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Wild card is still within reach -- barely

The Sports Xchange

Before the three-game weekend series with the Atlanta Braves began, the Cardinals knew they would have to win all three to even have a chance to catch the Braves for the National League wild-card spot.

Now they just have to win two.

And it got more than a little wild at the end Friday night. They were down by two runs with two out in the ninth inning before first baseman Albert Pujols squirted a single over the first-base bag, scoring two runs off Atlanta's closer, Craig Kimbrel.

Pujols helped run the Cardinals out of that inning, but the Cardinals scored once in the 10th, the winning run scoring on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Nick Punto and they still are alive after a 4-3 win.

The Cardinals trail the Braves by 6 1/2 games for a playoff berth. If the Braves merely go 8-9 in their remaining 17 games, two of which are with the Cardinals this weekend, e Cardinals would have to go 15-3 to tie Atlanta and get into a playoff for the playoffs.

The Cardinals are in a similar spot with the Milwaukee Brewers, who are seven games ahead of the Cardinals in the National League Central. But the Cardinals don't play them anymore.

The Cardinals (77-67) moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since June 11, which was precisely the last time Kimbrel allowed a run to anyone.

"You need to get to double figures (over .500) to claim anything about your season," said manager Tony La Russa. "We're there. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

The Cardinals stranded numerous runners and lost three on the bases.

"We weren't as sound fundamentally as we have been lately," La Russa said. "It would have been a disappointing loss because we didn't take advantage of some situations and created some situations for them.

"What would have been a disappointing loss becomes a terrific win."

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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