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Yadi belts 5th HR to back sharp Weaver in win

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

CINCINNATI -- Yadier Molina continued his career-long success at Great American Ballpark on Friday, when he swung himself closer to the top of the Majors' home run leaderboard. Molina's second-inning homer gave him five already on the young season, pulling him into a tie for second place on MLB's list. And it highlighted a three-RBI night that helped the Cardinals to a 5-3 win over the Reds.

"Yadi is going on one of his amazing runs," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He continues to just get better. Big day, driving in big runs for us."

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CINCINNATI -- Yadier Molina continued his career-long success at Great American Ballpark on Friday, when he swung himself closer to the top of the Majors' home run leaderboard. Molina's second-inning homer gave him five already on the young season, pulling him into a tie for second place on MLB's list. And it highlighted a three-RBI night that helped the Cardinals to a 5-3 win over the Reds.

"Yadi is going on one of his amazing runs," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He continues to just get better. Big day, driving in big runs for us."

View Full Game Coverage

The Cardinals' catcher lofted a solo homer to open the scoring against Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, then ended Mahle's day with a two-run single in the sixth. That capped a four-run frame in support of winning pitcher Luke Weaver, whom Molina co-piloted through six-plus innings.

Video: STL@CIN: Weaver fans seven over six stellar innings

Weaver dazzled over most of those. The third-year righty struck out seven against one walk, scattering four hits over the course of his second win. The two runs he was charged with came courtesy of a Devin Mesoraco homer in the seventh, which somewhat spoiled a night on which Weaver flashed near historic stuff. He came a fraction of a second from taking a no-hitter into the sixth, and he didn't allow a ball to leave the infield until the seventh. He permitted three hard-hit balls, per Statcast™, on 99 pitches.

"He did a nice job mixing everything up," Matheny said. "He elevated well. He was getting that pitch called, so he kept using it, which was smart. His breaking ball was there. He was out of the zone when he needed to be. Just an all-around great day."

Video: STL@CIN: Matheny talks Weaver, offensive performances

Weaver had a lead because the Cardinals' offense wrapped double-digit hits for the second straight day. Dexter Fowler's home run to lead off the sixth started a string of four straight Cardinals to reach against Mahle, who battled out of a bases-loaded jam an inning prior.

Video: STL@CIN: Fowler skies a solo homer to right field

Consecutive hits by Tommy Pham, Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna set the stage for Molina, whose 3 RBIs gave him 53 in his career at Great American Ball Park, his most at any visiting venue. Molina also improved to a .322 average with 14 home runs in 97 career games there. His five home runs this season are tied with Mike Trout, Gregory Polanco, Eric Thames and Matt Davidson. Bryce Harper. leads the Majors with six homers, a number Molina didn't eclipse in five of his 13 full seasons.

Video: STL@CIN: Molina drives in two on single in 6th

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Where's Holland? Four Cardinals relievers combined to record the final nine outs. The last three came in a save situation with a two-run lead in the ninth. But Matheny didn't turn to newly signed closer Greg Holland after he struggled mightily in his team debut. Instead, he summoned Bud Norris, who allowed the tying run to reach base but also struck out three on his way to his second save. Matheny said Holland is not injured and was available. More >

Video: STL@CIN: Norris strikes out Barnhart to notch save

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Molina's early-season home run spike comes after a year in which he hit 18, 10 more than in the previous year and his highest total since 2012. It comes by design. Last year, Molina raised his average launch angle 5.5 degrees, the sixth-largest increase in the Majors, according to Statcast™. This year, it's even higher, averaging 15.2 degrees. When it comes to air balls, Molina is buying in. And it's paying off.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong was milliseconds away from keeping Weaver's early no-hit bid intact in the fifth, when he nearly made a sensational play to rob Mesoraco of a hit. DeJong dove to corral a grounder up the middle, then made a one-hop throw to first baseman Jose Martinez. Mesoraco was originally ruled safe on a bang-bang play, and the Cardinals challenged. The call stood after a 2-minute, 55-second review.

Video: STL@CIN: Mesoraco reaches first after call overturned

UP NEXT
The Cardinals will try to keep their lineup clicking when the four-game series continues on Saturday. Miles Mikolas (1-1, 6.00) opposes southpaw Brandon Finnegan, who will be making his season debut, in a 12:10 p.m. CT tilt.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina, Luke Weaver