Here are the players who could impact MLB’s postseason

Tim Brown
MLB columnist

Archie Bradley hasn’t allowed a hit in September, and has allowed one run since the third week of July, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to play a postseason game (and maybe a lot more) and he’s totally jacked about it.

I assume.

We talked midsummer. He was pretty much jacked about everything. In good conscience it is fair to predict he still is, and will be for the next days, weeks, however long this thing lasts, and then will be totally jacked in February when it starts over.

Bradley seems the very best of the hardball journey that can’t always be counted on, but can always be believed in. He was an early draft pick and looked it, and then came the part about becoming the front-end pitcher like right now there’s no time to wait, and there came injuries and the ball that hit him square in the face and the results that sometimes did not reflect precisely what the big fastball and slider and curveball projected as.

So the Diamondbacks tried him in the bullpen and he’s been a beast, rumbling into games with all that beard and all those bad intentions, then, most often, stomping from the mound having laid out another few hitters. He has a 1.20 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP across 263 batters faced.

Sometimes the pitcher finds the role and sometimes the role finds the pitcher (think Andrew Miller, Wade Davis), which is to say either Bradley is this guy because it works 12 or 15 pitches at a time or this was going to be Bradley today, at 25 years old, having soaked up and put to work the lessons of the journey, in the first inning, the eighth or wherever.

“I would say I found myself as a pitcher,” he said. “I think, obviously I’m excelling in my role and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it – it’s a lot of fun – but I definitely think that what I’ve done is open my mind to pitching in general. How to attack guys. Understanding what I can and can’t get away with.

“Like, as a starter, you don’t have your curveball in the first inning, you can find it in the second inning, the third inning. Out of the bullpen, you have to find it the next pitch. It’s live or die. So understanding that you have to make adjustments quickly. And if you can make those adjustments quickly as a starter, how much better you can turn stuff around? And just, mentally, the preparation, my routine – I’m sure every starter has their own routine, they’re all completely different – but at least from what I was doing, I learned I don’t need three-fourths of the stuff I was doing to get ready to pitch. And it has made pitching a lot simpler.”

Archie Bradley delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on September 10, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Getty Images)

Basically, he said, he’d overthought the whole thing and was borderline wrung out by game time.

“Exactly,” he said. “Just the whole day in general. You wake up and you don’t pitch till 7 o’clock, and I had one day to pitch a week. One day. I built it up to be this big day. Now I’m just free. When the phone rings you gotta be ready. So mentally I just feel like it’s unlocked the side I needed to overcome.”

Bradley would not say he’d be a reliever forever. He is today. That’s good enough for today. While he runs hot on fastballs and curveballs these days, he keeps his slider and changeup close in the bullpen or when throwing before games. They’re still there, he said, saved for tomorrow. Meantime, he’s among the reasons the Diamondbacks could be a dangerous team in October. Archie Bradley is good. Really good. And what’s great about that is he so loves being good. He wears it in his pregame laughter and his postgame chatter, in his endless optimism, in his appreciation for how yesterday prepared him for today.

“This,” he said, “is what baseball should be like.”

***
WHAT ELSE:

Along comes the postseason. You tried to pay attention for six months. Some guys, if you don’t live in the town in which they play or have them holding down your fantasy team, for whatever reason don’t register. So here are the players, like Bradley, who could change the course of October.

Angels: Blake Parker, reliever. The journeyman fastball-splitter thrower has been a stud for a bullpen that’s not had a real closer but has covered for a rotation that has the fourth-fewest innings in the AL. The stat: 11.5 strikeouts per nine, 11th in AL.

Astros: Joe Musgrove, reliever. The big ol’ right-hander and erstwhile starter has found a home in a bullpen that appears to have worn down over the season. They’re going to need Musgrove, who has pitched his way into late, high-leverage spots. The stat: 6.12 ERA in 15 starts, 1.57 ERA in 20 relief appearances.

Brewers: Domingo Santana, right fielder. The 6-foot-5, 220ish-pound slugger is hot again in September. The stat: 25 homers, 27 doubles, .371 on-base percentage and 13 steals.

Cubs: Albert Almora, center fielder. He rakes against lefties and has hit nearly .500 overall for the past couple weeks. The stat: .333 – 13 for 39 – as a pinch-hitter. Also, .325 with runners in scoring position.

Dodgers: Austin Barnes, catcher. A trying offensive second half for veteran Yasmani Grandal has worsened in September, bringing at-bats to Barnes, who has batted .310 in the second half. The stat: He’s hit .300 as a pinch-hitter.

Nationals: Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind, bench. Assuming reasonable health among their various corner men, the Nats should have the best bench of the postseason. Kendrick, acquired from the Phillies in July, and Lind, are hitting better than .300 as Nats. The stat: Lind OPSes .889 against righties, Kendrick .909 against lefties.

Rockies: Pat Neshek, reliever. Blowing through scoreless innings wouldn’t be such of a surprise. But this stat: he’s allowed runs in only three ballparks this season – Coors Field, Citi Field and Nationals Park. That’s out of 12, including Citizens Bank Park, his home field until July 26.

David Price looks on after the Boston Red Sox defeat the Oakland Athletics 6-2 at Fenway Park on September 14, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Getty Images)

Red Sox: David Price, left-handed pitcher. Remember him? He’ll be in the bullpen. The stat: In his last postseason relief appearance, Game 4 of the 2015 division series, Price, then a Blue Jay, allowed three runs in three innings to the Rangers.

Twins: Eddie Rosario, outfield. In his third big-league season, Rosario, 25, has cut down on the swings and misses, ramped up the walks, hit 26 home runs and generally become a really impactful player. The stat: Rosario’s .854 OPS ranks sixth among qualified AL outfielders.

Yankees: Chad Green, reliever. If not Dellin Betances or Aroldis Chapman, then, perhaps, the right-handed Green, who just keeps getting guys out. The stat: WHIP: 0.731.

***
INCOMING:

Back before the Cubs swept the Mets and Cardinals at Wrigley and therefore felt good about themselves again, they’d been swept at Wrigley by the Brewers, giving everyone on the nearby rooftops a temporary case of the dry heaves.

As hard as they’ve tried to keep the euphoria alive on the North Side … aw, hell, it’s still alive.

Anyway, there might not be a wild-card bailout here, so the smart thing is to keep winning, particularly over four games in Milwaukee. The Cubs finish the season after with four at Miller Park, four in St. Louis and three at home against the Cincinnati Reds. They are 21-10 against the Cardinals and Reds. Therefore, the Brewers probably can’t count on much help after the Cubs leave town. The Brewers then host the Reds for three and play it out with three in St. Louis.

Maybe the Cubs didn’t think they’d have to be working this hard this late in September, but here we are, four in Milwaukee, with Jake Arrieta (hamstring) scheduled for Sunday, his first start in three weeks.

The probables:

Thursday: John Lackey vs. Zach Davies

Friday: Kyle Hendricks vs. Brandon Woodruff

Saturday: Jose Quintana vs. Brent Suter

Sunday: Jake Arrieta vs. Chase Anderson

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