Yadier Molina pulled on his catcher’s gear for Game 2 of the Cardinals’ National League Wild Card Series against the Padres on Thursday afternoon having reached another milestone in an already accomplished career.
Thursday marked the veteran catcher’s 100th career postseason game. He’s played all of them with the Cardinals, and the number ranks sixth all time in Major League Baseball, behind Derek Jeter (158), Jorge Posada (125), Bernie Williams (121), David Justice (112) and Manny Ramirez (111).
As he exited the game for a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of the Cardinals' 11-9 defeat at Petco Park, he had collected yet another milestone: his 100th postseason hit, going 2-for-5 with an RBI.
“It’s pretty impressive, right?” manager Mike Shildt said. “You don’t get to 100 [postseason games] by happenstance. He’s a big anchor since the time he got here in 2004. It’s a pretty special accomplishment.”
It’s only fitting that Molina was catching Adam Wainwright, who owns the Cardinals’ career marks for postseason appearances (28) and strikeouts (118). The two were back on the field where the Cardinals began their 2006 run to a World Series title, when Wainwright was the Cardinals’ closer and Molina had a breakout October at the plate.
“Just to accomplish what he’s accomplished, it’s fun to watch,” said veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler, who played in his 41st postseason game Thursday. “To have that many opportunities out there and be out there playing like that, it goes to show how well he’s done and what a leader he is.”
Flaherty prepped for Game 3
Jack Flaherty didn’t want to have to pitch on Friday. That meant the Padres evened the series and he would be starting a decisive Game 3 at Petco Park.
“That’d be the case no matter what, whether I was pitching Game 1, 2 or 3,” Flaherty said before Game 2. “The hope would be, let’s win the first two. Whoever’s pitching that third game, well let’s just win the first two.”
Flaherty said he’ll be ready for the win-or-go-home game. He will be starting on six days’ rest and will have seen the Padres’ hitters over the two previous games from the dugout -- a luxury starting pitchers haven’t been allowed this season. If a starter wasn’t pitching that day during the regular season, he was at home or at the hotel during games due to COVID-19 protocols.
Cheering the team on from the dugout is much more fun.
“Way better,” Flaherty said. “Way more fun. Way more chances to enjoy the game, way more chances to be around the guys. You just feel more a part of a team. You can feel the energy, feel where guys are at. It’s easier to interact with guys.”
Flaherty said he would prepare for a potential Game 3 until Game 2 starts, then he’ll take his spot in the dugout and watch Wainwright work.
“Up until game time, it’s prepping for tomorrow, and then it’s enjoying the game after that,” Flaherty said. “Just enjoying the game, watch Waino go out there, pitch, do his thing. Probably will pay attention a little bit here and there to see what he does.”
Bader stays in lineup
The Cardinals are putting an emphasis on defense in the expansive Petco Park outfield and stuck with the same lineup that won them Game 1. That includes center fielder Harrison Bader staying in the ninth spot despite five strikeouts Wednesday against the Padres.
He notched his first hit and RBIs of the series Thursday, going 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
In Game 1, Bader misplayed a ball that landed for a triple in the second inning, but he also made a good catch on the last play of the game. All three outfielders -- Bader, Fowler and Dylan Carlson -- made plays that stifled a Padres rally.
Shildt said he thought about making a change, but Bader’s numbers against Padres starter Zach Davies -- now 4-for-4 with a home run -- and his defense kept him in.
“I can’t say it wasn’t thought about,” Shildt said. “But then again, he’s got some numbers off Davies. Like his outfield defense, clearly. Big outfield here. Lot of guys in the lineup have been swinging the bat well. And I didn’t want to be over reactionary when the guy had a big triple and a bomb the last game of the season. Feel like he’s got a good chance against Davies. But I thought about it, but obviously the pros outweigh the cons.”