Some people live for the big game. Joe Montana saved his best efforts for the many NFC Championship Games and Super Bowls he won. Michael Jordan was excellent at sinking clutch shots and the spirits of opposing teams in his six NBA Finals victories. (I’m a Utah Jazz fan. I should know.) And then there’s one Carlos Ivan Beltran.
Carlos Beltran has never been a player who has sought the spotlight. But come October, the spotlight has always found him. And how could it not? After all, he may just be the best postseason baseball player in history.
On Friday night (and early Saturday morning), Beltran provided all the offense for the Cardinals and prevented the Dodgers from producing some offense of their own. In the third inning, Beltran doubled above the outstretched glove of Andre Ethier to plate the tying runs. The game was still tied when Mark Ellis hit a one-out triple for the Dodgers in the tenth inning. But Carlos Beltran caught Michael Young‘s shallow fly ball and fired a perfect throw to catcher Yadier Molina to nail Ellis at the plate. Beltran kept the game tied in the 10th. He untied it in the 13th.
With two men on and one out, Beltran line a Kenley Jansen offering down the right field line to score the winning run for the Cardinals – a hit that would have scored both base runners had the first run not ended the game.
That’s not the first time Beltran has driven in every run his team scored in a postseason game. It’s actually the fourth time, and the second time he’s done it in a victory. Beltran’s two-run homer in Game 1 of the 2006 NLCS gave the Mets all the runs they would need in a 2-0 win over the Cardinals. (Without it, the Mets might never have made it to a Game 7.) Beltran also drove in the only run scored by St. Louis in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS , a 2-1 loss to Washington. In addition, Beltran homered and drove in all three runs for the Cards in their 5-3 defeat against Pittsburgh in Game 3 of this year’s division series.
Hey, someone’s got to pick up the slack when his teammates aren’t doing their part. And who better to do that than Carlos Beltran?
Let’s look at Beltran’s career numbers in the postseason, or rather, let’s marvel at them.
Beltran turned in a postseason performance for the ages with the Astros in 2004, batting .435 with 11 extra-base hits (eight homers, three doubles), 14 RBI, 21 runs scored and six stolen bases in 12 games. He reached base a whopping 30 times in those dozen contests and recorded a 1.557 OPS – a number that looks like a typo if we weren’t talking about Carlos Beltran.
In 2006, Beltran continued to rake the ball in the postseason. Beltran was held without a hit in his first two playoff games with the Mets, but still reached base four times in the dual victories over the Dodgers. After his two oh-fers, Beltran batted .323 over the Mets’ next eight playoff games, collecting three homers and five RBI. He also continued to score better than one run per game, as he crossed the plate nine times in those eight games. And once again, his OPS remained at an otherworldly level, as Beltran registered an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.062 in those final eight games.
After a five-year playoff absence (which surely made opposing pitchers quite happy), Beltran returned to the playoffs in 2012 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. What did he do in 12 postseason games with the Redbirds? He absolutely raked it. Beltran batted .357 with nine extra-base hits (six doubles, three homers), six RBI and eight runs scored. He also reached base 22 times in the 12 games and had a 1.154 OPS. And lest ye forget, in the fifth and deciding game of the division series, Beltran started the pivotal ninth inning rally against the Nats with a double and scored when Daniel Descalso hit a game-tying two-run single. That leadoff two-base hit in the ninth was the fifth time Beltran reached base in the game.
That brings us to this year. Fourth verse, same as the first (and second … and third). In six games versus the Pirates and Dodgers, Beltran has reached base nine times and driven in nine runs, including all three runs in Friday’s Game 1 victory over Los Angeles. He has also made excellent contact in this year’s postseason, striking out just two times in 27 plate appearances.
To sum it all up, Beltran is batting .345 in 40 career postseason games. He has reached base an incredible 80 times in those 40 games and has 28 extra-base hits, including 16 home runs. His .750 slugging percentage is the third-highest mark in postseason history and his 1.199 career OPS ranks fifth. Only seven players have hit more postseason home runs than Beltran, but all seven (Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome) needed at least 267 postseason plate appearances to show off their prodigious power. Beltran has come to the plate a mere 178 times. And just think, Beltran has never gotten the opportunity to add to those tremendous postseason numbers in a World Series game. But that might change this season. And Beltran might have a lot to do with it.
There are very few sure things in life. One is death, as it will come for all of us eventually. Another is taxes, as even Jerry Koosman and Pete Rose couldn’t evade the IRS. But if there can be only one other certainty in life, it has to be that Carlos Beltran will turn the postseason into a one-man wrecking crew. He’s not perfect (who put that Crazy Glue on his bat before Wainwright’s 0-2 curveball?), but he’s as close to being perfect on the October stage as any player in baseball history.
Death. Taxes. Beltran. Is there anything more certain in life?