The quiet NL MVP race looks like a two-man competition on the surface: Matt Kemp has been the league’s best player, while Ryan Braun has a good case for second best and has put up his numbers for a first-place team. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a third candidate is lurking.
Albert Pujols may yet become the NL MVP if he leads St. Louis to what would be a pretty amazing comeback in the wild card race. The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 12 games and now trail the Braves by just 2 1/2 games with nine left to play (the Braves have eight games remaining).
Pujols has certainly been a driving force while hitting .397 with four homers and 17 RBI in 17 games this month. He’s batting .324/.386/.609 with 18 homers and 46 RBI in 60 games since the All-Star break.
Writers do love their stories, and Pujols provides a better one than either Kemp or Braun. He had maybe the worst two-month run of his career at the beginning of the season, hitting just .265/.335/.412 with nine homers and 31 RBI through June 2. Just after he regained his stroke, he suffered a fractured wrist that was supposed to cost him 4-6 weeks. Instead, he returned after two weeks and never missed a beat. He currently leads the NL with 36 homers and he’s seventh — and climbing — with 96 RBI.
Pujols will have to keep it going in these last nine games to have a chance, and he’ll need the Braves to continue to falter as well. If it all comes together, he could be looking at a fourth MVP award, even as he finishes with what will probably be the lowest batting average and OPS of his career.