Even when St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was scuffling in the batting average department his first few years in the big leagues, he seemed to have a knack for getting the big hit.
So it’s almost not even a surprise that, in his toughest season at the plate in five years, Molina is the guy who stepped up to win the game with his bat Wednesday.
The Cardinals have struggled terribly to score runs the last few days after centerfielder Randal Grichuk and then right fielder Jason Heyward were lost to injuries. So the Cardinals found themselves at a major tipping point Wednesday night. They lost an early lead to the hungry San Francisco Giants as the Pittsburgh Pirates were winning their game handily over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Find a way to score or they’d see their lead dwindle to four games over the Pittsburghers.
On cue, Molina comes to the plate and whacks a solo home run. Three outs from Trevor Rosenthal later, a potential series loss is flipped to become another important series win.
Just. Like. That.
The most remarkable thing about it was that it was only the fourth home run Yadi has hit all season.
A career .402 slugger coming into the 2015 season who averaged 16 homers a year from 2011-13 before a thumb injury caused him to miss part of 2014, Molina was slugging .355 at the beginning of the Giants series.
His power, up until the last week, had been completely missing in action. But he announced in a big way it had returned Monday with a third deck shot that electrified Busch Stadium.
Maybe his surgically-repaired thumb is finally getting back to normal. Maybe Yadi is finally building his strengh after reporting to camp seriously thinner this year than in seasons past. Maybe he’s just a year older.
But, regardless of the reasons he started slow this year, Molina is always there when the Cardinals need him most.
While things look dark with so many players currently on the disabled list, he found a way to pull out a win.
The next two weeks are going to be crucial for the Redbirds. They need to find a way to protect their lead in the National League Central race.
Hopefully, Heyward will be back Friday and then Matt Adams will return by the first of September. Matt Holliday ought to be coming along shortly after that and then Grichuk by the middle of next month.
If the Birds can only hold on now, things ought to be lining up just in time for the start of the playoffs with a couple of weeks to spare for everyone to get their swing tuned up.
For the first time since April, the sputtering St. Louis offense will run on all cylinders.
Through all of the havoc this season, some folks think its a miracle the Cardinals are in first place. But the one guy the team can’t afford to lose - even more than ace Adam Wainwright - is the one guy who has been there all season, quietly winning games: Yadi Molina.