Yadier Molina takes special satisfaction from games like Thursday.
Molina caught a gem from right-hander John Lackey and collected two hits and an RBI in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before 40,079.
The win gave the Cardinals (5-3) two out of three in the home-opening series, which for the first time since 1986 did not feature a single home run.
“He’s a pitcher, not a thrower,” Molina said of the 36-year-old Lackey (1-0), who allowed no runs on five hits in seven innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts. “When you catch a guy like that, it’s fun. First-pitch strike, strikeout pitch, slider was good, a lot of strikeouts. He was good.”
Molina typically is reluctant to discuss his hitting, especially when things are going well. He is batting .276 (8-for-29) with three RBIs, but is 5-for-8 in his last two games.
Molina said the mini-streak coincides with the schedule returning to normal. The Cardinals had four off days, one of them a rainout, in the first 10 days of the season.
“It’s hard to play like that, but you’ve got to get used to it and battle every game to try to do the best you can,” Molina said. “When you play every day, you’re going to get that timing back. Right now, I’m in that process. When you play every day, it’s easy for you to get your timing back.”
Matt Carpenter had two doubles and an RBI, while Jhonny Peralta had two hits and Mark Reynolds was 2-for-4 with an RBI double. Carpenter has two hits in each of his last four games.
Matt Holliday’s RBI single in the sixth put the Cardinals ahead 1-0 against Mike Fiers (0-2). Holliday stole second and scored two batters later on Reynolds’ double to left-center that made it 2-0.
That provided enough support for Lackey, who permitted just five singles before relievers Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle closed out the Brewers. Milwaukee didn’t have one runner advance as far as third base and saw 13 of its final 14 hitters retired.
“I felt pretty good, for the most part,” Lackey said. “I thought we had a real good mix today, Yadi and I, as far as calling the game and executing. I was able to throw pretty much everything for strikes and kind of kept them off-balanced a little bit.”
Lackey has thrown 12 2/3 scoreless innings at Busch Stadium dating to last season, and his eight strikeouts against Milwaukee matched his personal-high with the Cardinals.
“I would rather throw a complete game on about 20-some pitches. That would be great,” Lackey said. “But if (the strikeouts) come, they come. I never really threw really hard. I think I’ve just gotten better at locating stuff. I definitely move the ball a little bit better than I did earlier on, when I was younger. Knock on wood, I don’t walk as many people as I used to.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Lackey, particularly his slider, is becoming more effective with every start.
“His stuff just keeps getting better from what we saw last year,” Matheny said. “In the spring, it improved. And so far this season, I really like how he’s throwing the ball. Being able to use that slider and throw it for a strike, being able to throw it for a chase ... The deception of it. You saw some really tough swings on it. You could see guys were having trouble picking it up.
“We saw him throw some good changeups, too. He’s got some plus pitches, but it all revolves around whether he can locate the fastball, and he did that right from the top.”
The Cardinals added insurance in the seventh when Carpenter’s double against Will Smith scored Kolten Wong, who had doubled Jeremy Jeffress, to make it 3-0. Molina’s RBI single in the eighth against Tyler Thornburg scored Randal Grichuk, who had doubled, to make it 4-0.
St. Louis hit five doubles.
“There’s several guys who are swinging real well over there,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I hate when (Holliday) comes up. He’s gotten a lot of big hits off us over the years.”