Through two games, the story of the NLCS for the St. Louis Cardinals has been pitching. A subplot to that story, however, is catching — or specifically the influence on the young Cardinal hurlers from Yadier Molina.
It’s been noticed. It’s been mentioned. And not just by the Cardinals.
Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes that Yadi’s impact “is so pervasive Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, without prompting, made several flattering mentions of him on Sunday.”
Such as when it came to the struggles at the plate thus far in the NLCS of Yasiel Puig.
Asked about Puig, 0-for-10 with six strikeouts after batting .471 in the Division Series against the Braves, Mattingly referenced how “Yadier and their pitching staff” were “kind of yo-yoing and keeping him in that rocking chair where it’s back and forth — and got him guessing a little bit. They’ve done a nice job with him. I’m sure he’s feeling pressure to do something.”
Or from Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, as Scott Miller of CBS Sports writes about in a piece on the youth and success of the Cardinals pitching staff:
“Yadier deserves a lot of credit for shepherding that young staff,” says his counterpart in this NLCS, the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis. “These guys are great. They’re super-talented. But if you don’t have a general back there …
“As an opposing catcher, you can’t help but watch. That’s why he’s the best catcher in the game.”
Of course, Yadi’s teammates are the ones who are most aware of just how impactful he’s been — all throughout the season.
“He’s involved in every aspect of the game — especially with all the young kids we have here,” Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay said. “Our pitchers trust him; everyone trusts in him. He’s arguably the best defensive player in the world, but he puts in his work every day, preparing. It sets a good example for everyone … He has all the talent in the world, and when you take into account all the things he does for the pitchers, he’s just an unbelievable player and teammate.”
Everyone watching the NLCS saw Yadi in action, and the end result of his influence, when it came to calming the starters in Games One and Two.
On Friday, “the typically unflappable” Joe Kelly, as Chad Thornburg of MLB.com writes, had an atypical beginning to the game.
As the excitement crept in, Kelly battled command issues early in the game, leading to four hits, a wild pitch, a hit batsman and two walks as the Dodgers took a two-run lead in the third inning on Juan Uribe’s single. “Emotions were flying high, and I was just excited to be pitching out there,” Kelly said. [Catcher Yadier Molina] came out and told me, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got good stuff. Try not to be too amped up right now and just try to make quality pitches.’ And that’s what I tried to do.”
And Joe was successful, as those two runs were all the Dodgers scored all night (and all series so far).
Then there was Game Two on Saturday, and specifically the top of the sixth inning — Dodgers at every base, one out, the Cardinals with a very slim 1-0 lead, Michael Wacha on the mound, Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe coming up. As Jenifer Langosch writes:
Catcher Yadier Molina made multiple mound visits during the Uribe and Puig at-bats, ensuring that Wacha tempered his emotions and that they agreed on pitch selection. Both gave emphatic fist pumps after securing that third out.
“I was just trying to get locked in with Yadier back there,” Wacha said. “I was pretty pumped up after I got a couple strikeouts there to end the inning and keep our team in the lead there.
Kelly’s praise for his catcher goes beyond just how Yadi helped him in Game One:
“He knows every pitcher better than anyone,” Kelly said. “He studies us, the other team. You go into a game knowing you have a good plan. He knows hitters’ strengths and weaknesses. Not only is he a good defender; he blocks everything in the dirt. That’s really underrated, knowing he’ll block anything you throw.”
After the off day — and after catching 22 innings in less than 24 hours in Games One and Two — Yadi will of course be behind the plate when Adam Wainwright takes the mound at Dodger Stadium for Game Three.
And he’ll be continuing the influence he’s had all season long, as the Cardinals attempt to move one step closer to the World Series.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.