ST. LOUIS -- The stage doesn’t get much bigger than extra innings in an elimination game in October. That’s where the Cardinals found themselves in the National League Division Series against the Braves last season, and that’s when they turned to Yadier Molina.
The catcher’s walk-off sacrifice fly led to the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory in Game 4 of the 2019 NLDS.
Facing elimination in Game 4 at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals took a first-inning lead against Braves starter Dallas Keuchel with back-to-back home runs from Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, who hit a second homer off Keuchel in the fourth to extend St. Louis’ lead.
But Matt Carpenter’s error at third base gave way to a three-run fifth inning from the Braves when Ozzie Albies launched a home run off Cards starter Dakota Hudson. The Braves held a 4-3 lead until the eighth. Goldschmidt doubled to left field before Molina tied the game with a line drive past first base. In hindsight, the game-tying single only foreshadowed what was to come.
“This guy's a Hall of Famer,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, describing Molina after the game. “And he hits to the situation, stays within himself, doesn't try to do too much. Take all the clichés, everything, that's him. I mean, he's a ballplayer. He plays the game, he plays the game in front of him probably about as good as anybody in the game.”
The Cardinals teetered on the brink of elimination, but they weren’t done. Despite the Braves loading the bases twice in the game, the bullpen shut them down, and closer Carlos Martínez bounced back with a scoreless ninth inning after blowing Game 3 the night before. Kolten Wong led off the 10th with a double, Goldschmidt was intentionally walked and Ozuna moved Wong to third on a forceout grounder.
With the crowd chanting “YADI! YADI!” runners on the corners and one out in the 10th inning, Molina lifted a towering fly ball to deep left field. Wong easily scored, giving the Cardinals the walk-off victory. Molina threw his bat halfway to the bullpen as the Cardinals’ dugout swarmed their veteran catcher who hadn’t let the season end that night in St. Louis.
“I like those moments,” Molina said. “I don’t know what it is, but my concentration level is up and I like those moments.”
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” added Miles Mikolas, who came out of the bullpen and threw a clean 10th inning. “Maybe on some highlight decades from now, you’ll grab a glimpse of me or one of my teammates. That would be nice. But his legend will live forever in St. Louis.”