After an offseason of uncertainty, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is not slowing down as he nears the end of his career in St. Louis.
The 38-year-old Molina reached into the fountain of youth in the seventh inning against the Marlins at loanDepot park on Wednesday. There, he found an inside cutter from Miami starter Pablo López, which Molina jolted over the left-field wall for a two-run homer, helping to lead the Cardinals to a 7-0 win and a series sweep.
“That's our horse. That's the guy we fall behind,” St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty said. “Having him on our side is awesome. He's somebody we can really go to war with each and every time out there, each and every game.”
Molina’s first homer of the season jump-started St. Louis’ offense, breaking a scoreless tie. Paul Goldschmidt then had an RBI single in the eighth, and Dylan Carlson belted a grand slam in the ninth to put away Miami.
“That was huge,” Carlson said of Molina’s home run. “It fired us up and got us rolling. Kind of rewarded [Flaherty] for how he threw the ball, and obviously, a huge hit by Yadi got the momentum on our side and we just kept rolling with it.”
Following the 2020 season, Molina hit free agency for the first time in his career. He had said he might retire following the expiration of his last contract if the right offer to come back wasn’t there, but he and St. Louis agreed on a one-year deal in February.
If this is Molina’s farewell tour, he’s started it off in the best possible way. Through six games, Molina ranks second on the team in RBIs (seven), average (.316) and on-base percentage (.364), and his .890 OPS ranks third.
It was Molina's 2,031st career game and his 1,995th behind the plate, all in a St. Louis uniform. Plenty of Cardinals stars have come and gone in the past 18 seasons, but Molina’s presence has been a constant. Molina has frequently come up clutch when St. Louis has called on him, whether it’s getting a big hit (like he did with his 161st career homer on Wednesday) or calling a game from behind the dish like few others can.
Flaherty became the first Cardinals starter to pitch into the sixth inning this season. It didn’t come easy, though, as the right-hander needed 101 pitches to get through the outing. Still, he provided relief for a bullpen that had combined for 22 innings through the first five games, holding the Marlins scoreless while doing so.
Though manager Mike Shildt said it was a total team effort to keep Miami off the board, Flaherty credited Molina, a nine-time National League Gold Glove Award winner, for his success.
“Yadi got me through that first inning. He got me through the whole game,” Flaherty said. “When things started to get iffy there at certain points, he got me through it.”
However, with the game scoreless after six, it seemed that St. Louis' bullpen would again have to come in and keep the opposing bats at bay without much room for error.
But then, Molina stepped up to the plate with Matt Carpenter on first and two outs in the seventh, swatting the ball 427 feet -- his longest home run since a 429-foot blast on Sept. 23, 2019, per Statcast -- giving the Cardinals' relievers the space they needed to preserve the shutout.
“Of course, the pitchers deserve a lot of credit with the shutout today, but No. 4 is back there catching it, and the big two-run homer broke up a scoreless game in the seventh,” Shildt said. “Players can beat you in a lot of different ways. We've got a lot of players that can do that, and clearly, Yadi is one of them.”