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Cardinals leaders emerge in clutch win over Atlanta

Just as they were about the be written off for dead, the Cardinals have started to warm up.

It's one thing to beat the Cubs and the Brewers, two teams that are battling it out for last place in the National League Central Division. But it's an entirely different animal to go head to head with a first place team and hand it losses in two tight contests.

It was also impressive to see Adam Wainwright blow well past 100 pitches to pitch a complete game. (It should have been a shut out. Atlanta's only run came after the plate umpire called a ball on what appeared to be strike three with a runner in scoring position and two outs.) But that wasn't his only contribution. Wainwright had to drive in an important insurance run by himself with a sacrifice fly that looked briefly like it might have a chance to leave the ballpark.

The Cardinals' other leader, catcher Yadier Molina, paced the offense with three hits including two doubles. 

Losses by the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks helped give the Redbird some insulation from the teams behind them. The Pittsburgh Pirates game wasn't nearly over by the time St. Louis was done playing. But if the Cardinals take three of four against Atlanta and win the upcoming series with the Reds and Pirates things will take care of themselves.