Honestly, I don’t think that Matt Albers intended to throw him a strike.
The game was tied at 1 in the seventh inning. The Cards had the potential lead run on first with one out, and Yadier Molina was at the plate. Matt threw him that sinker, but down and almost off of his kneecaps. So, I think Matt’s surprise was understandable as he watched Yadi golf the pitch off the foul-pole in left for the game-deciding home run (in an eventual 6-3 win).
Sometimes it is tempting to think that the best thing to do with Yadi is to throw the ball right down the middle. His first time up, Adrian Houser’s first pitch to him was a fastball right down the middle, that Molina swung through. Of course, the pitch that Devin Williams threw him in the ninth was also right down the middle – and Yadi drilled it into the gap in right-center for a double.
Statistically, what you want to do is throw ball one with the first pitch. Yadi hits .290 (64 for 221) with all 7 of his home runs in at bats that begin with first-pitch strikes. But when the first pitch is ball one, Molina goes on to hit .217/.277/.283 (20 for 92 with just 6 doubles).
This trend has been more pronounced since Yadier returned from his injury. He is 2 for 15 (.133) when the first pitch to him misses. But if you start his at bat throwing strikes – or even pitches close enough that Yadi might consider it a strike – then Molina has hit .378 (14 for 37) with 5 extra-bases, including 3 home runs – a .676 slugging percentage.
Certainly, when Yadi is hot, too many pitches too close to the strike zone is living dangerously.
And Yadi is certainly hot.
Molina is now riding a five-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .500 (10 for 20) with a double and 3 home runs. He has driven in 7 runs and is slugging an even 1.000 during the streak. He has also hit safely in 8 of his last 9. In those games, Yadi is 14 for 31 with 5 extra-base hits and 7 walks – a line of .452/.553/.806.
In 14 games since he came off the injured list, Molina is hitting .308 (16 for 52) and slugging .519.
Also heating up is Harrison Bader. With three hits last night, Bader has 5 over the last two games. He has hit in 5 straight as well (8 for 19) with 2 doubles and a home run. He has driven in 5 runs over the 5 games, with a .421 batting average and a .684 slugging percentage.
Harrison is hitting .360 (9 for 25) since his recall from Memphis.
And speaking of hot, with two more hits last night, Marcell Ozuna extended his hitting streak to 8 games. In those games, Marcell is 14 for 30, with 2 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs. He has 10 runs batted in to go with a .467 average and an .800 slugging percentage. Marcell has also now hit in 11 of 12, hitting .413 (19 for 46).
The hot streak has pushed Ozuna’s August average up to .321 and his slugging percentage this month up to .556. In 23 August games, Ozuna is 26 for 81 with 4 home runs and 15 runs batted in.
After sitting out a couple of games to nurse a toe injury, Kolten Wong came off the bench late and looked as though he had never been out of the lineup. With his 2-for-2, Wong is 5 for 16 (.313) over his last 5 games. Wong leads the team in batting for the month (.338) and in the second half (.350 on 42-for-120 hitting).
Cooling off a little lately is Dexter Fowler. Hitless in 3 at bats last night, Dex is 3 for 18 (.167) over his last 5 games – albeit with 4 runs batted in.
Very good last night, Miles Mikolas is still already approaching most of the career highs he set last year. Up now to 27 starts, Miles is only 5 behind the 32 he made last year. After allowing 186 hits last year, Miles has given 165 already this year.
His 10 strikeouts last night bring him to 119 for the season – giving him a shot at the 146 he struck out last year.
Along with his two singles, Ozuna also grounded into a double play. He has now bounced into 15 this season. His career high is the 18 he hit into in 2017.
In addition to his three extra-base hits, Molina also drew a walk – just his sixteenth of the season. It was also the 500th walk of his career. A notably aggressive hitter, it should surprise no one that it took him 1955 games and 7538 plate appearances to reach that milestone.
Molina drove in the game-winning run in both the first two games in Milwaukee. He now joins Tommy Edman and Jose Martinez for fourth on the team with 5. Ozuna still leads with 12, followed by Paul Goldschmidt (11) and Paul DeJong (6).
In the game last night, Wong matched the 127 games he played all of last year. With two more runs batted in, Kolten has reached the 50 mark for just the second time in his career. He now has a reasonable shot at his career high of 61 set in 2015. His stolen base brought him to two short of his career high of 20 set in 2014.