After being stymied at the plate in their last contest, the St. Louis Cardinals should be eager to welcome one of the majors' top hitters back to the lineup.
Out since July 30 with a sprained right knee, the All-Star catcher was activated on the first day he was eligible. Though Molina was mired in a 3-for-19 slump at the time of his injury, he's second in the NL with a .330 average.
Molina hopes to get back on track and help St. Louis (68-51) cut into Pittsburgh's three-game lead in the Central."You have to give it your all every time because it's only a month and a half left," he said. "Every time you get a day off it's beautiful for your body but right now my team needs me and I'll be ready to go."
Though manager Mike Matheny is glad to have one of his stars back, he plans to be cautious with Molina."We're going to be careful," Matheny said. "You just have to try to do the right thing."
St. Louis pounded out 27 hits and scored 12 runs to win two straight before being held to four hits by Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano in a 5-1 loss Wednesday.
The victory snapped a season high-tying four-game skid for the Pirates (71-48), who won for the second time in nine road contests."It was important because every game counts, especially after (Tuesday's 4-3, 14-inning loss)," Liriano said. "It was a tough game last night and we had to put that one behind us and come ready to play."
Even with Molina in the lineup, Pittsburgh could be in a good position to win behind A.J. Burnett (5-8, 2.95 ERA). The right-hander has allowed three runs, nine hits and struck out 23 in 20 innings while going 2-0 in three starts against the Cardinals this season.
He yielded one of those runs and three hits while fanning nine in seven innings of a 2-1, 11-inning victory July 30.
Burnett, however, has received an average 3.60 runs of support while he's 1-2 with a 2.60 ERA in his last seven starts overall. The Pirates scored three runs with him on the mound Saturday but he gave up five of his six in the sixth inning of a 6-4 loss at Colorado.
St. Louis' pitcher Lance Lynn (13-6, 3.79) gave up a run and three hits while striking out seven in six innings in the one-run loss to Burnett and the Pirates last month.
After yielding four runs and seven hits in five innings to still earn the win in a 10-6 victory at Pittsburgh on April 15, Lynn has allowed two and five hits over 13 innings to go 1-0 the next two against the Pirates.
The right-hander was cruising until he gave up three runs in the seventh inning of a 3-0 home loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Batting .459 during an 11-game hitting streak, St. Louis' Matt Holliday is 5 for his last 16 with a homer against Burnett.
Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez is one shy of matching his career-high home run total after hitting his 29th on Wednesday. He's homered in two of the last three games overall, and has 11 in 46 career contests versus St. Louis.
|August 11, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hand|
|July 28, 2013||Travis Snider||15-Day DL||Left big toe discomfort|
|July 28, 2013||Michael McKenry||15-Day DL||Left knee surgery - out for season|
|July 23, 2013||Jason Grilli||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 11, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right foot contusion|
|August 07, 2013||Shelby Miller||Day-to-Day||Right elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Shane Robinson||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|July 31, 2013||Yadier Molina||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|July 30, 2013||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Strained right knee|
|July 12, 2013||Matt Holliday||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Just a few days ago, the St. Louis Cardinals had no wins when trailing after eight innings and just one extra-inning victory.
They certainly showed the Pittsburgh Pirates they can go the extra mile.
"We did a good job of bouncing back," said Matt Holliday , who hit a game-ending RBI single in the 12th inning of St. Louis' 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday. "Winning this game could be very important for us."
Matt Carpenter had four hits and scored the winning run in the Cardinals' second extra-inning triumph over the NL Central leaders in three days.
"Anytime having a walk-off win, it's a big deal," manager Mike Matheny said. "Jumping on it again it today is just the resiliency of this club.
"You could sense it on the bench. The guys weren't going to give in, weren't going to stop pushing."
The Cardinals took two of three in the series to pull within two games of the sagging Pirates, who have dropped five of six. St. Louis won 4-3 in 14 innings in the opener on Tuesday night.
"We had a number of guys that had opportunities," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The great thing about what we're going through is the challenge and opportunities we're all getting.
"It's playoff atmosphere baseball."
The Cardinals lost the division lead when they dropped four of five in Pittsburgh from July 29-Aug. 1.
Rookie Kevin Siegrist (1-1), St. Louis' seventh pitcher, struck out two in a perfect 12th against the heart of the order.
Russell Martin and Clint Barmes homered for Pittsburgh, which blew a 4-0 lead in one inning. Jose Tabata had three straight hits after entering as a pinch hitter.
Carpenter sparked the winning rally with a one-out walk. He went to third on Jon Jay 's single before Holliday grounded a single up the middle off Bryan Morris (5-6).
Carpenter, the Cardinals' leadoff man, leads the National League with 48 multihit games and 40 doubles. He entered with league-leading averages of .366 at home and .367 in day games.
Holliday also had an RBI double and is batting .452 during a 12-game hitting streak.
Martin hit a tying leadoff drive off Trevor Rosenthal in the eighth, handing the setup man his second blown save of St. Louis' 4-6 homestand.
The Pirates hit for the cycle against Lance Lynn in a four-run fifth that featured rookie Andrew Lambo 's first hit and RBI on a double and Barmes' two-run homer. The Cardinals responded by knocking out A.J. Burnett with five runs in the bottom half on a two-run single by Daniel Descalso and RBIs in consecutive at-bats from Carpenter, Jon Jay and Holliday.
"As good as it looked early, it's never easy against this group," Burnett said. "They figured me out early."
Both managers put a heavy stamp on the game. Hurdle hit for two regulars in the sixth and emptied his bench, and Matheny used three relievers in the sixth and seventh.
St. Louis activated All-Star catcher Yadier Molina from the 15-day disabled list, and he announced his presence almost immediately. He threw out Starling Marte trying to steal third to end the first.
NOTES: The Pirates begin a three-game homestand Friday against the Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.95 ERA), who opposes Brandon McCarthy (2-6, 4.73 ERA) in the opener, has lost five of his last six decisions. ... The Cardinals open a three-game series at Chicago, with St. Louis' Jake Westbrook (7-7, 4.11 ERA) opposing minor league callup Jake Arrieta . It will be Westbrook's first appearance since giving up nine runs in 4 2-3 innings of relief on three days' rest after Shelby Miller was knocked out by a liner off his elbow on his second pitch of the game. ... Cardinals reliever Seth Maness , who grounded into a double play and struck out to strand five runners Tuesday night, got his first career hit in the sixth. ... Pirates reliever Tony Watson worked three scoreless innings and retired the heart of the order in the 10th.