ST. LOUIS -- With their backs against the wall in every possible way Monday, the Cardinals needed a hero. They needed someone who could save the game, the series, the season.
Of course, it was Yadier Molina who stepped to the plate.
With runners on the corners and one out in the 10th inning of the must-win National League Division Series Game 4, the battle-tested, World Series-winning, 37-year-old catcher did what he does best. He read the situation and delivered.
Molina’s towering fly ball was hit deep enough to left field that it scored Kolten Wong, lifting the Cardinals to a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Braves at Busch Stadium. It evened the series and forced a Game 5 back in Atlanta on Wednesday -- and young ace Jack Flaherty will face Mike Foltynewicz for a rematch of Game 2.
In Division Series history, home teams are 13-19 in Game 5s. The last time a Division Series went five games, in 2017, both the Indians and Nationals lost at home (to the Yankees and Cubs, respectively).
“I like those moments,” Molina said. “I don’t know what it is, but my concentration level is up and I like those moments.”
When Molina came to the plate in the 10th, the crowd roared. “YADI, YADI” chants filled Busch Stadium. His teammates were on the edge of the dugout. He had helped will this team back to the postseason after a three-year hiatus, and he wasn’t ready for the season to end. He didn’t let it.
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” said 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.”
Molina threw his bat halfway to the bullpen as the Cardinals' dugout swarmed the man who not only won the game for them but had tied it in the eighth with an RBI single that deflected off Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s glove.
"This is exactly what Yadier Molina lives for, this is what he trains for," manager Mike Shildt said. "Yadier Molina is about winning and winning championships, period."
“This guy's a Hall of Famer,” Braves manager Brian Snitker added. “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.”
It was the third time the Cardinals have won on a walk-off facing elimination. On Monday, the Cards won against the odds. They 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 solo home run in the fourth -- but because of a few defensive miscues and an error on third baseman Matt Carpenter, a three-run fifth inning from the Braves seemed to shift the momentum to the visitors’ dugout at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals teetered on the brink of elimination, but they weren’t done. Despite the Braves loading the bases twice, the bullpen shut them down, and Carlos Martínez bounced back with a scoreless ninth inning after blowing Sunday’s game. Wong led off the 10th with a double, Goldschmidt was intentionally walked and Ozuna got Wong to third on a forceout.
Now, the Cards are still in a winner-take-all situation on Wednesday -- but really, there’s no place they’d rather be.
“We love that,” Wong said. “We love being counted out, being put in the corner. We know how good we are, and we believe in ourselves. Sometimes it doesn’t show up, but we believe at any given point, we can turn the game around.
“We’re a very confident team regardless of how people perceive us or how we go about business. We’re a very confident team, we’re confident of one another, that no matter who is out there, we believe they’re going to get the job done.”