Yadier Molina is feeling fine, and never was that more obvious than Wednesday.
The popular St. Louis Cardinals catcher threw out a runner at second base from his knees, doubled, drove in a run with a triple and stole third base in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had fun like this,” Molina said. “It’s good to have fun like that, especially when you win games.”
Molina became the first Cardinals catcher since Mickey Owen on June 7, 1939 to record a double, triple and stolen base in the same game. The last Cardinals player to accomplish the feat was Ray Lankford in 1991.
Molina’s big game began in the first when he threw Gregory Polanco out on a stolen-base attempt at second after Polanco opened the game with a single against Michael Wacha. Molina didn’t have time to straighten up and throw, so he fired from his knees, and second baseman Kolten Wong made a nice scoop and tagged out Polanco.
In hindsight, the play set the tone for the game.
“It was a big play, I think, especially with Polanco,” Molina said. “He’s got good speed. I’m just happy to get him out.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said it might have been the biggest play of the game.
“It was a plus defensive play that really, to me, was a momentum-shifter right from the beginning,” Matheny said. “Yadi helped turn it around.”
Molina’s triple in the sixth against Gerrit Cole eluded a sliding Polanco in right and drove in Randal Grichuk, who had singled, with the run that put the Cardinals ahead 3-2.
Molina knew he had a double, but wasn’t sure about a triple.
“I was looking at ‘Cheo’ (third-base coach Jose Oquendo) to see if he wanted me over there,” said Molina, who knew he had a double. “I’m not that slow.”
Molina doubled in the eighth and stole third. He was initially called out, but the Cardinals challenged the call. Replays indicated Molina slid in before the tag of Aramis Ramirez. Molina is 10-for-13 in steal attempts of third base in his career.
“We love aggressiveness,” Matheny said of Molina’s emotional performance, which resembled a 22-year-old rather than a veteran of 33. “You just kind of watch his mannerisms and how he’s bouncing around on balls that get away. He’s got some life, and I think that’s a great compliment to the work he’s put in, to feel as strong as he does right now.
“He’s caught a lot, but I think he feels as good now as he has at just about any other point. He has a lot of life and his body is responding.”
Wacha picked up his 14th victory with six creditable innings, but much preferred to talk about Molina rather than his own accomplishment.
“Everyone knows about what he does behind the plate and how effective he is back there,” Wacha said. “But at the plate today, he was all over the place. Big knocks. Stealing bags. It was a lot of fun to watch.
“He’s got a ton of energy out there. That’s awesome, seeing that amount of energy from your catcher this late in the season. It’s a lot of fun to see and gets that whole dugout pumped up.”