5 Key Players For Baltimore Orioles Down The Stretch

5 Key Players For Baltimore Orioles Down The Stretch

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Joy R. Absalon - USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles currently hold a seven-game lead in the AL East and are in good position to make the 2014 playoffs. However, bigger meltdowns have occurred in the history of MLB, and the Orioles must continue playing quality baseball in the final stretch of the season. Here are some key players to watch during the Orioles' hunt for October.

5. Steve Pearce

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5. Steve Pearce

steve pearce baltimore orioles
Joy R. Absalon - USA TODAY Sports

Steve Pearce has had a breakthrough year for Baltimore, already posting career-highs in home runs (13) and RBIs (34) this season. With the injury to Manny Machado, Pearce will likely be an everyday player at first base and bat second in the lineup. The Orioles will lean on him to consistently produce during the final months of the season.

4. Chris Tillman

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4. Chris Tillman

chris tillman baltimore orioles
Joy R. Absalon - USA TODAY Sports

Since the All-Star break, Chris Tillman has arguably been the Orioles' best pitcher, going 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA in seven starts. Although he is not considered an "ace" pitcher, Tillman will need to perform like one down the stretch for Baltimore, especially against division rivals. It's all about pitching during the final months, and Tillman must emerge as the leader of the staff.

3. J.J. Hardy

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3. J.J. Hardy

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Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, J.J. Hardy led all MLB shortstops with 25 home runs, a number that has vastly dropped this year (seven). Although he is hitting for a higher average, Hardy will need to find his power stroke down the stretch to help Baltimore score more runs. The Gold-Glover must also remain steady in the infield as the leader of the defense.

2. Kevin Gausman

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2. Kevin Gausman

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Kevin Gausman provides the most talent and upside out of any pitcher currently on the Orioles' roster. The 23 year old throws the hardest fastball on the team and has a nasty changeup to go with it. He has the ability to perform for Baltimore like Michael Wacha did for St. Louis in last year's postseason, and the Orioles will need him to shine down the stretch.

1. Chris Davis

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1. Chris Davis

chris davis baltimore orioles
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Davis will be the most important player for Baltimore during the final months of the season as he moves over to 3B to replace injured Manny Machado. Davis has failed to live up to the hype after his breakout year, hitting a meager .192 with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. He still has the ability to change the course of a game with just one swing of the bat, and the Orioles will need him to step up his production as they push towards postseason.

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