October's studs and duds (cont.)
Chase Utley, Phillies
Utley was miserable against Milwaukee pitchers in the NLDS, getting just two hits in 15 at-bats (.133) in the four games. It was his second straight flameout in the first round. (Last year, he was just 2-for-11 in three games against the Rockies.) You'd think that the Phillies' second baseman would have a hard time breaking out of it against a top-notch L.A. pitching staff. But in eight games against the Dodgers this year, the lefty swinging Utley is 11-for-31 (.355) with two home runs and three doubles.
Ryan Howard, Phillies
The big first baseman had a fantastic September, hitting .352 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs, all high marks for the season. And then against the Brewers in the ALDS, he punked out, getting just two hits in 11 at-bats (.182). Outside of Greg Maddux, Howard has struggled against the Dodgers' pitching, hitting just .133 against them in eight games. Howard's another one who has yet to find his postseason mojo. He was terrible against the Rockies last year, too, and in seven career postseason games now has a .217 average and just a .391 slugging percentage.
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
The presence of Ramirez in the L.A. lineup may have helped bump Kemp's numbers a little -- .284 batting average before Manny's arrival to .299 after, .444 slugging to .478 -- but it all wore off in the NLDS wipeout of the Cubs. While the rest of the Dodgers were partying, Kemp had just two hits -- albeit two doubles -- in 13 at-bats (.154). He also had five strikeouts in the three games. Kemp had a fine year against the Phillies, with a .324 batting average and a .529 slugging mark. Wouldn't hurt his reputation, or his team's chances, if he carried that regular-season magic into the NLCS against the Phillies and forgot all about that lost series with the Cubs.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Ethier had a worse time against the Cubs than Kemp did, getting just one hit -- a single -- in his 10 at-bats. Ethier had a good year -- .305, .375 on-base, 20 homers, 77 RBIs -- and, like a lot of the lineup, played much better after Manny came to town (.991 OPS to .810 before). Ethier batted .253 with a pair of homers in eight games against the Phillies this year. Expect better numbers when he faces Brett Myers and Joe Blanton (Ethier hit .326 off righties in the regular season) than against Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer (.243 versus lefties).
Carl Crawford, Rays
Coming off the disabled list and jumping right into a postseason lineup isn't easy, as Crawford showed with his painful performance against the White Sox in the ALDS. The speedy outfielder, recovering from an injured hand, had just three singles in 14 at-bats (.214), and it won't get any easier against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Crawford is a .214 lifetime hitter against Boston southpaw Lester and has only six singles in 23 career plate appearances against righty Josh Beckett (a .261 average). He's also struck out nine times against Beckett and has only a .324 on-base percentage in his career against Boston.
Matt Garza, Rays
Garza, a right-hander, had some wonderful starts this season. His one against the White Sox in the ALDS (six innings, seven hits, five runs, four walks) wasn't one of them, though. Garza made four starts against the Red Sox this season and they were, for the most part, equally unimpressive. He was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in those four starts and lasted past the sixth inning in just one of them. (He went seven innings, giving up five hits and an unearned run in his only win, on July 1 in St. Petersburg.) Garza's nemesis: Jacoby Ellsbury, who has six hits in 13 career at-bats (.462) against him.
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
The AL MVP candidate looked like anything but that in Boston's ALDS win over the Angels, getting just one hit -- a run-scoring double off Fenway Park's Green Monster in Game 4 on Monday -- in 17 at-bats (.059). It'd be hard to think that Pedroia won't bust out sooner or later, though, given his fine year and his postseason history. Last year, he hit just .154 in the ALDS against the Angels before coming alive in the ALCS against the Indians, batting .345 in the seven games with a homer and five RBIs. Could we see a similar turnaround against the Rays? In 18 games against Tampa Bay this season, Pedroia hit .296 with six doubles, a triple and a home run.
Hideki Okajima, Red Sox
The lefty setup man appeared in three of the four games in Boston's ALDS win over the Angels, giving up three hits and two runs in 2 2/3 innings. It was a long peg from last year, when Okajima had an untouchable first two postseason rounds, pitching 7 1/3 innings against the Angels and Indians without giving up a run. He scuffled against the Rockies last year in the World Series (four hits, three runs in 3 2/3 innings), but the Rays still haven't figured him out. Okajima pitched 6 2/3 innings in seven games against Tampa Bay without giving up a run this season. He gave up one extra-base hit to the Rays all year, a double to Carlos Pena on Sept. 10.