Every year, a team goes to the playoffs and wins big games in October because of unsung heroes — someone who wasn’t on the radar comes through and delivers a big hit or big play. It’s tough to figure out exactly who these players will be, but I think I’ve figured one out already.
If the Atlanta Braves make the playoffs, infielder Ramiro Peña will make some clutch plays to win games.
After the Braves considered trading for shortstop Eduardo Nuñez in 2012, they decided to sign another infielder that played for the New York Yankees last season. Peña seemingly had a spot with last season the Yankees, settling on their bench for four seasons. But, he struggled in 2012 and was out for a significant period of time after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
The Yankees had no room for him after acquiring Casey McGehee at the waiver deadline. He was sent back to the minors and released near the end of the year.
Enter the Braves in 2013. Atlanta was looking for more pieces and was in a precarious situation regarding their bench. They were wary about the defense of Tyler Pastornicky and last year’s backup defender Paul Janish was still recovering from an injury. The Braves signed Peña to compete with Pastornicky for their utility infield position.
It seemed like playing in the World Baseball Classic inspired Peña. Not only did he play well for Mexico in the tournament, he came back to the Braves and played great during Spring Training. He won the position battle with Pastornicky soon found himself make spot starts for Atlanta.
Peña was settled in the spot that he is usually known for. He was expected to play a minor role, hit almost nothing but play great backup defense. But, his bat has been surprisingly hot in 2013. Even though it is a small sample size, Peña has made good contact and drawn many walks for a bench player. Fredi Gonzalez even put him in the leadoff spot for a few games.
He has two game-winning hits this season, including arguably the biggest hit of the season for the team against the Washington Nationals in extra innings. He hit his first home run in over a year and a half to give the Braves a 6-4 victory. Atlanta rode that momentum to a series sweep and a lead over the Nationals that they have yet to relinquish.
This magic man from Monterrey will hopefully win a few more games as a backup this year. He could be the next Rick Ankiel or maybe even the next Francisco Cabrera. If the Braves find themselves down to a few players left on the bench late during a playoff game, there’s only one man they should turn to.
Ramiro Peña is ready to deliver a game-winner.