ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs have instructed young catcher Welington Castillo to watch video of Yadier Molina, to see how the five-time Gold Glove winner controls the game behind the plate.
The Cubs saw the real thing on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, where Molina changed the game with one big swing in the sixth inning, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-1 victory and showing why he might be the National League’s MVP.
Fireworks exploded once Molina hammered Edwin Jackson’s 93 mph fastball out to left field for a two-run homer. Molina disappeared into the dugout and then popped back out for a curtain call in front of 43,878 fans.
“He can carry a team,” Jackson said of Molina, his catcher during the 2011 World Series run in St. Louis. “He can control a team. He can carry a pitching staff. He knows the game. He’s a smart hitter. That’s one of those guys that you just have to make pitches to.”
Jackson got beat on a 1-2 pitch, a down-and-in, two-seam fastball, and there might not be anyone hotter than Molina (.365 average, .920 OPS) right now.
“I thought it was a pretty good pitch,” Jackson said. “Either he was looking for it or he guessed right or it was right in his zone. Either way, he hit it for a home run, but I threw my pitch with conviction. Sometimes it happens.
“It’s easy to go in and overanalyze things after the fact. (But) I didn’t second-guess my pitch. I threw the pitch that I wanted to throw.”
Jackson (3-9, 5.49 ERA) had no margin for error on a night where the Cubs (29-41) managed only one unearned run off Jake Westbrook (3-2, 1.76 ERA). While Molina gets credit for handling the St. Louis pitching staff, he has evolved into such a dangerous hitter.
“That’s why Molina’s right now probably the MVP of the league,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Just gradually each year he gets better and better (with another) little adjustment he’s made in his hand position, his stance, his back side.
“He’s that locked in to where you really have to make a great pitch right now to get him out (or) make him have a bad swing.”
While the Cubs try to build up their core and catch up with perhaps the best organization in baseball, everything for the Cardinals (46-26) revolves around the best catcher on the planet.
“That pitch was good -- good location,” Molina said. “I was looking inside, so it made it easy for me to get to that pitch. Sometimes you get lucky. I think that was lucky.”