Molina is 6th all-time catcher


castle. LOUIS — One of the biggest moments of a much-needed 4-0 victory for the Cardinals in Saturday’s game against the Giants was when pitcher Yadier Molina deliberately asked to leave the strike zone.

Molina’s veteran catcher genius came in the fifth when he purposely claimed the pitch he used to shoot and kill Joc Pederson to rescue the Cardinals and starting pitcher Dakota Hudson from a two-on-to-out jam in the fifth. That play, combined with Molina’s two hits, overtook Mike Piazza and pushed him into sixth on the hit list for catchers, making it one of the biggest games of the season for the 39-year-old catcher so far.

Another big moment came later. Ryan Helsley once again showed why he has evolved into the most dominant relief pitcher in baseball. Emerging as the owner of the fastest pitch in MLB this season (103.1 mph), Helsley used a four-seam to get Brandon Belt out of a jam-packed double play and stolen bases to close the inning. Not only did he strike out 21 of 35 batters, he allowed just one hit in nine games.

Add that up and it gave the Cardinals one of the best start-to-finish performances of the season. Tommy Edman’s two great defensive plays on Gold Glover and his five home run and Cardinals have won just their second of their last seven games.

Also, they had their 6th scoreless run.

“We’re going to have to win baseball the way we did to get through this stretch where we’ve talked quite a bit about offense,” coach Oliver Mamol said. “We pitch well, we play well, we make good decisions, we score three or four goals. There will be stretches where we score, but we still have to win when we feel bad.”

Hudson improved to 14-3 in his career at Busch Stadium.

He admired Molina’s ability to demand up and away pitches that allowed him to easily throw Pederson and end the Giants’ first and third threats.

“The Giants like to be aggressive on the base and I was ready.” Molina, who scored the Cardinals’ first run of the day after doubling the wall, said Molina. “We did the play well and we are happy with it. That was one of the turning points. I know the Giants like to do that, but I was ready.”

Regarding Molina’s perception, Hudson said: [toward the Giants dugout], and that’s just part of his genius. He calls it a great game, and he rakes in, and that’s another part of his game that you, as a baseball fan, should enjoy.”

The Cardinals enjoyed calling Helsley’s number in the bullpen. After undergoing surgery to fix sciatica in the offseason, much improved Hellsley became the club’s main set-up man to send the ball to closer Giovanni Gallegos. Helsley, who owns three of the fastest strikeout out pitches this season, joined 7th to get a strikeout with a base loaded. Instead, Helsley used a trailing fastball after falling 3-1 on the count to get the belt to land at shortstop Edmundo Sosa for a double play that ended the inning.

“I just wanted to challenge myself. [Belt] Because I believe in my stuff,” Helsley said. “I wanted him to hit me and not myself. I was behind 3-1 and wanted to challenge myself as a heater. Thankfully, he hit Sosa right away. He made some weak contacts and was a huge help in making doubles,” he said.

One inning later, Helsley proved mortal when he sent Austin Slater to the 4th pitch. His first hit of the season ended his streak of 22 in a retired batting streak. Ultimately, Helsley’s 1 2/3 innings scoreless Ando helped the Cardinals stop an attack from the Giants, who scored 49 points in a six-game losing streak.

“For the most part, I’m reaching out to men with my best stuff and trying to convince them,” Helsley said. “It helped that the ball went down today. [Belt] A little late. I don’t get a lot of ground balls, but the ball I got today is so big, I’m grateful.”

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