Yadi ignites Cards' sluggish offense with key HR

Yadi ignites Cards' sluggish offense with key HR

CINCINNATI -- No matter how bleak things may look for the Cardinals, they have Yadier Molina -- which means there's always a chance.

Coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of the Cubs that severely hurt their playoff chances, the Cardinals needed a win Tuesday night in Cincinnati, and Molina provided the spark to help them get one, an 8-7 victory in 10 innings over the Reds.

Cincinnati appeared ready to deliver the knockout punch after taking an early 4-0 lead. Then Molina delivered the counter-punch. The eight-time All-Star catcher belted a three-run home run that tied the score as St. Louis went on to pull ahead during a five-run fourth.

"Yadi did it all during our last homestand with some big hits with two men on base that really changed the momentum," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's a gamer. He really wants to compete."

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, victories by the first-place Cubs and second-place Brewers meant they didn't gain any ground in the National League Central. However, they improved to four games back for the second spot in the NL Wild Card standings, pending the Rockies' result in San Francisco.

The Cardinals strung together three consecutive singles off Reds starter Jackson Stephens with one out in the fourth, including Jose Martinez's blooper to right to score St. Louis' first run. Then Molina came up and obliterated Stephens' 1-1 pitch, knocking the ball off the facing of the upper deck in left field.

Cardinals score five in 4th

"He jumped all over that ball," Matheny said. "He smashed it."

Molina's 1,727 hits are now tied with Jim Bottomley (1922-32) for 10th place in club history.

Molina, like other Cardinals, was not at his best during the sweep in Chicago (1-for-11). But he still leads the team in hits (134) and RBIs (78) and was leading all NL catchers in both categories entering play Tuesday. He also has driven in 13 runs in his last nine games.

"The one missing element for us has been the big hit," Matheny said. "We came up with big hits in big situations tonight."

Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cardinals on Tuesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.