ST. LOUIS — One of the biggest moments in the Cardinals’ 4-0 win over the Giants on Saturday came when wide receiver Yadier Molina was deliberately called out of the strike zone.
Molina’s veteran catching genius was on display in the fifth inning when he deliberately called for a pitchout which he used to take down Joc Pederson to get the Cardinals and starting pitcher Dakota Hudson out of a two-on jam. of them. That play, combined with Molina’s two hits that pushed him past Mike Piazza for sixth place all-time on the hitting list for catchers, made it one of the biggest games of the season for the 39-year-old receiver so far.
Another big moment came later. Ryan Helsley has once again shown why he’s become one of baseball’s most dominant relief pitchers. Helsley, who became the owner of the fastest field in MLB this season (103.1 mph), used the quadruple seam to bring Brandon Belt to the ground in a late-inning double play and out of a loaded jam of basics. In addition to striking out 21 of 35 batters, he allowed just one hit in nine appearances.
Add it up and it provided the Cardinals with one of their best performances from start to finish this season. Sprinkle Gold Glover on Tommy Edman’s two stellar defensive plays and his fifth-inning home run and the Cardinals won for only the second time in the last seven games.
In addition, they picked up their sixth shutout.
“If we’re going to get through this period where we’ve talked a lot about our offense, we’re going to have to win games like we did,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “We throw well, we play good defense, make good decisions and score three or four points. There will be a streak where we score points, but you still have to win when you’re not feeling well.
Hudson improved to 14-3 in his career at Busch Stadium.
He marveled at Molina’s prowess in calling the pitch up and down that allowed him to easily dump Pederson and end the Giants’ first and third threats.
“The Giants like to be aggressive on the bases, and I was ready,” said Molina, who scored the Cardinals’ first point of the day after lining up the wall. “We executed this game well and I’m happy about that. It was one of the turning points. I know the Giants like to do this, but I was ready for this.
Said Hudson of Molina’s conscience: “You could see him looking over [toward the Giants dugout], and that is part of his genius. He called a big game, the guy rakes, and that’s another part of his game that you have to appreciate as a baseball fan.
The Cardinals enjoyed calling Helsley’s number out of the bullpen. Much improved after undergoing surgery in the offseason to repair an unstable left knee, Helsley became the club’s main preparer to get the ball closer to Giovanny Gallegos. Owner of three of the fastest at-bats of the season, Helsley was brought in to seventh to hopefully get a strikeout with the bases loaded. Instead, Helsley used a tail fastball after falling 3-1 in the count to ground Belt to shortstop Edmundo Sosa for a late-inning double play.
“I just wanted to challenge [Belt] because I believe in my business,” Helsley said. “I wanted him to beat me and not myself. I fell behind 3-1 and wanted to challenge him with the radiator. Luckily he hit Sosa straight. It was huge to get a weak contact and get the double game.”
A round later, Helsley proved deadly stepping on Austin Slater on four pitches. His first walk of the season ended the right-hander’s personal hard-pitch streak of 22 straight hitters. In the end, Helsley’s scoreless 1 2/3 innings of relief helped the Cardinals thwart a Giants offense that had scored 49 runs during their six-game winning streak.
“For the most part I just try to attack guys with my best stuff and put them on their heels,” Helsley said. “It helped today that the ball went down and [Belt] was a bit late. I don’t get too many ground balls, but I’m grateful for the one I got today because it was huge for us.