Yadi delivers 'prime-time moment' in milestone start with Waino

September 8th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- As has so often been the case through the years when was on the mound, Cardinals catcher helped his good friend’s cause with significant contributions with his bat and his Gold Glove defense behind the plate.

On a day when Molina and Wainwright tied the AL/NL record for starts made by a battery at 324, the veteran catcher hit his first home run in nearly four months and added a second in the fourth inning. However, it was not enough for the Cardinals, as Wainwright didn’t have his best stuff in an 11-6 loss to the Nationals in front of 40,437 fans at Busch Stadium.

“[Molina] allowed me to spit the hook today,” Wainwright said of Molina’s offensive firepower that helped him avoid a loss on his individual record. “I told you it was coming [with Molina] and down the stretch we knew he’d be here. He’s a prime-time player and they show up in prime-time moments.”

Washington scored a run in the sixth, two in the seventh and four in the ninth -- all after a wobbly Wainwright had been pulled after five innings.

Molina smashed a two-run home run in the second inning 403 feet down the left-field line to give the Cardinals an early 3-1 lead. The blast, Molina’s first since May 15, left the bat at 103.6 mph -- his fourth-hardest-hit ball of the season, per Statcast. His home run in the fourth inning -- a 350-foot line drive that barely cleared the wall in left -- tied the game at 4 and gave him nine multi-home run games in his career.

Molina’s last multi-home run game came at Philadelphia on April 17, 2021. Oddly, only two of his nine multi-homer games in 19 seasons with the Cardinals have come in St. Louis. The last one at Busch Stadium was against the Cubs on May 14, 2017.

Molina, teammates with Wainwright for the past 18 seasons, came into Thursday with 333 hits in games started by Wainwright -- the most hits in MLB history by a catcher in games started by one pitcher. Also, Molina’s 19 game-winning RBIs are the third most in MLB history by a catcher in games thrown by one pitcher. Molina, who has already announced that this season will be his last, has played his best baseball in September. After Thursday’s defeat, he’s 9-for-16 with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs this month.

Wainwright and Molina equaled the AL/NL record of 324 starts set by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, accomplished from 1963-75 with the Tigers. Wainwright, 41, and Molina, 40, made their first start together on April 6, 2007, in Houston against the Astros, and Thursday’s outing was their 20th start of the season. Coincidentally, on the same Sept. 8 date that their record was tied by Wainwright and Molina, Lolich and Freehan made their final start for the Tigers 47 years earlier.

“It’s special to do it with [Wainwright], and next time we’re going to do it here in Busch and it will be a really special day for us,” Molina said of the record 325th start which will come in St. Louis on Wednesday.

Added Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol: “I personally don’t think that record will be touched ever again. The longevity of both the careers [of the pitcher and catcher] to be good for that long, to stay together for that long, and have loyalty to one organization for that long, the probability of that’s so small.”

Wainwright, who cited mechanical issues with his delivery as the reason for his struggles, was pulled after five innings with the game tied at 4, and he didn’t earn a decision in Thursday’s game. The veteran right-hander allowed nine hits and four earned runs while striking out two.

A lighthearted moment came in the fourth when Wainwright -- a two-time Gold Glove winner -- had a Keibert Ruiz line drive hit back at him. Wainwright understandably flinched, but the ball wound up in his glove. He dropped the liner but threw to first for the out. Afterward, Wainwright laughed when he tried to watch a replay on the Busch Stadium video board, but missed it each time.

Wainwright and Molina came into Thursday as the winningest battery in MLB history with 212 victories in their starts together. Warren Spahn and Del Crandall, stars with the Braves from 1949-63, are second with 202 victories in their starts.

The Cardinals' early lead vanished in the fourth inning when Nationals left fielder Alex Call drilled a double to left field to plate two runs and give Washington a 4-3 lead. Wainwright came into Thursday with a 2-1 record and a 2.92 ERA in his past four starts.

“Everybody knows [Wainwright] is our horse,” Molina said. “The last couple of games weren’t how he wanted them to go, but everybody knows he’s our horse and our ace and we trust him.”