MIAMI -- Yadier Molina has been a pleasant surprise on offense for the Cardinals.
The four-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher is arguably the best defensive backstop in the Majors, but he hasn't necessarily been known for his power during his nine-year career. That doesn't seem to be the case this season, however, with Molina hitting a career-best .317 and belting 12 home runs -- two shy of his career high of 14 set last season -- before the end of June.
"He continues to just improve, which seems hard, really, for a guy I've never been shy saying is the best in the game," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He just doesn't rest on that. ... If there's something in his game that doesn't put him at the top level he keeps working until he figures it out."
Molina, who was given the day off behind the plate in Wednesday's series finale, has been on a tear, going yard in three consecutive games -- the first time he has done that since July 22-25 last season. On Monday, he crushed a two-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game and cap a five-run rally. During Tuesday's game, he launched a three-run shot in the first inning to give the Cardinals an early advantage they didn't give up.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball; that's it," Molina said. "Seeing the ball and trying to hit the ball. That simple."
The ability for Molina to turn hitting from a perceived weakness to one of his strengths is just the latest in what Matheny referred to as the evolution of Molina as a player.
"He's amazing. I think a lot of people are paying a lot more attention to what he does at the plate this year," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "It's amazing the game plan he puts together out there [defensively] ... and it makes it easier when you're out there on the mound knowing he's back there and has his head in the game defensively as well as offensively."