By Jeffrey Flanagan and Alaina Getzenberg
ST. LOUIS -- Suddenly, the Cardinals are a lot closer to the cat-bird seat in the top-heavy National League Central.
In a wildly entertaining chain of events that featured a stray cat delay, the Redbirds continued their red-hot ways against cross-state rival Kansas City. Yadier Molina belted a grand slam in the sixth inning that catapulted St. Louis from a 5-4 deficit to an eventual 8-5 victory.
The Cardinals, who pounded Royals pitching for 21 runs in a two-game set in Kansas City, have won five in a row and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central. The sliding Royals, who have lost eight of 10, remained four games behind the Indians in the American League Central, but fell one game behind the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot.
Cardinals starter Mike Leake wobbled through five innings, giving up 11 hits and five runs, four earned. He walked one and struck out five.
"Leake did a nice job keeping it to two [in the first]. [It] could have snowballed for sure," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "They were finding holes on him for sure. Typically you're watching when he's at his best, it's on the corners and down. … He's had a nice season, but when he attacks the bottom of the zone usually it gets great results."
Royals right-hander Trevor Cahill was wild from the start, walking the leadoff man. He lasted only 21/2 innings, giving up four hits and three runs while walking five.
"Last four starts I've been battling command," Cahill said. "Sinker hasn't been there and curveball hasn't been there. The curveball is not even close. I'm left trying to get through with just changeups.
"I didn't even make it through the third which is embarrassing."
"Offense was really good," Royals manager New Yost said. "We jumped out early. Offense did a great job. We need to pitch better."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cat-astrophic for Royals: Royals reliever Peter Moylan appeared on the verge of escaping a jam in the sixth. Reliever Brandon Maurer had given up a single and a walk to open the inning, but Moylan got two quick outs before he intentionally walked Dexter Fowler. After a first-pitch sinker to Molina, the feral cat raced onto the field. It took several minutes before the cat was captured. Moylan's next pitch was a sinker that wound up middle-middle, and Molina didn't miss, rocketing it into the seats in left for his fifth career grand slam. Moylan came into the game having inherited a Major League-leading 47 baserunners and only allowing eight to score.
"I heard the crowd erupt and I thought it was the scoreboard or something," Moylan said of the cat. "I turned around and it was a kitten. That's a first for me."
Moylan said he wanted the sinker down and away.
"Mentally, once you get that second out, one more and you're a hero," Moylan said. "Instead, Yadi's a hero."
Melk Man delivers: The Royals, after giving up a 3-0 lead early, rallied back to take a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning. Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left, and Melky Cabrera followed a two-run shot into the right-field bullpen. Statcast™ estimated it traveled 407 feet. It was Cabrera's 15th home run this season. He also added an RBI single.
"You know when you see some animal coming through a field, you expect people to jump on the field, but you never expect animals. It was fun." -- Molina on the cat that across the field
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Molina's grand slam tied him with Tim McCarver for second all-time among Cardinals catchers with five. He needs just two more to tie Ted Simmons for first place..
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Jason Hammel (5-9, 4.73 ERA) gets the start for the Royals on Thursday against the Cardinals in the series finale at 6:15 p.m. Hammel will make his team-leading 23rd start. He gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings last Friday against Seattle.
Cardinals:Lance Lynn (10-6, 3.12 ERA) will take the mound for the final game of the I-70 series on Thursday at 6:15 pm CT. The right-hander has given up two runs or less in his last six starts and is 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA over that stretch.