Yadi rejuvenated at plate following July break

Not being part of All-Star Game for first time since '08 has benefited Cards catcher

Yadi rejuvenated at plate following July break

ST. LOUIS -- Perhaps it's no coincidence that a stretch of days off in mid-July did veteran Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina well. It was time off he's rarely had before, as the seven-time All-Star had not been left off the National League All-Star team since 2008.

But after being overtaken late by the Giants' Buster Posey in the fan voting, Molina took some welcome downtime and has peaked offensively since returning. Molina has a hit in 18 of 20 games since coming back from the break entering Wednesday, and he ranks in the NL's top six in batting average (.370) and on-base percentage (.418) during that span.

Following a 38-game stretch in which he tallied three extra-base hits in 135 at-bats, Molina has looked rejuvenated while extending his on-base streak to 22 games. It's the longest such streak by a Cardinals catcher since Gene Tenace reached safely in 35 consecutive games from 1981-82.

"[I'm] just encouraging him to keep doing what he's doing," manager Mike Matheny said. "Even that ball that he hit out of the park [on Tuesday], it was a ball he really fought to stay inside. So that's nice to see. His strength looks good."

Keeping Molina fresh will continue to be key for the Cardinals, who have played most of the season with their expected backup catcher, Brayan Pena, on the disabled list. Three off-days in an eight-day stretch beginning on Monday will help. The Cardinals will close the season, however, with 30 games in a 31-day span.

Molina, who turned 34 in July, sits on pace to start 139 games behind the plate. That would surpass his career high of 136, reached back in 2009.

What has lagged for Molina has been execution on the defensive side. He's allowed seven passed balls -- one off his career high -- and caught 21 percent of attempting basestealers. Molina entered the season with a career caught-stealing percentage of 44.

However, that trouble throwing out runners -- including seven over the last two games -- is hardly all the fault of Molina. The Cardinals have not noticed a drop off in Molina's accuracy or velocity. Rather, too often his pitchers, by being slow to the plate, haven't been giving him a chance.

"It's deceiving because Yadi is putting throws on the money and he's got great release, footwork, arm, everything is still there," Matheny said. "Yadi's throws overall have been very good. [It's] just we're not getting him a lot of help."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.