The St. Louis Cardinals evened the National League Championship Series at a game apiece with a win on Sunday. Now, as the series shifts to San Francisco for Game 3, they'll to get by without their team leader.
Catcher Yadier Molina left Sunday night's game in the sixth inning after he hit into a double play. He never made it out of the batter's box and was doubled over in pain before gingerly walking to the dugout.
Molina is listed as day-to-day and will remain on the team's roster but AJ Pierzynski will start in his place in Game 3. Had the Cardinals opted to remove him, Molina would have been ineligible for the World Series should the Cardinals get there.
"That's a tough rule with having to lose him not just the rest of this (series), but if we were fortunate enough to move on, we wouldn't have him, as well," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Right now it's just looking at what he could bring to the table and he could bring the ability to come into a game and help us out defensively, and hopefully improve to the point where we could use him offensively, as well. We don't know. It's just to make a knee jerk reaction right now, I don't think is the best decision for our club."
Molina actually hinted that he could be ready to go behind the plate on Tuesday.
"I woke up moving a little better," Molina said. "I feel good enough to catch."
Pierzynski caught Game 3 starter John Lackey 18 times this season while both were in Boston and twice more since they've been in St. Louis.
"I do a lot of my own work as far as video and that sort of thing, but when you lose a guy of (Molina's) caliber, there's always going to be a hole for sure," Lackey said. "He's probably the best in the game back there and a pleasure to throw to. We've still got to get out there and compete and give it a run."
Lackey was acquired from the Boston Red Sox at the non-waiver trade deadline and struggled a bit, going 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts. After dealing with a tired arm, Lackey did end the year strong, allowing just three earned runs over his final two starts, spanning 14 1/3 innings.
He was also terrific in his NLDS start, as he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to a run and five hits over seven innings.
St. Louis got itself back into this series on Sunday, as it continued to follow an unfamiliar script, as Kolten Wong's walkoff home run, the Cardinals fourth home run of the night, was the difference in the 5-4 win.
"To hit a home run at this stage, especially a walk-off home run, it was definitely my top home run I've hit ever," Wong said.
No NL team hit less home runs than the Cardinals' 105 during the season, but they have smacked a league-best 11 this postseason with 17 of their 23 runs scored in the playoffs coming via the longball.
"You know, throughout the season, people were worried about our power," first baseman Matt Adams said. "But we knew inside the clubhouse that we didn't lose any power. We just have to go up there and have good at-bats, and we know the home runs will come."
A lot of their damage has come late, as from the seventh inning on this postseason, the Cardinals are hitting .394 with seven home runs.
Carpenter continued his amazing postseason on Sunday with his fourth home run of the playoffs.
He has now hit half as many homers in six playoff games (24 at-bats) as he did in the 162-game regular season (595 at-bats).
Heading to the hill for the Giants on Tuesday will be righty Tim Hudson, who will be making his first-ever LCS start. After struggling for most of the second half, Hudson turned in a solid effort in his NLDS start against the Washington Nationals, as he allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
The outing was a sharp contrast to how he ended the year, throwing to an 8.64 ERA over his final four starts.
"It's exciting," Hudson said. "Obviously, it's the first time I've been here in the NLCS. So, yeah, I'm thrilled for the opportunity to come out here and give us a good chance to win. I feel good, where I am physically, and coming off a confidence -building start against the Nationals was something that I was really looking for."
The Giants took four of their seven meetings during the season with the Cardinals, outscoring them, 30-20. The teams, though, haven't played since July 3.
San Francisco has played the Cardinals three other times in the playoffs. St. Louis edged the Giants in a thrilling seven-game series in 1987, but San Francisco has beaten the Cards both in 2002 and 2012.