ST. LOUIS – Known for his defense, Yadier Molina is putting together an impressive offensive season.
Molina had two more hits Monday night against the Cubs, including a two-run double, to help the Cardinals to a 5-2 win in the opener of a four-game series. Those two hits raised his average to a National League best .355.
Although Molina has topped the .300 mark the past two seasons, hitting .305 in 2011 and a career-best .315 last season, he seems to be at a different level in 2013, though he appears afraid to he might jinx himself.
"Next question," Molina said when asked about leading the league in hitting. "I'm glad we got the win for Shelby [Miller]. At the same time, he pitched pretty good."
After waiting out a rain delay of 1 hour, 59 minutes to start the game, Miller (8-4) pitched five scoreless innings to get the win for the Cardinals. He left after five innings with cramps in his right leg.
"He did a great job," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "Had a little warning there that his calf had tightened up (and) we didn't know exactly what we were dealing with. We found out it's just a cramp. He should be fine."
Miller allowed just two hits and struck out five in the shortest start of his career. His previous shortest stint was 5 1/3 innings at Los Angeles on May 26.
"I guess I was a little dehydrated this week," Miller said. "But if feels OK. We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Kevin Siegrist and Seth Manness followed Miller and combined for two shutout innings before Trevor Rosenthal allowed a run in the eighth on a broken bat single by Nate Schierholtz. Edward Mujica gave up a homer to Darwin Barney with two outs in the ninth, but still earned his 20th save in 20 opportunities.
Shane Robinson and Allen Craig added sacrifice flies for the Cardinals, who moved back to a major league best 20 games over .500 (45-25).
The Cubs fell to 8-22 against the National League Central, the lowest winning percentage by any team in its own division (.266). The Cubs are 5-23 when they score three runs or less, including Travis Wood's last three starts. Wood (5-6) was again a hard-luck loser, as he gave up four runs on seven hits. He has dropped three straight games despite having a 2.70 ERA in those contests.
It's tough for the team," Wood said. "We're scratching and clawing trying to get everything we can right now and trying to put together quality ball games.
"We're falling a little short right now, but it's a good group of guys. We're going to eventually get it together and string together some wins."
Molina was happy the Cardinals were able to break through against Wood.
"He beat us in Chicago," Molina said. "Tonight, we executed pretty good.
The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday started the inning with singles, and Beltran then went to third on Craig's long fly out to right. Molina then drove both Beltran and Holiday home with a double to the gap in right center.
St. Louis began the seventh the same way, with Molina and David Freese getting singles. Molina would score on a throwing error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Freese came home on Robinson's sacrifice fly.
Craig's sacrifice fly in the eighth gave the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
NOTES: The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (10-3) will try to become the Major League's first 11-game winner when he opposes Jeff Samardzija (3-7) in the second game of the series Tuesday. ... Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected with one in the seventh inning after arguing with home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn over whether Molina had eluded Wood's tag. "It's a big play in the game at that time," Sveum said. "He blocks the plate and gets there. It's just an out call." St. Louis is 17-7 in the first game of a series. ... Schierholtz has a nine-game hitting streak, equaling his career best.