Yadier Molina is swinging a hot bat lately for the St. Louis Cardinals, who target a second straight sweep this evening in the finale of a three-game set against the Miami Marlins.
Molina has homered in three straight games and his three-run shot last night during a five-run first inning set the tone in a 5-2 triumph. Molina has three home runs and seven RBI on St. Louis' nine-game road trip (6-2) and is currently second among NL catchers in All-Star voting.
"The other team made a couple mistakes, and we made them pay," Molina said on the team's website. "Jumping [Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano] for five runs, that's huge. We got that confidence back."
Carlos Beltran drove in a run and is now just two hits shy of 2,000 for his career. He also needs one more home run for 200 in the National League. Jon Jay finished with a team-best two hits for the Cardinals, who have won five in a row and will begin a 10-game homestand Friday with the first of three straight games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. St. Louis is two games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead.
Kyle Lohse got the win last night and allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings, while Mitchell Boggs got the final two outs in the eighth inning and Jason Motte registered his 16th save in the ninth. Matt Holliday finished 0-for-3 on Tuesday and entered the game batting .556 with 12 RBI since June 16th.
St. Louis, which has scored 43 runs in the last five games, was averaging 3.5 runs over the first 19 games of June before the current win streak.
Fresh off the first major league win of his career, Cardinals young hurler Joe Kelly will make his fourth start Wednesday. Kelly grabbed his first win in Friday's 11-4 bashing of the Kansas City Royals and the run support was beneficial after he allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings.
"I didn't try to look at the score," Kelly said. "I didn't try to pitch to the score. I tried to go out there and do what I usually do. But it's always nice to have that much run support."
Kelly, a right-hander, is getting a turn in the rotation with starters Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list, and will pitch against the National League for the first time. He has faced Cleveland and Kansas City twice in his three starts (1-0, 3.52 ERA). Kelly had a pinch-hit RBI single in an 8-7 win over Miami on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have fallen on hard times with 17 losses in their last 20 games and sit last in the NL East at nine games off the pace.
Giancarlo Stanton homered and scored a pair of runs for the Marlins, who are 1-4 on a nine-game homestand. Stanton has three home runs in his last six games and leads the team with 17 homers and 46 RBI.
Zambrano was saddled with the loss and some untimely errors in the field cost him the game. He allowed five unearned runs in 6 2/3 frames, struck out five and issued five walks.
"I work hard to throw a lot of pitches," Zambrano said on the team's website. "The most important thing is to go out there, and if you give up five runs or whatever, and you still can go into the seventh inning, that's pretty good. We lost the game, and [that's] the most painful thing, you know."
The Marlins haven't seen much from Anibal Sanchez lately and are counting on him to pitch the club to a victory this evening. Sanchez gets the nod tonight and he is just 1-6 with a 4.85 earned run average in his last nine starts with the Marlins going 2-7 in that span.
Sanchez lasted a season-low 3 1/3 innings in Friday's 12-5 loss versus Toronto and allowed six runs and seven hits. It was his shortest outing since going 5 1/3 frames on May 24 versus San Francisco. Sanchez
"Today, I wanted to help the team," Sanchez said on the team's website. "I know the situation right now and I know where the team is right now. I just want to do the best I can do all the time, but today especially, because I wanted to help the team dig out of the hole we are in now.
"Like they say, tomorrow is another day. I know the team is going to work for it and we're going to start hitting, start keeping the games close like the beginning of the year and we're going to turn it around. Some point we're going to turn it around. Hopefully soon."
The right-hander is 3-6 with a 3.94 ERA in 14 starts and just 1-5 in eight appearances at Marlins Park. Sanchez has made four career starts against the Cardinals, going 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA in that span.
The Cardinals and Marlins are meeting for the first time since a one-game set on April 4 that opened up Miami's brand-new Marlins Park. St. Louis spoiled the debut of the ballpark with a 4-1 win and has won eight in a row in this series.