ST. LOUIS -- When Yadier Molina tripled home the game-winning run in a July 22 victory over the White Sox, it was the first time since 2011 that the veteran catcher, not exactly known for his fast feet, had tallied a three-base hit. A total of 2,071 at-bats had passed between the two.
With a run-scoring triple off Pirates starter Gerrit Cole on Wednesday, Molina plated what would stand as the game-winning run in St. Louis' 4-2 victory.
But that was hardly his only highlight. By the time he motored to third, Molina had already thrown out Gregory Polanco from his knees. He would cap his eventful evening by stealing third base after a one-out double.
"He's got a ton of energy out there," batterymate Michael Wacha said. "That's awesome seeing that from your catcher, that much energy this late in the season. It gets that whole dugout pumped up, as well."
Molina set the tone from the outset by stalling any first-inning momentum the Pirates hoped to generate with Polanco's leadoff single. From his knees, Molina delivered a bullet to second baseman Kolten Wong, who applied the tag. It was the 19th runner Molina has caught trying to steal this season, improving his success rate to 40 percent.
"It's just a plus defensive play that really, to me, is a momentum shifter," manager Mike Matheny said.
From there Molina steered Wacha through another quality start and helped the young righty to his 14th win by coming up with the game's biggest hit. Molina lined a first-pitch fastball from Cole to right field that Polanco unsuccessfully tried to scoop. Molina, who acknowledged afterward that he never thinks triple out of the batter's box, followed the lead of third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who waved him on as the ball rolled to the wall.
It was the fifth triple of Molina's career and second of the season, equaling his home run total.
Molina then became the third catcher in franchise history to tally a triple, a double and a stolen base in the same game when he achieved the latter two in the eighth, though it took a replay review to award Molina his 10th career steal of third.
"We love the aggressiveness," Matheny said. "And he's opportunistic when he gets on the bases. He's got guts. He's not afraid to make a mistake."
"It's been a while since I've had fun like this," Molina added. "It's good to have fun like that, especially when you win games."
All of this came in start No. 100 for Molina, who has now locked down his 11th straight season with at least that many starts behind the plate. And he's on pace for 143, which would shatter his career high of 136, set in 2009.
The durability he has showcased this season and the spry manner in which he's played appear to be byproducts of the winter work he did to slim down. He's started all but 13 games the Cards have played thus far.
"He just has some life, and I think that's a great compliment to the work he's put in to feel as strong as he does right now, because he's caught a lot," Matheny said. "But I think he feels as good now as he has at just about any other point. He has a lot of life, and his body is responding."