Yadier Molina was back, and it seemed as if all was right with the world.
Molina, who missed several weeks due to a thumb injury, was out of the lineup at a time the Cardinals could ill afford to lose the veteran catcher and perennial National League All-Star. However, Molina comes back to the Cardinals at a time when the team actually has fared better than expected.
Molina left the Cardinals lineup as the team struggled to gain traction against a tough Milwaukee Brewers squad. He returns as the Cardinals led the National League wild card race and were only two games down from the Brewers in the Central standings.
Forget the standings for a second. Molina’s return is a bigger deal for the Cardinals because a big bat comes back to the lineup.
The old saying when a veteran player returns to a lineup is that it’s like getting a player into your lineup via a trade or free-agent acquisition.
Molina’s return is a big deal for the Cardinals because of his leadership. His skill at working a pitching staff is solid. No one doubted for a minute that A.J. Pierzynski couldn’t be an effective catcher, and he did his job. The nice thing is Pierzynski will have a spot in the lineup because rosters expand to 40 players on Monday. He will be used to spell Molina from time to time.
It will take Molina some time to get comfortable with a bat. He went hitless in the first two at-bats Friday against the Cubs, but his average only fell to .287.
The Cardinals need a bat like that in the lineup, especially in a season where a lot of bats have been silent or worse than expected.
Molina is just the spark this team needed.