Yadi, Waino reunite for historic 317th start

Batterymates pass Spahn, Crandall for 2nd all-time

August 3rd, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- Ever since Yadier Molina started his Minor League rehab assignment last week, all signs pointed to the veteran catcher being back at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night to catch longtime batterymate and close friend Adam Wainwright.

However, the battery with the second-most starts in NL/AL history wasn’t truly back together again until the 15th pitch of the night against the rival Cubs.

It was at that moment, when a sweeping 72.7 mph curveball confused Seiya Suzuki and got him to whiff for a strikeout, that Wainwright and Molina showed off an almost single-minded synergy that has been their calling card for years. After Wainwright got the swinging strikeout, the 40-year-old Molina did the rest by easily throwing out Rafael Ortega, who was attempting to steal second base, for an inning-ending double play.

Then, and only then, was the duo with 17 years and 317 combined starts of experience back together again.

“That was a good throw, but I set him up perfectly for that,” Wainwright said with his tongue firmly pressed against his cheek. “I’m glad to have him back because that’s what he does. He blocks great, throws guys out and calls a great game. He’s the greatest catcher of our lifetime.”

The Cardinals went on to beat the Cubs 6-0 following home runs from Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson and plenty of stellar pitching from Wainwright, who held Chicago scoreless over seven innings.

Afterward, however, the team was buzzing over the return of Molina and how well he worked throughout the game with Wainwright and relievers Jordan Hicks and Chris Stratton. For Molina, it was the 153rd time he's caught the entire game in a shutout as a Cardinal -- second in MLB history only to Yogi Berra’s 173. Starting the night off with the strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out was a perfect signal to the baseball world that Wainwright and Molina were back together again.

“That was just vintage right away, it was exactly what we needed and it made everybody feel right at home,” said Carlson, who reaffirmed his place as the Cardinals center fielder of the future with his seventh home run and two spectacular catches Tuesday. “Yadi’s presence, his leadership and his attitude is something not many clubhouses have. For us to get him back and see him be Yadi again, it was awesome.”

Wainwright and Molina moved into second place alone with their 317th start, moving beyond the 316 starts by Warren Spahn and Del Crandall. However, there was a time six weeks ago when there was a legitimate concern Wainwright and Molina had worked together for the last time and they wouldn’t be tracking down Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for MLB’s all-time record at 324 starts.

When Molina left the Cardinals on June 17 with painful inflammation in his right knee, both catcher and pitcher admitted there was at least a twinge of doubt as to whether the franchise fixture of the past 19 years would return. With Molina allowed to do his rehab on the knee back in his native Puerto Rico by team president John Mozeliak, a bit of intrigue also factored into the catcher’s return.

“Yes, when you are 40 and you’ve been a catcher for 19 years, you have worries,” admitted Molina when asked if there was ever a time when he wondered if his career as a catcher was over. “But I did what I can to get back. I’m healthy, and we’ll see how long that lasts.”

Wainwright, who was 2-4 while Molina was away, said he worried about the catcher’s future in mid-June when he was battling a myriad of health and personal issues.

“Yeah, the day that he left,” Wainwright said of his concerns over Molina’s baseball future. “He just had that feel about him, you know? He had to work through some things, but I’m glad he’s back.”

Among the many reasons Wainwright is happy to have Molina back is his ability to receive the baseball and frame pitches -- especially ones lower in the zone -- for strikes. That, Wainwright said, is what makes Molina an all-timer as a catcher.

“I knew everything that I missed about him … but [Molina] is the G.O.A.T.,” Wainwright said. “He’s so gentle with [the low pitch], while a lot of guys spear it and push it right out of the zone. He picks it like he’s picking something off the grass. He’s got the softest hands out there.”