Postseason baseball is filled with thrilling highs and lows, and each October produces its own heroes and goats, many of them victims (or victors) of timing and small sample sizes. Nonetheless, it's always fun seeing which players seem to rise to the occasion and, more sadistically, which appear to fold under the pressure. With one round of this year's postseason in the books, here are the heroes and goats of the 2009 League Division Series.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers: Five of Ethier's six hits against St. Louis went for extra bases. His resultant 1.333 slugging percentage was the best in this year's LDS, part of a dizzying .500/.571/1.333 line and an LDS-leading 1.905 OPS. He scored five of the Dodgers' 13 runs in the series, and his fourth-inning homer was the only run the Dodgers got off Adam Wainwright in Game 2.
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Rodriguez went 0 for 6 in his first two at-bats of each game against the Twins, but 5 for 5 thereafter. He drove in six of the Yankees' 15 runs, three of them with two outs. His other three RBIs came on a game-tying two-run home run off Joe Nathan in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2 and a game-tying solo home run off Carl Pavano in the seventh inning of Game 3. He hit .455 on the series and slugged an even 1.000.
Cliff Lee, Phillies: Lee is looking like an all-time great deadline acquisition after shutting out the Rockies in Game 1 then holding them to just one earned run in 7 1/3 innings in Game 4, finishing his LDS work with a 1.10 ERA.
Bobby Abreu, Angels: The eternally underrated Abreu hit .556/.692/.778 in the Angels' three-game sweep of the Red Sox, but his biggest hit came with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 3 when he lifted a double off Jonathan Papelbon and the Green Monster to cut the Red Sox's lead to 6-5, setting up Vlad Guerrero's game- and series-winning single.
Derek Jeter, Yankees: Jeter hit a game-tying two-run home run to start the Yankees' scoring in Game 1 and batted .400/.538/.900 on the series, but it was his heady defensive play that again took the fore. With two outs in the fourth inning of Game 2, he snuck behind Carlos Gomez, who took too large a turn around second on a single to right by Matt Tolbert, and caught Gomez off base for the third out a split second before Delmon Young crossed home with what would have been the first run of the game. With the Yankees nursing a slim 2-1 lead in the eighth inning of Game 3, he fired home instead of to first on an apparent groundout to short by Young to catch Nick Punto taking too large a turn around third.
John Lackey and Jered Weaver, Angels: The top two men in the Halos' rotation combined to hold the powerful Red Sox offense to one run on six hits in 14 2/3 innings in the first two games of their sweep of Boston.
Jayson Werth, Phillies: Werth hit .444/.583/.778 in last year's World Series and picked up right where he left off in this year's LDS, hitting .357/.500/.929 with a triple, a pair of homers, and the series-winning hit off HustonStreet with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4.
Vicente Padilla, Dodgers: The Cardinals may have been dead men walking anyway after their gut-wrenching loss in Game 2, but it was Padilla -- picked off the scrap heap in late August -- who drove the last nail in their coffin with seven shutout innings in Game 3.
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: The Rockies' defeat was no fault of Gonzalez's. The key player received by Colorado in the Matt Holliday trade announced his presence as a future star in the league by hitting .588/.632/.882 in the LDS against the Phillies with a pair of stolen bases. Indeed, it was Gonzalez who stood on second base representing the tying run when Brad Lidge struck out Troy Tulowitzki to end the Rockies' season.
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox: Papelbon had one of his worst outings ever in Game 3 against the Angels. Brought on to protect a 5-2 Boston lead with two on and two out in the eighth inning and his team down 0-2 in the series, Papelbon gave up an RBI single to his first batter, then gave up three runs in the ninth to blow the save and end the Red Sox's season.
Joe Nathan, Twins: Brought in to protect a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning of Game 2, Nathan gave up a single and a home run to his first two batters to blow the save. Brought into a bases-loaded, one out situation in the ninth inning of Game 3 in the hope of keeping the Twins' deficit at a single run, Nathan gave up RBI hits to the first two men he faced to inflate the score to 4-1.
Huston Street, Rockies: All four LDS this year hinged on blown saves, Nathan and the Cardinals' Ryan Franklin blowing Game 2, Papelbon Game 3 and Street Game 4. Of those four closers, Street was the only one to actually convert a save, but he was unable to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 when the Rockies needed just three outs to force a double-elimination Game 5. With two outs and a man on second via an infield hit and defensive indifference, Street issued a walk then gave up a game-tying double to Ryan Howard and what proved to be the series-winning hit to Werth.
Matt Holliday, Cardinals: Holliday hit the only St. Louis home run against the Dodgers, but he had just one other hit and a .231 OBP for the series. He sealed his fate as a goat by flubbing the final out of a would-be Cardinal win in Game 2, opening the door for the Dodgers' stunning ninth-inning comeback. (Though, some folks think we should take it easy on Mr. Holliday ...)
Ryan Franklin, Cardinals: Holliday may have dropped the final out of a would-be 2-1 win in Game 2, but it was Franklin who failed to retire any of the next four batters as the Dodgers rallied to win 3-2.
Jason Kubel, Twins: The Twins' second-best hitter during the regular season, Kubel simply vanished in the LDS against the Yankees, collecting only a single in 14 at-bats while striking out an LDS-leading nine times for a .143 OPS.
David Ortiz, Red Sox: The owner of the most walk-off hits in postseason history collected just a single in 12 at-bats against the Angels, striking out a team-high four times for a .167 OPS.
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: The Cardinals' strength going into their series with the Dodgers was the dominant starting pitching of Wainwright and Carpenter. Wainwright did his job in Game 2 before his work was undone by Holliday and Franklin, but Carpenter put St. Louis in a first-inning hole in Game 1 and never gave them a chance to climb out of it, allowing four runs in five innings and letting 13 Dodgers reach base.
Clint Barmes, Rockies: Of all of the goats on this list, the least was expected of Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes. Still, he started all four games, came to the plate 15 times, and made 16 outs, only one of them on a sacrifice. He also made a throwing error in Game 2. He was the only starter on any of the six LDS teams to never reach base on his own (he did get to run the bases once following a fielders choice).