Yadi hops Pujols for 4th in Cards hits history

August 1st, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols may not want to check his phone Sunday night. He hit a bases-clearing double for the Dodgers in Arizona, so there will be some well wishes, but there also may be some ribbing from Yadier Molina

Because fourth place on the Cardinals’ all-time hits list? That now belongs solely to Molina.

In the fifth inning of Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Twins at Busch Stadium, Molina passed Pujols, his longtime friend and teammate of eight years, on the Cardinals’ all-time hits list with career knock No. 2,074. Molina tied Pujols with a pair of hits Saturday and quickly found the go-ahead hit over his friend (coming off former batterymate John Gant), only to then rack up another in the seventh inning.

“I know that Yadier is going to take a picture of that, ‘Yadier passes Albert thing [on the jumbotron],’ and send it to Albert,” said Adam Wainwright, another longtime friend and teammate to both. “I think he has to.”

Next up is Rogers Hornsby in third place. Molina is just 35 base knocks away.

Hornsby is another Hall of Famer who Molina may have the chance to pass in a year in which he has already passed several in various other categories. According to his manager, he passed one Sunday. Soon, he could be the Hall of Famer future catchers try to pass … whenever he decides to stop playing.

“If you’re fourth in Cardinals history in hits, you’ve done something,” Mike Shildt said. “Albert will be [in the Hall of Fame] five years to the day he stops playing in what should be pretty much a unanimous ballot. And Yadi is right behind him, seven or 10 years later, when he decides to stop playing.”

But Molina’s was arguably not the most impressive plate appearance of the day. That came via Wainwright, who worked a 10-pitch at-bat off Twins starter Michael Pineda in the fourth inning. Wainwright lasered a ball 109.8 mph to the hot corner, hustled down the line and forced Minnesota third baseman Luis Arraez into a low throw. It extended the inning and allowed Tommy Edman to cross the plate.

It also accomplished three things: Wainwright’s first run-scoring hit of the season (though the error excluded him from being awarded an RBI), became the second-hardest-hit ball on the afternoon (just 0.1 mph behind Twins slugger Miguel Sanó’s double) and gave the Cardinals their first lead of the day (one they would not relinquish).

“I got a 457-foot homer,” Wainwright said, when asked if he owns a higher exit velocity from the pre-Statcast era. Then he laughed: “That’s got to be at least 125, 126 [mph].”

Sunday was also Wainwright’s first win over the Twins in his 16-year career in his second appearance against them, 12 years apart. Only the Orioles, Yankees and Rangers remain on his winless list.

But that his and Molina’s at-bats came in tandem was no coincidence. The duo made its 294th start together Sunday, now just 12 back of White Sox Hall of Famers Red Faber and Ray Schalk for third on the all-time batteries list.

Could they reach the Chicago greats at 306? Wainwright is already at 21 starts this season; Molina has bounced around various injuries, from foot to knee to neck.

To this point of the season in 2013 -- when Wainwright was at his apex and tied his career high of 34 starts -- he had 23 outings under his belt and he made 11 the rest of the way.

So it’s going to be close, but Wainwright has said that it’s part of what keeps him and Molina motivated throughout the season -- and especially as they decide their respective futures after the 2021 campaign. Even still, he can’t allow himself to plan too far in advance in mapping out their shot at history, noting the risk of losing sight of his current stretch: a 3.53 ERA in 21 starts at 39 years old.

So maybe next year, if they both return, they can keep setting the milestones they’ve made customary this season.

“That's a lot of hits, that's a great accomplishment and pretty impressive that Albert had that many hits in 11 seasons,” Wainwright said. “I mean, really, really impressive. He's one of the greatest hitters of all time. I was glad to get to play with him for as long as I did. And I play with another guy who's probably one of the top three or four catchers of all time.”