MIAMI — Wednesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 7, Marlins 0
An easy case could have been made to give Yadier Molina the day off on Wednesday. The Cardinals were playing the final game of a six-game trip to open the season, they had already won the series, and had a day game awaiting them on Thursday for the home opener.
Instead, Molina was back in the lineup. It turned out to be the right decision.
Molina broke up a scoreless game with a two-run homer in the seventh before Dylan Carlson hit his first career grand slam in the ninth to give the Cardinals the sweep of the Marlins in Miami.
Molina’s homer, his first of the season, gave him an RBI in five of the team’s six games. It was the first time he had homered to break up a 0-0 tie in the seventh inning or later since opening day in Cincinnati in 2014.
“It put a jolt in our team,” said starter Jack Flaherty. “Yadi just kind of jumped on it. That guy is our leader, he’s the guy we get behind. He carries us. When he does it it’s just that much more fun. You could see from then on we were in control of the game.
“That’s our horse. That’s the guy we fall behind. He’s somebody we can go to war with each and every time out there.”
It was less than 24 hours earlier that manager Mike Shildt had praised Molina’s work behind the plate, calling his game on Tuesday night one of the best he had ever seen in terms of managing the game.
It only took one pitch, the one he hit over the left field wall, to earn Molina more praise from his manager on Wednesday.
“He’s been an elite player for years and it’s on display almost every night,” Shildt said. “Good players can beat you in a lot of ways and clearly Yadi’s one of them. He can take control and take over a game behind the plate and then hit the two-run homer.”
What Molina does on the field is visible to all, but he also contributes in ways that go unseen – except for those in the clubhouse. Lately that has included conversations with Carlson, who had gone without a hit since his opening day homer before hitting one in the ninth inning on Wednesday.
“It would be foolish of me not to take advantage of that,” Carlson said. “He’s where he’s at for a reason. He pushes all of us in here the way he works and the way he approaches the game and competes. He’s fun to be around.
“The home run was huge. It got us going. It got the momentum on our side and we just kept rolling with it.”
At 38, Molina became the oldest Cardinal to hit a home run since Larry Walker, also 38, homered on Oct 1. 2005. At 22, Carlson became the youngest Cardinal to hit a grand slam since Albert Pujols, also 22, on Aug. 10, 2002.
Here’s how Wednesday’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals had been limited to just two hits before Molina’s homer, which followed a two-out walk to Matt Carpenter. Prior to that hit, the two teams had a combined one hit, a single by Nolan Arenado in the fourth, in a span of 41 plate appearances … Paul Goldschmidt singled in a run in the eighth after Tommy Edman singled and stole second before Carlson’s home run, which came after he was down 0-2 in the count before working to back to 3-2. He now leads the team with three this season.
On the mound: After giving up a leadoff single, Flaherty did not allow another hit through his six innings of work, although he did issue four walks which helped drive up his pitch count … Genesis Cabrera worked two innings, allowing one hit, before Jordan Hicks pitched the ninth to complete the combined shutout. Hicks had begun to warm up when the score was still 3-0, a save situation, and the Cardinals elected to still bring him into the game.
Key stat: All three of Carlson’s hits this season have been home runs and his total of nine RBIs are the most by a Cardinal in the first six games of the season since David Freese had 10 in 2012.
Worth noting: Justin Williams preserved the shutout with a diving catch to end the game with a runner on second in the ninth. He also got his first hit of the year following Carlson’s grand slam … Nolan Arenado has at least one hit in his first six games with the Cardinals … The Marlins were 0-of-5 with runners in scoring position and for the series had just one hit in 22 at-bats with a runner on second or third.
Up next: The Cardinals host the Brewers in the home opener at 3:15 on Thursday, the first game with fans in the stands at Busch Stadium since the end of the 2019 season. Adam Wainwright will start with Corbin Burnes the starter for Milwaukee,
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains