The NL Wild Card race: less-than-inspiring

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There will be two teams who win the NL Wild Card. When they do, they will technically be considered “playoff teams.” I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! Someone actually has to win these two spots. And the candidates are all pretty darn “meh.”

  • Cardinals: They have a negative seven run differential on the year and, as the reigning NL Pennant winners, were pretty much picked by everyone to win their division. They may be the most talented of the contenders, but they’re probably the most underachieving of them.
  • Giants: Nine under .500 since the beginning of June.
  • Braves: On a four-game winning streak, but three under .500 since the beginning of June and are being left in the dust in their division race.
  • Pirates: Much better in the second half than San Francisco and Atlanta, but losers of six straight. That they’re only two back in the Wild Card despite that and despite being without Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole speaks volumes about this race.
  • Marlins: Playing good baseball and, unlike all of these other teams, not disappointments. But they did just reach .500 on Sunday.

I’ll be nice and not include the Reds, Mets and Padres as “contenders,” even though they’re not soooo far back that it would take a miracle for them to get into the conversation.

Given that the Pirates are getting McCutchen and Cole back this week and given that they’re not likely to play as poorly as they have for the past week for long, I suppose they’re the favorite for the second slot. Maybe St. Louis for the first, still. But man, this is not exactly a clash of the titans here.

 

Hunter Strickland fractured his hand punching a door after Monday’s poor performance

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Giants closer Hunter Strickland had an ugly top of the ninth inning Monday night against the Marlins. He allowed three runs, serving up a walk, a double, another walk, and two singles. The Marlins overcome a 4-2 deficit and went on to win 5-4.

Unhappy with his performance, Strickland punched a door and fractured his pitching hand. He will undergo surgery and will miss six to eight weeks, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports.

That’s a huge loss for the Giants, as Strickland has been terrific, Monday’s start notwithstanding. He carries a 2.84 ERA with 13 saves and a 29/13 K/BB ratio in 31 2/3 innings. Manager Bruce Bochy said Tony Watson or Sam Dyson will fill in at closer while Strickland is out, per Pavlovic.

Bochy said that he is “disappointed” and “crushed” about Strickland’s injury, noting that the right-hander had grown a lot as a pitcher and as a person, Pavlovic adds.

Strickland has a problem with anger, it appears. He exacted revenge on Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper last year, throwing a 98 MPH fastball at him, then punched him in the head when the two brawled. Strickland wanted revenge because, in the 2014 playoffs, Harper stared at a home run he hit off of Strickland.