ST. LOUIS – Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina leads the National League in batting and has put himself in the early discussion for MVP honors, at least in the eyes of St. Louis right-hander Jake Westbrook.
Molina hit his fifth home run and Westbrook pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in the St. Louis Cardinals' 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. Molina said the blast was somewhat of a surprise to him.
"Sometimes you get lucky," he said. "That was lucky."
Westbrook (3-2) worked around trouble almost the entire night in his second start since coming off the disabled list with a sore elbow. He gave up no earned runs, striking out two and walking three.
Edward Mujica pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save in 21 attempts.
Westbrook said if he voted for MVP, his battery mate would get the nod.
"With the way he's been hitting, but more importantly the way he's handled us as a staff and the way we've been pitching," Westbrook said. "He, in my mind, is the reason for that."
Molina is hitting .365 and is pulling away from the field. Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, who is on the disabled list, is second at .347. Molina is just outside of the top 10 in RBIs (41). He's also guides a Cardinals pitching staff that has the major leagues' second-best ERA (3.28).
Edwin Jackson (3-9) was pulled after he hit Jon Jay following Molina's blast to left field. He pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits. He struck out one and walked two.
He was going for his third consecutive victory and was pleased with his performance. He wasn't even unhappy with the ball that Molina homered on.
"I thought it was a pretty good pitch, but either he was looking for it or he guessed right or it was right in his zone," Jackson said. "Either way, he hit it for a home run. But I threw my pitch with conviction and it was the pitch I wanted to throw. Sometimes it happens in a game."
Allen Craig reached in the fifth after second baseman's Darwin Barney's throw on the back end of a double-play attempt went to the Cardinals dugout. Molina drove a 1-2 pitch just over the outfield wall to improve to 9 for 15 with three homers against Jackson.
Jay went to third on a hit-and-run with Daniel Descalso singling to right and scored on a hit from Pete Kozma to give St. Louis a 4-1 lead.
Westbrook retired the Cubs in order in the first and seventh innings, allowing at least one runner to reach in the five innings between. He faced the minimum in three of those five innings. Two runners were erased on inning-ending double plays and Luis Valbuena was caught stealing on a pitch out for the first out of the third.
"He was good," Molina said of Westbrook. "That sinker was moving a lot."
Westbrook lasted just five innings in his return Friday at Miami. He gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits in a loss.
"I felt good," Westbrook said. "I was throwing a really good sinker, tonight. I was locating it a lot better than the last start."
Anthony Rizzo opened the second with a single and went to third when second baseman Matt Carpenter's throw to start a potential double play sailed over the Kozma's head and into leftfield. Rizzo tagged up on a sacrifice fly from Barney and scored after knocking the ball out of Molina's glove.
Carpenter singled to start the first and scored on Craig's hit to center.
NOTES: The Cardinals earned at least a split of the four-game series. ... Jackson's exit with one out in the fifth snapped a five-game streak in which the Cubs' rotation recorded a quality start and a seven-game stretch in which it went at least six innings. ... Craig is hitting .431 with runners in scoring position. ... Rizzo's single in the second ended a 0-10 streak. ... Molina was assessed with his third error of the year for dropping the ball in the second and allowing Ryan Sweeney and Welington Castillo to advance. He had three all of last season. ... Major League Baseball made two scoring changes from the Cardinals' game June 11 at the New York Mets. It rewarded Molina a double rather than an error as originally scored and changed an error assessed to 3B David Freese to a hit for David Wright.