Craig, Molina shake off Game 1, come up clutch

Craig, Molina shake off Game 1, come up clutch

Craig, Molina shake off Game 1, come up clutch
ST. LOUIS -- One of the best things about baseball is that, no matter what, there's almost always another chance tomorrow. Another game when the slate is wiped clean, the scoreboard is reset to 0-0 and another opportunity for redemption presents itself.

It's not that players can't dwell on falling short. It's more that they quickly learn that there's no percentage in it.

Wild Card vs. Nationals

So there were Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig and catcher Yadier Molina in the clubhouse after Monday's big 12-4 win over the Nationals at Busch Stadium in Game 2, a win that allowed them to even the best-of-five National League Division Series at a game apiece going back to Washington.

They were being asked about the team's breakout performance. They were being asked about their big games. Craig went 3-for-5 with a double, a homer and two runs scored. Molina was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run.

This, understand, came one day after they stood on the same patch of real estate and answered questions about how the team wasn't scoring and how they personally hadn't delivered when the Cards had the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh of Game 1. With a chance to possibly break it open, Craig swung at the first pitch and grounded into a forceout at the plate. Molina, also swinging at the first pitch, grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Nationals scored twice in the top of the eighth to win.

"That's kind of been the way we've gone about it all season, taking it one game at a time," Craig said. "That's sounds like a cliché, but it's really worked for our team. Just forget what happened yesterday and just worry about the present."

After the Nationals took an early lead in the top of the second, Craig opened the bottom of the inning with an infield hit against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann. Before it was over, St. Louis had five hits and four runs. Craig added to that lead with a homer in the third, and the Cardinals never looked back.

"He's been good all year," center fielder Jon Jay said of Craig. "He's one of the most underrated players in the game right now. If you look at the numbers he put up this year, last year, what he did in the postseason, he's been huge for us. For him to go out there, hit that big home run, I think that really got us going. And the hits ... he's just a great hitter. You can talk about how he drives in runs, uses the whole field, hits doubles, hits homers. He's a big part of our lineup."

Said Craig: "We take a lot of pride in our offense. We feel like when we get things going, we can carry the team. We put a lot of good swings on balls. Everybody contributed and everybody had great at-bats up and down the lineup. When we get everybody going, it's fun."

Molina also takes the approach that there's no point in brooding about the past.

"That's baseball. One day you're going to have a bad day and the next you're going to have a good day," the catcher said with a shrug.

"We definitely needed this after that tough loss. We bounced back. Now we're going there to try to win two. It's going to be tough, because they play good at home, but we have a good team, too."

Added Craig: "This was the closest thing to a must-win game as we've had all year, and we came out on top."

And a big reason they came out on top is that they didn't let what happened in Game 1 bother them in Game 2.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.