Cubs-Cardinals Preview


After Yadier Molina tore a ligament in his right thumb July 9, the St. Louis Cardinals were told their star catcher would be out 8-12 weeks and may miss the remainder of the regular season.

Molina seemingly ignored the timeline.

He's expected to join the Cardinals for Friday night's series opener and possibly play against the visiting Chicago Cubs, much to the delight of manager Mike Matheny.

If Molina is in the lineup for this contest, it would be exactly seven weeks after his surgery.

"I think he can have a huge impact, and I think anybody in baseball would want to have him on their club in any capacity," Matheny told MLB's official website. "We want to have him right, too, so we have to see how he looks when he gets back."

Molina looked just fine Wednesday, going 2 for 3 with an RBI double in five innings behind the plate for Double-A Springfield. His rehab assignment might be short-lived with the Cardinals (71-61) leading the NL wild-card race and sitting 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for first place in the Central.

St. Louis, which has lost three of four after falling 3-1 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, has allowed 25 stolen bases in the 40 games Molina has missed compared to 22 in Molina's 83 games as catcher.

"He's in incredible shape," Matheny said. "We're just going to have to weigh it each day."

The rotation will look different for Molina when he returns after the Cardinals acquired Justin Masterson and John Lackey before the trade deadline, but the struggling Shelby Miller remains.

Miller (8-9, 4.26 ERA) is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA over his last three starts after allowing three runs in six innings of St. Louis' 6-5, 12-inning victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. He allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings against the Cubs on July 26 and didn't factor in the decision in the Cardinals' 6-3 win.

The right-hander also will be happy to see Molina back behind the plate.

"It doesn't surprise me at all to know that he worked his tail off to get back as soon as possible," Miller said. "Getting Yadi back is going to be a huge help for us down the stretch."

Miller will be opposed by Cubs rookie Kyle Hendricks, who pitched well in his first start against St. Louis.

Hendricks (5-1, 1.78) won four straight starts with a 0.92 ERA before a long rain delay cut Saturday's outing short after he gave up two runs in two innings of Chicago's 7-2 win over Baltimore.

The Cubs have won seven of the right-hander's eight starts. The only defeat came July 27 against St. Louis, when Matt Holliday - currently riding a nine-game hitting streak - hit a two-out homer in the first inning for the game's only run as Hendricks went 6 1-3 innings.

Hendricks has a 1.23 ERA while winning his last three road starts, and he'll look to help the Cubs (59-74) bounce back after they dropped the final two of a three-game set at Cincinnati.

Anthony Rizzo sat out both defeats with tightness in his lower back, though manager Rick Renteria is hopeful he can return for this series.

The positive from those losses was the debut of heralded prospect Jorge Soler, who homered in his first big league at-bat in Wednesday's 7-5 loss before doubling and adding an RBI single in Thursday's 7-2 defeat.

Chicago has lost eight of the last 10 meetings in St. Louis.