07/17/10 1:09 AM ET
Molina, Cards cover Garcia's short start
Catcher's home run one of 14 hits in win over Dodgers
By Michael Bleach / MLB.com
Catcher Yadier Molina, mired in a 6-for-67 slump entering the All-Star break, has become quickly revitalized in the two games since. On Thursday, Molina got his first extra-base hit in 17 games, and on Friday night he blasted a two-run homer in the fifth, an RBI single in the first and an RBI fielder's choice in the third.
La Russa maintained throughout the 22-game slump prior to the break that Molina's bat would eventually round back into form.
"He is starting the second half fresh. But he has been a good hitter his whole career," La Russa said.
Molina, understandably prickly on the subject, says he didn't change anything over the All-Star events.
"I am the same guy," Molina said. "This time I am finding some holes. I'm the same guy."
With Molina driving in half the Cardinals' runs, the Redbirds received more offensive support from another irregular run producer.
Starting in the five-hole despite a .416 slugging percentage this season, Randy Winn quickly made La Russa look smart with a first-inning two-run triple, a multi-hit day and two runs scored. La Russa chose to go with Winn over the hot-hitting Jon Jay because Winn had experienced success against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley before, going 11-for-25 in his career against the right-hander. Winn moved that total to 13-for-27 by the fourth inning, helping chase Billingsley after just 12 outs recorded.
Of course, La Russa deflected any credit for the move after the game.
"You flip a coin, sometimes the coin turns out right," La Russa said. "If it hadn't turned out, I am sure I would have heard about it. That is why I don't worry about it."
With the offense scoring eight times in the first five innings, it was night in which starting pitcher Jaime Garcia didn't need to be perfect. Unfortunately, the left-hander couldn't even manage to be average.
Garcia lasted just 3 1/3 innings -- his second-shortest start of the season -- and fought with his delivery all night.
Although he managed to limit the damage to two runs, Garcia gave up eight hits and a walk, ringing up his pitch count to 82 pitches.
"I was behind a lot of guys," Garcia said. "A lot of pitches early in the game."
"I was a little bit off and trying things different [with his delivery] during the game and that is not the right time to do it."
It was the second night in a row for the Redbirds with prolific offense up and down the lineup. In total, the Cardinals managed 14 hits -- 12 of which were singles, tying a season high -- and every starting position player collected at least one knock. Seven players scored and four of the runs driven in came with two outs.
"Billingsley just had a bad game," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He had no explanation. [Clayton] Kershaw didn't either [on Thursday]. Just two bad starts. The opposition scored the first five innings. That's not a good sign. We had plenty of opportunities to cut into it, just couldn't get the next hit."
Combined with Thursday's seven-run output against the Dodgers, the Cardinals have struck out just four times in the two games and have put 34 runners on base.
"Guys are grinding out good at-bats, putting together good ABs, driving guys in with two outs," Winn said. "Those are big. You are going to do a lot of good things when you can do that."
Michael Bleach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.