KANSAS CITY -- The dog days of summer continue to be no match for catcher Yadier Molina, who remains a daily fixture behind the plate and a formidable presence at it.Making his 20th consecutive start on Sunday afternoon, Molina not only guided newcomer Tyson Ross through an unexpected start, but
KANSAS CITY -- The dog days of summer continue to be no match for catcher Yadier Molina, who remains a daily fixture behind the plate and a formidable presence at it.
Making his 20th consecutive start on Sunday afternoon, Molina not only guided newcomer Tyson Ross through an unexpected start, but he also delivered a go-ahead two-run single to help the Cardinals complete their first I-70 Series sweep at Kauffman Stadium since 2012.
With Sunday's 8-2 win, the Cards finished with seven wins on their three-city trip and climbed a season-best eight games above .500.
"We're playing good baseball, consistent baseball right now," Molina said. "We're taking good at-bats, pitching good, playing better defense. We feel good about ourselves right now."
One day after sparking a rally with a two-out, 10-pitch at-bat, Molina capped one on Sunday when he lined an 0-2 slider to center to drive in a pair of seventh-inning runs. Ahead of him, the Cardinals had loaded the bases and tied the game on Patrick Wisdom's second single of the afternoon.
That Molina was even in a spot to deliver is a testament to his remarkable durability. Since surpassing his brother Bengie's record of eight straight starts by a catcher age 35 or older last month, Molina hasn't slowed down. The 36-year-old catcher has been in the lineup for all but one of Mike Shildt's 26 games as interim manager. The only absence came in the second game of a doubleheader.
"I've told you many times, when I feel good, I want to play," Molina said. "I know my body. I'm not going to put my team in any situation where I go 0-for-5 because I want to play and be a hero. No. If I decide to play, it's because I'm ready for it."
Even after missing a month while recovering from a pelvic injury, Molina ranks third in the Majors with 85 starts at catcher.
"We want to be mindful that we give him appropriate rest, but we also want to be respectful of a guy who has been in this league since 2004 that knows himself and knows what he's capable of, and knows where we are in a particular season," Shildt said. "I admire his ability to go out and play and want to compete every day. This guy is a special player."
His presence behind the plate has been especially valuable as of late as the Cardinals' pitching staff has experienced extensive turnover. During this run of consecutive starts, Shildt, who described Molina as the "pitcher whisperer" after the win, has watched Molina catch five pitchers for the first time. That included Ross, who made his organizational debut one week after being claimed off waivers from the Padres.
Ross, who had gone unused out of the bullpen since joining the Cardinals, learned about an hour before first pitch that he'd be replacing scheduled starter Luke Weaver, who was scratched after cutting his right index finger on aluminum foil. He hustled into the clubhouse to game plan with Molina
"I've watched him a lot from the opposing dugouts, and it was good to throw to him today and see why he's the best in the game," Ross said. "I'm looking forward to throwing to him a lot more in the future."
Ross labored through a 28-pitch first inning that he attributed partly to rust, but he limited the damage to one run. He found his rhythm midway through the game and completed his six-inning start by retiring the final nine batters he faced on 30 pitches.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In jeopardy of digging a deep hole early, Ross wiggled out of a first-inning mess without too much damage done. Ross loaded the bases with one out by allowing a single and two walks. Wisdom then bobbled the first ball hit to him in his Major League debut, allowing the Royals to score the game's first run. But Ross rebounded by inducing a double play off the bat of Jorge Bonifacio to end the frame.
"Obviously new to the team, he wants to really show what he has right away, so he was a little bit excited," Molina said. "But after that double play, he settled down and kept us in the game."
Bud Norris made an unexpected appearance in the ninth inning after home-plate umpire Adam Hamari ejected reliever Tyler Webb after he hit Bonifacio in the back with two out and two strikes.
"Really, it was initially astonishment," Shildt said of his reaction to Webb's first career ejection. "I wasn't really sure what was taking place. I looked down to make a note and didn't think twice about it. I look up and Yadi is rightfully upset. Then I put two-and-two together and thought, 'Surely, no.'"
Shildt came onto the field to plead his case to Hamari. Though the Cardinals had been hit four times in the game, Hamari had not issued warnings to either club.
"That's a pretty big assumption there," Shildt said. "I took it personally to our club to make an assumption that I don't even know how you think would be there. But he did it. He made a decision."
On Saturday, Hamari, who was the first-base umpire, ejected Royals starter Danny Duffy when he expressed frustration for serving up a homer after not getting a favorable call on a checked swing.
The Royals did not believe there was intent behind Webb's pitch.
"I really don't think so," said Bonifacio, shaking his head. "I mean, I was in the hole [1-2] in the ninth inning, one strike away [from ending the game]."
Paul DeJong extended his on-base streak to 10 games by homering for the third time in a week. The Majors' longest active on-base streak belongs to Matt Carpenter, who pushed his to 30 with a fifth-inning single.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Royals tested Harrison Bader's arm twice on back-to-back plays with two out in the third. With a nifty slide, Salvador Perez scored the go-ahead run before Molina could take a 93.3 mph throw from Bader and apply the tag. Rosell Herrera followed with another single to center, and this time -- with a throw that Statcast™ measured at 95.5 mph -- Bader threw Lucas Duda out at home easily to end the threat.
HE SAID IT
"We played two series against them earlier this year when I was with San Diego and from the outside looking in, you don't get a chance to know the personalities. But these guys play hard. They're never out of games. Like today, fought back and won. A lot of energy. A lot of young guys. We're having a lot of fun in this clubhouse." -- Ross, on his early impressions of his new team
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Neither of Sunday's two replay reviews benefited the Cardinals. They used their challenge in the third for a second look at Molina's tag of Perez as he scored from second on a single. The call was ruled to stand. Three innings later, the Cards lost a baserunner after the Royals challenged a safe call at first on Marcell Ozuna.
All-Star right-hander Miles Mikolas (12-3, 2.74 ERA) will start the opener of a four-game series against the Nationals at 7:10 p.m. CT on Monday when the Cardinals open a seven-game homestand at Busch Stadium. Left-hander Tommy Milone (1-1, 5.50 ERA) will start for the Nats.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.