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NL Wild Card Primer: Giants and Cardinals Playing Catch Up To Braves

Aaron Fischman |
September 20, 2011 | 12:06 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval has a .973 OPS since June 26. (MissChatter/Wikimedia Commons)
Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval has a .973 OPS since June 26. (MissChatter/Wikimedia Commons)
The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are playing extraordinary well right now. While some may brand this as a case of "too little, too late," neither team is out of it just yet.

The Atlanta Braves currently lead the NL wild card standings by 2.5 games over the Cardinals, and 3.5 games over the Giants. Atlanta's banged-up rotation is partly to blame for Atlanta’s recent struggles. They've lost 12 of their last 18 games.

Meanwhile, the Giants and Cardinals are charging hard from behind. The Giants have won eight consecutive games, and the Cardinals have been victorious in nine of their 11 most recent contests. Let's not forget that the Giants have an outside chance of winning the NL West (they're 5.5 games behind Arizona), as they play the Diamondbacks three more times this season.

Here's a look at the important pieces down the stretch for the three wild card contenders:

Atlanta Braves – 8 left: 2 against the Marlins in Miami, 3 against the Nationals in Washington, and 3 against the Phillies at home.

Chipper Jones – The 39-year-old veteran has recorded multiple hits in seven of his last 13 starts.

Michael Bourn – Bourn, who was acquired from the Astros on July 30, has accumulated six multi-hit games and eight stolen bases this September.

Jair Jurrjens – The Braves' ace for much of the season will likely not be able to pitch until the second round of the postseason (if the Braves make the playoffs and advance that far) due to a knee injury incurred in his August 30 start. Before the injury, Jurrjens had only won one of his last seven decisions.

Tommy Hanson – Hanson has been sidelined with right rotator cuff tendinitis since August 7. He hopes to return for the final Phillies series.

Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols, obviously. (Djh57/Wikimedia Commons)
Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols, obviously. (Djh57/Wikimedia Commons)
St. Louis Cardinals – 9 games left: 3 against the Mets in St. Louis, 3 against the Cubs in St. Louis, and 3 against the Astros in Houston.

Albert Pujols (left) – It’s quite evident the 31-year old first baseman wants to extend his 10-year streak of over 100 RBIs per season, as he’s driven in 17 runs in 17 September games. As of September 18, Pujols stands at 96 RBIs this year.

Yadier Molina – Since the All-Star break, Molina is batting .316 with a slugging percentage of .515.

Matt Holliday – Since August 9, the big left fielder has struggled mightily. Over that stretch, his slugging percentage and batting average have dropped 41 and 24 points, respectively.

San Francisco Giants – 9 games left: 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, 3 against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, and 3 against the Rockies at home.

Pablo Sandoval – Kung Fu Panda, as he's affectionately nicknamed, is tearing the cover off the baseball. Check out what the rotund third baseman has done in his last 12 games: .435 BA, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, and hit for the cycle on September 15 against the Rockies. Sandoval has tripled twice over that stretch, and let's just say he's not the fastest guy in the league (not even close).

Cody Ross – He's had a big week, batting .375 with four extra-base hits since last Monday. 

Tim Lincecum – Timmy has surrendered two earned runs or less in 14 of his last 17 starts. However, due to poor run support, the 27-year old righty compiled a mediocre record of 8-7 over that stretch.


Reach Aaron by email, or follow him on Twitter at @aaronhartf.



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