ST. LOUIS -- When the ball landed in shallow center field and Yadier Molina ran up the first-base line, he glanced at the ground, smiled and pumped his fist. When he reached first base, he turned and gave a thumbs up to his dugout -- full of players and coaches
ST. LOUIS -- When the ball landed in shallow center field and Yadier Molina ran up the first-base line, he glanced at the ground, smiled and pumped his fist. When he reached first base, he turned and gave a thumbs up to his dugout -- full of players and coaches standing and cheering for their catcher and unofficial captain, as his manager often calls him.
The standing ovation was well-deserved for a historic occasion: Molina’s 2,000th career hit. It came in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 4-2 win over the Brewers at Busch Stadium on Thursday.
• Box score
“Two-thousand hits,” Cards manager Mike Shildt said. “That’s a lot of darn hits.”
As the Cardinals' dugout cheered, Molina tipped his helmet to his teammates, to the scoreboard showing a 2,000-hit graphic and up toward the radio booth where his brother, Bengie, was calling the game on the Cardinals' Spanish broadcast. Brewers first baseman and former Cardinal Jedd Gyroko also acknowledged Molina.
“It’s special even to just be around someone like that every day,” said outfielder Dylan Carlson, who drove in three of the four runs. “It’s incredible. And to see him accomplish the things he’s accomplished and to be a part of moments like this, it’s just really special.”
Despite not having fans in the stands this year, there were a few who showed up outside Busch Stadium, peering in through the center-field gates and chanting “Yadi” over the crowd noise. Molina has come to recognize that chant over the years.
“I don’t expect less from them,” Molina said. “Here in St. Louis, I’ve spent my whole career, I know what type of fans we have. The best in baseball. … It’s a shame they didn’t have the opportunity to be here and enjoy it and enjoy that moment with me, but I’m pretty sure they’re happy for me and cheering for me.”
Beyond adding to his likely Hall of Fame résumé this season, Molina is shepherding the Cardinals in their bid for a second straight postseason berth. He was quick to say how important the win was for the team before diving into his historic night.
Thursday's was the first of a five-game, four-day series that will close out the regular season -- if the Cardinals don’t have to play one or two makeup games in Detroit on Monday to determine if either team qualifies for the postseason or if the Cards can clinch home-field advantage in the Wild Card Series.
• MLB postseason picture
The victory put the Cardinals alone in second place in the National League Central, a half-game ahead of the Reds, who had an off-day Thursday and will play the Twins this weekend. Second place in the division guarantees a postseason berth, and of course the Cardinals will be content with making the playoffs in this unique season. But suddenly, the division title isn’t wildly out of reach. St. Louis is 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs, who lost to the Pirates on Thursday and will play the playoff-bound White Sox this weekend.
Molina would like nothing more than to push his club to October and make a deep run. He’s in the final year of his contract, and while the team would like to have him back next season, it’s not certain such a deal will be made. Molina has said he’d like to play two more years, whether it’s on the Cardinals or elsewhere.
That’s why it was special for him to reach 2,000 hits -- and earlier this season, 2,000 games -- this year, wearing a Cards uniform.
“My mind is always about the team, about winning, but yeah, it was in my mind to get it this year, wearing this uniform, because you never know what’s going to happen next year,” Molina said. “It was a great moment I’ll always remember.”
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.