Molina takes turn as Cardinals' hitting hero

Molina takes turn as Cardinals' hitting hero

Molina takes turn as Cardinals' hitting hero
ST. LOUIS -- Considering he bats in the bottom half of a star-studded lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, it's easy to overlook Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

But the backstop quietly put together another impressive regular season, leading everyday catchers in batting average (.305) and hits (145), while also posting career bests in homers (14), RBIs (65) and OPS (.814).

It didn't quite carry over through Molina's first nine games of the postseason, however, as he scuffled with just a .200 batting average before coming through in a big way in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Friday.

Molina went 3-for-4 on the night to help lead the Cards to a 7-1 win over the Brewers that gives St. Louis a 3-2 advantage in the series that resumes Sunday at Miller Park.

"It's a huge win," Molina said. "The offense was good. We've got to keep going, and win one more game."

Molina was responsible for helping the Cardinals get out to another early lead with a crucial RBI double off right-hander Zack Greinke in the second inning.

Greinke had allowed a leadoff single to Berkman before plunking David Freese to set up a key at-bat for Molina, who entered the game with a career .308 average against Greinke in 13 at-bats.

Molina was able to lace a high fastball -- clocked at 94 mph -- from Greinke just over the glove of right fielder Corey Hart to score Berkman and advance Freese to third base.

"I was looking for something up, and he gave me something up and I put a good swing on it," Molina said matter-of-factly. "I hit it good."

After Nick Punto lined out, Freese and Molina scored on an error from third baseman Jerry Hairston, who allowed a routine grounder hit by pitcher Jaime Garcia to go under his glove and into left field.

And to make matters worse, Hairston made contact with Molina as he tried to score from second base, and third-base umpire Tim Timmons awarded Molina home plate, although he beat the throw from left fielder Ryan Braun anyways.

"Yadi, I guess, tried to get by me," Hairston explained. "But he would've scored anyway. It's not even a big deal."

Molina had a similar take on the play, although he did motion to Timmons as soon as Hairston bumped into him while he was rounding third base.

"I was trying to score, and he was in the middle [of the basepath] and didn't get out of the way," Molina said. "[Timmons] caught it, so that's good."

Molina helped the Cardinals score another run in the fourth, as he hit a bloop single to advance Freese to second after he led off the frame with a single. Punto dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move up both runners, and Garcia delivered with an RBI groundout to give St. Louis a 4-0 lead.

Molina did leave two runners on in the fifth, when he flied to out to center field to end the inning, but he picked up another hit in the seventh on a two-out single to mark his third career postseason game with three hits.

"He's great," Berkman said. "I mean, Molina, Freese, Albert, Matt -- the guys are swinging the bat great. It's a tough lineup."

That tough lineup has the Cardinals on the brink of reaching the World Series for the 18th time in franchise history, and Molina is confident his team will do just that with a win in Milwaukee.

"We've got to keep playing the same way we're playing now, trying to be aggressive and try to take one over there," Molina said. "We know they play good at home. But we're confident we can beat them one time."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.