Molina’s MVP-worthy season evident by rookies’ success

Molina’s MVP-worthy season evident by rookies’ success

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Molina’s MVP-worthy season evident by rookies’ success

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by Scott Bierman / BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 8 at 10:52 PM

(BaseballStL) -- Yadier Molina’s MVP credentials go way beyond the .319 batting average, 80 runs batted in, 44 doubles and .996 fielding percentage.

He ranked in the league’s top-ten in batting average, multi-hit games (50), three-hit (14) and four-hit (4) games, average with runners in scoring position (.373) and was the fifth toughest player to strike out (one strikeout per every 9.84 plate appearances).

That’s just the short version.

But it’s what goes unseen by the 40,000-plus fans packed inside Busch Stadium on a muggy summer night or a crisp fall game in October that puts Molina on the threshold of all-time elite catchers.

Just ask Game 4 starter Michael Wacha, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning for a second consecutive start.

“It’s unbelievable working with Yadi,” the 22-year-old rookie said. “Him knowing all the hitters and he does just so much work watching film, watching these guys and knows exactly how to pitch them. I just try to listen to him and really attack the zone and make quality pitches to him and it worked out pretty well.”

This season, more than any other, Molina has stepped up to help second-year manager Mike Matheny handle a fresh crop of young arms.

The team played 67 games started by a pitcher 25 years old or younger. In those games, the team went 45-27 with a 3.10 earned-run average. Most of those wins, 36 to be exact, came from rookies -- the most in 72 years for the Cardinals.

“It’s been a revolving door at times with the amount of young and inexperienced pitchers that we’ve had coming through here,” Matheny said. “Don’t ignore the value that he brings to a veteran either. We start talking about the adjustments what a guy is going to do, you have an extra set of eyes back there and somebody with a sense, an uncanny sense that he has to be able to pick up if someone is starting to head in a different direction.”

For example, Game 4 against the Pirates.

Wacha was on cruise control with no hits allowed until Pedro Alvarez blasted his third home run of the series to pull the Pirates within a run in the eighth inning. There came Molina from behind the plate to calm the rookie who just had his no-hit bid shattered.

“He feels it and he knows,” Wacha said. “He can sense whenever I might be a little rattled or whenever I need a little breather. It’s real nice having him behind the plate.”

Wacha was taken out after a walk to Russell Martin in the next at-bat, but Molina bailed him out by nabbing pinch-runner Josh Harrison at second base. Then Carlos Martinez struck out Jose Tabata on a full-count curveball to end the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal then entered the ninth inning and allowed a two-out walk which brought the go-ahead run to the plate with Andrew McCutchen at the dish.

Rosenthal got McCutchen to pop out to second base after falling 3-0 in the count to the Pirates’ MVP contender.

The final two innings were an example of three young pitchers struggling to a point, but trusting in Molina’s calls to come away with the do-or-die win.

“Something you can only really pick up from behind the batter,” Matheny said. “Yadi has that and he has the guts to follow his instincts. He is helping our young pitchers without question. He gives them a great plan, but he’s also a great extra set of eyes for a manager and an extra set of eyes for our veteran staff.

“He’s special with what he’s able to do back there.”

Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Rams and Blues for KMOV.com and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, FootballStL and HockeyStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and notes.

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