Molina leads Cardinals to 11-7 victory over Padres

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Yadier Molina lacks the gaudy offensive numbers of Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus and first-time All-Star Ryan Ludwick. In the clutch, however, there’s nobody the St. Louis Cardinals would rather have at the plate.

“I just think he’s immune to pressure,” manager Tony La Russa said after Molina’s two-run single with the bases loaded broke an eighth-inning tie in an 11-7 victory over the San Diego Padres. “He’s got a beautiful stroke, and he knows when to use it.”

Greg Maddux allowed six runs in four innings for San Diego, the shortest outing for the 42-year-old right-hander since last September. He is 0-5 in 13 starts since May 16, tying the longest victory drought of his career, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“First time I had a lead in a while and I made it last for what, five minutes,” Maddux said. “I didn’t hold up my side of the deal.”

The Cardinals got home runs from Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, both tying the score.

Khalil Greene and Jody Gerut homered for the Padres, with Greene’s second-inning drive off Braden Looper snapping an 0-for-23 drought. San Diego has lost four straight and seven of nine.

The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth against Heath Bell (6-4), the last an infield hit by Ankiel when Bell was late covering the bag on a grounder to the right of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Molina, the Cardinals’ top hitter with runners in scoring position with a .328 average, guided a soft liner past the glove of diving second baseman Edgar Gonzalez.

“I don’t want to strike out in that situation, I just want to make contact and hopefully I find a hole,” Molina said. “Maybe it’s because I’m concentrating to hit the ball. I don’t try to hit a home run.”

Padres manager Bud Black said at least some of the damage could have been averted with better defense on Ankiel’s roller.

“You’d like to think you can get an out on that ball,” Black said. “I’m not quite sure what happened.”

Pinch-hitter Chris Duncan and Aaron Miles added two-out RBI singles in the four-run eighth for the Cardinals, who have won three straight and are 4-1 against the Padres this season. Kyle McClellan (2-4) allowed a walk in a scoreless eighth.

Ankiel tied it at 7 with his 22nd homer leading off the seventh against Joe Thatcher, driving a full-count pitch well over the right-field wall after fouling off six pitches in a 12-pitch at-bat. He has a team-leading 16 RBIs this month.

“Great at-bat,” Ludwick said. “Every day he does something that seems to amaze you.”

Glaus had two hits and is 16-for-28 (.571) with four homers during a seven-game hitting streak, but he struck out with the bases loaded and the Cardinals trailing 7-6 to end the sixth.

Gerut’s two-run homer gave the Padres a 6-3 lead in the fourth, and came on the first pitch after the St. Louis defense botched Maddux’ sacrifice bunt with two throwing errors to allow the go-ahead run to score. Molina, the catcher, threw wildly to third to try to get Nick Hundley, and first baseman Albert Pujols threw wildly to second trying to get Maddux, who made it to third on a bunt that traveled about 5 feet down the third-base line.

Ludwick’s three-run shot tied it in the fourth with the Cardinals getting three straight two-out hits.

Maddux’s start was his shortest since he lasted 3 2-3 innings against Colorado on Sept. 23, 2007. The Padres have won six times during the 13-start drought and Maddux has six quality starts, but he’s also surrendered six or more runs in three of his last five outings while giving up 24 earned runs in 27 1-3 innings in that span.

Ankiel added a two-run single in the first and is 6-for-10 against the Padres with six RBIs.

Looper gave up six runs in three innings, tied for his shortest outing of the year, and is 0-2 in his last four starts.


Cardinals LHP Mark Mulder had a second medical opinion on his twice surgically repaired shoulder on Friday, and relayed information from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., to La Russa. The manager said the conversation was “interesting,” but added that Andrews had not yet talked with team physician Dr. George Paletta. … Padres pitchers have allowed double-digit run totals two of the last three games, and 11 times overall. … Greene’s homer was his first in 57 at-bats, ninth of the season and 84th with the Padres, snapping a tie with Steve Finley and Carmelo Martinez for ninth on the franchise list. … The Cardinals are batting .380 in the last five games, totaling 43 runs with 13 homers.

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