Molina breaks through, makes some noise in Game 4

Molina breaks through, makes some noise in Game 4

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina, welcome to the National League Championship Series.

The catcher and NL MVP Award candidate had two big hits and two RBIs in Game 4 on Thursday, an 8-3 win over the Giants that moved the Cardinals to the cusp of their third World Series in seven seasons.

Molina was a huge part of the Cards' past postseasons but had been quiet in this one. He's hit safely in all four games, but Thursday marked Molina's first RBIs since Game 3 of the NL Division Series and his first multihit game since Game 2 of that NLDS.

NLCS

"Finally," Molina said.

It was an uncommon slump. Last year, Molina batted .299 during St. Louis' World Series championship run, with five doubles and 12 RBIs, and he recorded a hit in 12 of the team's 18 postseason games.

This year, Molina was hitting .152 in the first nine postseason games, with no extra-base hits and two RBIs.

"Everybody knew I was having a hard time at the plate, but finally I got one through [in the fifth inning] and another one in the seventh," Molina said. "That made me feel good."

Raking Redbirds
Most hits in NLCS play by Cards players
Rank Player Hits
1. Albert Pujols 44
2. Yadier Molina 29
2. Jim Edmonds 29
4. Willie McGee 24
5. Ozzie Smith 20
Molina's two-out single in the fifth inning gave the Cardinals a three-run lead and knocked Giants starter Tim Lincecum from the game. His RBI double in the seventh, off Guillermo Mota, made it 7-1.

Molina boosted his career average in the NLCS to .326, and with 29 hits, he is tied with Jim Edmonds for second most by a Cards hitter in LCS play. Albert Pujols holds the record, with 44 LCS hits.

Molina insists that he had been feeling good all along.

"I'm seeing the ball good, making hard contact, I just haven't found some holes," he said. "Tonight, I did it twice, so that made me feel good. Of course [it was frustrating]. Every time you don't get a hit, you don't help the team, that makes you feel frustrated. That wasn't the case tonight. Tonight was a good night for us."

The operative word is us. St. Louis collected 12 hits and put together four innings of two runs apiece. Matt Holliday and Jon Jay had their own breakouts as well, with two hits and two RBIs.

"In the postseason, the stats don't always look great," said Holliday. "You're facing the toughest pitchers in the league, and the reason these guys are in the playoffs is because of the pitching, usually. So a lot of times, guys feel better about their swings than the stats show. Obviously, hits helps with confidence. And all of us getting some hits today and contributing to a victory and scoring eight runs, hopefully, will carry the confidence over into tomorrow."

Molina made just as big of a contribution behind the plate in the sixth inning, when starter Adam Wainwright was protecting a three-run lead. Successive singles brought the Giants' NL MVP Award candidate, Buster Posey, to the plate, representing the tying run.

It might have been the game's key moment.

"Yadier looks out at me and says, 'This is your game,'" Wainwright said. "I just felt so much confidence run through my veins right there. It was the perfect time for that. After that, I knew I was going to get him out."

Wainwright retired Posey and Pablo Sandoval, and the Cardinals cruised the rest of the way.

Now they sit one victory shy of a return to the World Series.

"When you're in this situation, you're feeling good about yourself and your team, but at the same time, you have to come ready tomorrow, because we've [got] a lot of respect [for] San Francisco," Molina said. "They can come back."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.