The Cardinals found a way to reel off a 5-4 win in 10 innings even without Molina, and an encouraging prognosis emerged from inside the clubhouse. St. Louis, which holds a 2 1/2-game lead over the Brewers for the second National League Wild Card spot, does not anticipate having to play without Molina for long.
"The trainers were encouraged," manager Mike Matheny said. "They thought it was something we ought to be able to take a look at in the morning and we can adjust from there."
With the go-ahead run at third in a tie game, Molina had to contort his body to get out of the way of a Carlos Marmol pitch in the ninth. Though the pitch missed him, Molina's initial movements around the batter's box came gingerly. After a discussion with the trainer and a few attempts to swing, Molina was ushered back to the dugout by Matheny.
When Molina reached the steps, he used his bat to release the frustration.
"I was just mad," Molina said. "I was mad at the situation. You just want to be there for your team. I know Marmol. I know what he's trying to do to me and I have a pretty good idea what I'm trying to do to him. I was feeling good about that at-bat. When something like that happens, it makes you mad."
"We almost wrestled right there," Matheny said. "He wasn't happy. I wasn't happy. I told him, honestly, that as much as he wants to stay in there, I want to leave him in there. But we have to do the right thing."
Molina noted afterward that coming out was the right decision. The area of the back that he strained was the same lower-left area that caused him to miss a few games in August. Molina described the discomfort now as a little less than it was last month.
"But at the same time, you're a little worried," Molina added. "You're afraid to swing. You're not the same. That's why Mike told me to be careful with that. We didn't want to make it worse."
Including Saturday's start, Molina has been behind the plate in 12 straight games, a season-long streak for him. Even if Molina arrives at Wrigley Field feeling much improved on Sunday, he'll likely get at least one day off.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.