Matt Holliday is emerging as an NL MVP candidate

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It’s time Matt Holliday starts getting his due as one of the game’s very best hitters.

Holliday went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and four RBI as the Cardinals topped the Reds 8-2 today to move within six games of the NL Central lead. The Cardinals are currently in position as the No. 2 wild card, with the Dodgers and Pirates nipping at their heels.

Holliday upped his RBI total to 89, wrestling the NL lead away from teammate Carlos Beltran and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun. With an average 37 points higher that Beltran’s, he’s probably going to be recognized as the Cardinals’ best MVP candidate at season’s end. Yadier Molina also has a case, but even though he’s the league’s premier defensive catcher, it’s going to be hard for him to catch the voters’ attention when his power numbers are likely to come in well below Holliday’s and fellow catcher Buster Posey’s.

Holliday is currently batting .309/.384/.527. If the season ended today, he’d be the only player in baseball to post a .900+ OPS in each of the last seven years. Albert Pujols has also done it six in a row and may well make it seven, but he’s sitting at .877 right now. Miguel Cabrera has done it every year but one: he barely missed in 2008, coming in at .887.

Holliday did go to a sixth All-Star Game this year, but he’s finished in the thick of the MVP race just once; a 2007 season in which he hit .340-36-137 for the Rockies and ended up in second place. If he leads the league in RBI, he’s destined for a top-five finish this year, and rightly or wrongly, he’ll probably have a good chance of winning it if his Cardinals reach the postseason and Andrew McCutchen and Posey stay home.

Athletics score 21 runs, rout Angels

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After drubbing the Angels 10-0 on Wednesday, the Athletics stayed hot, scoring 21 runs to once again rout the Angels on Thursday afternoon. Edwin Jackson got the start, yielding two earned runs on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.

The offense started in the bottom of the third inning, when the A’s plated five runs. That featured a two-run double from Matt Chapman and a three-run home run from Stephen Piscotty. In the fourth, the A’s scored seven more on RBI singles from Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, Matt Olson, and Stephen Piscotty, which were followed up with an RBI double from Ramon Laureano and an RBI single from Marcus Semien. In the sixth, the A’s bolstered their lead to 18-2 when Laureano hit a bases-loaded single, Semien hit a bases-clearing double, Josh Phegley hit an RBI single, and Franklin Barreto knocked in a run with a double play. The following inning, with position player Francisco Arcia pitching, Nick Martini hit a two-run homer and Chad Pinder made it back-to-back jacks with a solo shot of his own, pushing the score to 21-2.

Arcia hit a solo homer for the Angels in the top of the ninth to make it 21-3, then Kaleb Cowart popped out to end the game. It’s the sixth time a team has scored 20-plus runs this season and the first since the Mets won 24-4 over the Phillies on August 16. The other occurrences: Dodgers 21-5 over the Brewers on August 2, Nationals 25-4 over the Mets on July 31, Diamondbacks 20-5 over the Padres on July 7, and Phillies 20-1 over the Marlins on April 7.

Notables in the box score for the A’s: Martini had three hits and three runs scored, Piscotty had four RBI, Semien had three hits and five RBI, and Phegley had three hits with three runs scored.

With Thursday’s win, the A’s cut their deficit to 3.5 games behind the Astros in the AL West. They have a six-game lead over the Rays for the second Wild Card and trail the Yankees by two games for the first Wild Card. Nine games remain in the regular season for the A’s.