West tiebreaker and delivered. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, and earned the win to send the Dodgers straight through to the division round. Buehler posted a 2.62 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) this season, and since the start of August, he is 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA in 11 starts. Buehler is expected to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw in Games 1 and 2, respectively. If his demeanor in the tiebreaker proved anything, Buehler won’t be fazed by the big stage.

2. Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves

Another young pitcher to watch in the Braves-Dodgers series is Foltynewicz, and it won’t take long for us to see how he fares in his first post season appearance. The 26-year-old right-hander will pitch Game 1 for Atlanta after an All-Star season that saw him post a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts, strike out 202 batters in 183 innings and hold opponents to a .195 batting average, the third-lowest mark in the majors. Foltynewicz, acquired by the Braves from the Houston Astros in 2015, showed flashes of promise over his first three years in Atlanta’s rotation, though he never posted an ERA lower than 4.31. Now he has put it all together, and he has the chance to turn heads by putting the defending NL champions in an early hole.

1. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

Ramirez is already a bona fide stud and AL MVP candidate for the Indians, but his poor performance in last year’s ALDS upset by the Yankees is holding him back from reaching that next level of super stardom. Ramirez went just 2-for-20 with two singles in that series, as the Indians went on to blow a 2-0 lead and fail to get another chance at their first World Series win since 1948. Now, Ramirez has upped his game to new heights, completing his first 30-30 season with career highs of 39 home runs and 34 stolen bases. Since the start of August, Ramirez has slumped from a .301 batting average down to .270, though he will be counted on to get the Indians past the defending champion Astros and back to the AL Championship Series. If the 26-year-old leads Cleveland to its first title in 70 years, he’ll be sure to earn the respect he deserves.

—Kyle Brasseur, Field Level Media

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