Game Report: Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

By Rob Rains

Most of the accolades handed out to Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina over the years have centered on his Gold Glove-caliber defense.

It might be time to reserve some of that praise for his offensive abilities.

Molina equaled his career high with five RBIs, including hitting a three-run homer, to carry the Cardinals over the Pirates on Sunday at Busch Stadium, moving them even closer into the heat of a pennant race in the NL Central.

Combined with the 3-1 win by the Brewers over the Cubs, the Cardinals closed to just two games behind the Cubs in the NL Central, and they know they will play the Cubs seven times in their last 15 games this season.

The Cardinals completed the series sweep of the Pirates and have now won nine of their last 11 games in keeping heat on the Rockies in the wild-card race as well. They are now a season-high seven games above .500.

Molina shared Sunday’s spotlight with Michael Wacha, who worked eight scoreless innings, scattering five hits.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: After driving in the first run of the game with a single in the first inning, Molina responded to a pitch high and tight from Ivan Nova to power a ball into the left field seats in the third, his 17th homer of the year and second in as many games … He capped his big day with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, matching his career high of five RBIs that he set on Sept. 17, 2010 against San Diego … Randal Grichuk also homered, his 20th of the season, and Wacha delivered a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the sixth.

On the mound:
Wacha only allowed one runner to get to second base, when David Freese doubled with one out in the second. Wacha did not walk a batter, struck out seven and threw 68 of his 95 pitches for strikes as he won his 12th game of the season … John Gant pitched the ninth to finish off the Cardinals’ 12th shutout of the season.

Key stat: Molina’s 17 home runs rank third among catchers in the NL and he leads all catchers in the league with 72 RBIs, which also is the most on the Cardinals to go with his .280 average.

Worth noting

: An MRI came back clean on Dexter Fowler’s left knee after he was injured in Saturday night’s game. He is dealing with inflammation, however, and likely will be out for several games … Tommy Pham did not play Sunday because of renewed vision issues, a problem he has battled for years and which is worse during day games …. Jedd Gyorko, on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain, said he likely is at least several days away from being able to play. He has not been able to run at full speed and he won’t play until he can do that, even if he is able to swing the bat … The Cardianls’ Triple A team advanced to the PCL championship series with a 13-10 win over Colorado Springs on Sunday, getting back-to-back homers from Tyler O’Neill and Adolis Garcia in a five-run first inning that sent them to the win. They will face El Paso in the championship series.

Looking ahead:
Lance Lynn will move up a day and start Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, staying on regular rest because of Monday’s day off. That also will line Lynn up to pitch the final game of the weekend series next Sunday in Chicago. Jack Flaherty will move back a day and start on Wednesday.

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