Molina injury puts damper on Cards’ third straight win over the Buccos

The Cardinals needed Tony Cruz to step in after Yadier Molina left the game in the third inning with a thumb injury. 

Jeff Curry/Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Not much went wrong for the Cardinals in a 5-2 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night.

They moved to eight games over .500 for the first time this season with their third straight victory and sixth in the past eight games. Lance Lynn secured his 10th win before the All-Star break for the third straight season, becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to do so since Bob Gibson. Matt Adams collected three hits and improved his batting average to .336, second best in the NL. Peter Bourjos got a chance to show his speed twice, with a triple and a running, leaping catch at the top of the center-field fence to end the game. And every position player but one who started had at least one hit.

But there was one potentially lousy development.

All-Star catcher Yadier Molina had to exit in the third inning after suffering what the club called a sprained right thumb. He suffered the injury in the bottom of the second when he slid into third and his hand appeared to drag in the dirt. Molina caught the top of the third but came out when his turn came up to bat in the bottom of the inning.


"Anytime we have to take him out, you know it’s pretty bad," manager Mike Matheny said. "We’ll know more (Thursday). He went through some tests. He could feel some irritation. He got it taped up and was convinced he was going back in, but we needed to get it looked at."

Molina was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals will try to complete a four-game sweep of the Pirates at 6:15 p.m. Thursday before traveling to Milwaukee for a three-game set that leads into the All-Star break. The Cardinals have picked up 4 1/2 games on the slumping Brewers since the start of the month to close within two games of the division lead.

"I happened to notice," Matheny said with a smile.

3 UP

— The rookies. Kolten Wong, 23, and Oscar Taveras, 22, gave the Cardinals a nice glimpse of the future with strong offensive showings for a second straight night. Wong homered again — though a walk-off wasn’t needed — walked twice and stole a base. The one out he made was a line drive scorched right to the first baseman. Taveras, getting a chance in the ever-changing two-hole, singled twice for his second straight multi-hit game.

— Matt Holliday. After coming through with a key two-run double Tuesday night, Holliday had an even better game. He reached base four times on two walks and two singles, scored twice and drove in a run. His first hit came on the 11th pitch of an at-bat, and the second came with the bases loaded but scored only one run because it was hit so hard to left field.  

— Joe Kelly. It sounds like he’s learned a lesson from spending nearly three months on the disabled list with a leg injury. When he starts Friday night at Milwaukee, Kelly says he will not run "80 miles an hour" to first base on an infield grounder. His left hamstring is finally healed and he would like to keep it that way. Kelly said he should be good for 90 or so pitches after throwing 71 in his last rehab start. By the way, he did not find it particularly amusing that his next start will come in the same place where he suffered the injury.


— Adams, the baserunner. Perhaps sporting the uniform pants above the knees makes him think he’s faster than he is. Whatever, Adams made two outs on the bases, once trying to stretch a double and the other when he broke for home on an infield grounder. Neither was necessarily a bad play, though he still was out after coming within 90 feet of scoring. But with six hits in the series, including a walk-off homer Monday, he’s probably not in a hurry to change the look.

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— Idle time for Chris Conroy. The Cardinals’ assistant trainer should not need a cardio workout after all the jogging he did from the dugout to the field. The Cardinals were getting nicked all night. Besides Molina, Matt Carpenter twisted a wrist making a diving stop, Holliday fouled a pitch off his front foot, and Lynn had his blister situation checked once and also had the wind knocked out of him. Only Molina had to come out of the game.

— Allen Craig. Dropping him to seventh in the batting order didn’t do much to help him out of his latest funk. He waved at a slider that was well outside for strike three in the third, and in the fifth he grounded into a double play. He didn’t hit the ball out of the infield all night and finished 0 for 4, leaving him hitless over his last 13 at-bats.

"He’s fighting himself," Matheny said. "You get to that point where you just don’t trust the fact that you can get it done right now. I’m hurting for him.

"I know — no matter how bad it looks — the kind of hitter he is. Everybody else should remember that, too. This is the kind of guy who can do some things like nobody else in the league can when he gets it right. We just have to figure out how to get him right."

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