Cardinals force deciding game with extra-innings win over Braves
Series shifts back to Atlanta for Game 5 of NLDS
They all knew. Every single one of them. Paul Goldschmidt and all the St. Louis Cardinals. Ozzie Albies and the rest of the Atlanta Braves.
Molina pushed the Cardinals to a deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series, poking a tying single in the eighth inning and then lifting a sacrifice fly in the 10th to beat the Braves 5-4 Monday.
"I like those moments," Molina said.
WATCH | Cardinals top Braves in extra innings:
Molina slung his bat far into the outfield after his winning swing, and the crowd at Busch Stadium roared with the longtime heart of the franchise.
"An elite, special player, that's what he is," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
Game 5 will be Wednesday back in Atlanta. The Cardinals will have ace Jack Flaherty on the mound, and the Braves will go with Mike Foltynewicz.
"In front of our home fans on Wednesday a Game 5," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "That's what it's all about so we'll be ready to go."
Kolten Wong led off the St. Louis 10th with a ground-rule double against Julio Teheran. After Goldschmidt was intentionally walked, Wong advanced on Marcell Ozuna's forceout and easily scampered home on Molina's fly to the front of the warning track in left field.
Cause for celebration
Wong threw his hands in the air as he ran toward the plate. Molina rounded first base with his bat in hand, then flung it away as the celebration erupted. He discarded his batting helmet as the rest of the Cardinals poured onto the field.
"I lost it right there," the 37-year-old catcher said. "I think I tossed the bat in the bullpen."
Molina also made a throat-slashing gesture as he left the field. Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. made a similar motion across the top of his chest after hauling in Molina's flyball for the final out of Atlanta's 3-1 win Sunday.
Before coming up with his first career game-ending RBI in the post-season, Molina tied it at 4 with a two-out single in the eighth that went just off the top of the glove of a leaping Freeman.
"I thought it was going in there," the 6-foot-5 Freeman said. "I just needed to be 6-7."
On this day, there was no denying the nine-time All-Star in red.
Albies homered and drove in three runs for Atlanta, and Acuna Jr. had four hits. But the NL East champions went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, a continuing problem in the post-season over the past two years.
Missed opportunities for Braves
The Braves left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh. Acuna was stranded on third when Josh Donaldson flied out in the ninth.
"We're a hit away from — just some productive outs — from continuing to add on," manager Brian Snitker said.
Ozuna homered twice for St. Louis, and Goldschmidt also connected. But the NL Central champions were four outs from a second straight difficult loss before Molina delivered down the stretch.
"It's not an accident, the success that he has," Goldschmidt said. "He works really hard at it."
Albies gave Atlanta a 4-3 lead with a two-run homer off Dakota Hudson in the fifth, capping a three-run rally.
The Braves carried the advantage all the way into the eighth, but Goldschmidt doubled and Molina came up with the tying hit off Shane Greene.
"I mean, he's a ballplayer," Snitker said, handing Molina perhaps the greatest compliment that a baseball lifer will use. "He plays the game, he plays the game in front of him probably about as good as anybody in the game."