No longer sitting on the sidelines, this is Yadi’s team

Amid the confusion emanating from a lineup card snafu, catcher Yadier Molina‘s dramatic, game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning Monday night was somewhat lost in the shuffle. But Molina wasn’t overlooked Tuesday as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 5-2

Homering for the third game in succession, Molina put the finishing touches on a five-run first inning keyed by two Miami errors by smacking a 3-2 pitch from Carlos Zambrano for a three-run homer.

As the Cardinals extended their winning streak to a season-high five games, their strongest All-Star candidates all had leading roles.

Besides Molina, shortstop Rafael Furcal, in line for his first fans’ election as an All-Star, turned in a remarkable defensive play to take the Cardinals out of a tough spot in the sixth. Furcal snagged left fielder Logan Morrison‘s bad-hop, high-hop smash to his left and dashed to the bag to start an inning-ending double play to help right-hander Kyle Lohse to his seventh victory.

And right fielder Carlos Beltran, a sure All-Star starter, knocked in the Cardinals’ first run of the game with a single in the first inning.

Lohse (7-2) has had four straight starts of at least seven innings.

Molina, showing he is the best all-round catcher in the National League, is just two homers off his season high of 14, achieved last year. “I don’t think about that,” he said. “I think about winning games.”

Manager Mike Matheny said Molina’s offense added to his defense make him “the best in the game” at his position. Matheny said pitchers have so much trust in Molina that “you go into the meetings and some of the guys are snoozing because they know Yadi’s going to take care of them.” Lohse said, “A lot of people are paying attention to what he’s done at the plate. But I don’t remember the last time I shook him off.”

Items of note
–RHP Chris Carpenter, whose throwing session was canceled on Monday when his shoulder felt weak, said he felt stronger on Tuesday. He said that after a couple days of rest he could be cleared to resume throwing again. But he also said he still expected to consult with doctors when the club returns to St. Louis after Wednesday’s game.

–RF Carlos Beltran, who leads the National League in homers with 20, said he had not yet been approached about participating in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game and didn’t know if he would accept such an invitation. Chances are that Beltran would accept, though, because he spent seven seasons playing with the Kansas City Royals, hosts of this year’s All-Star Game.

–RHP Kyle Lohse has beaten the Miami Marlins twice in two meetings at the new stadium in Miami. The Cardinals opened this season there with a one-game series. Lohse took a no-hitter into the seventh inning that night and scored a 4-1 victory. “People forget he led the team in wins and ERA last year,” said manager Mike Matheny. “People kind of overlook him a little bit, which is understandable because we’ve had some big-name pitchers who have had big years.”

–3B David Freese, riding a six-game hitting streak, got a scheduled day off. Freese will be back in the lineup on Wednesday night.

–LF Matt Holliday, who had hit .556 (20-for-36) over his last nine games, went hitless but drew two walks and also reached base on a Miami error. Holliday has a good chance of being named an All-Star reserve for the National League.

–SS Rafael Furcal, contributing his strong offensive play after a recent 2-for-39 nosedive, reached base on a single and a walk and scored the Cardinals’ first run. He also made the game’s best defensive play, a double play to end the sixth inning, after fielding Miami LF Logan Morrison’s angry, high-hop smash to his left. “He’s been playing at Gold Glove caliber,” said manager Mike Matheny. “It looked like he just threw his glove in the air, anticipating a high hop.” Said Furcal, “I didn’t have time to get in front of it … that ball was hit so hard.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 — Consecutive wins by the Cardinals over the Marlins in the last two seasons, including seven straight in Miami.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Anytime you give up a ball hit that hard, you aren’t expecting anybody to catch it.” — RHP Kyle Lohse on a stellar double play turned by SS Rafael Furcal to end the sixth inning.


–LHP Jaime Garcia (left shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. After further examination, it was determined that he has tearing in his rotator cuff. He won’t throw until at least late July and is out until at least mid-August.

–1B Lance Berkman (torn meniscus in right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list May 20. He had arthroscopic surgery May 25, and no ACL damage was found. He might be able to resume baseball activity in late June

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