Chris Conroy, Yadier Molina, Mike Matheny
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Yadier Molina exits game after getting struck with a 101-MPH foul tip

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The Cardinals lost three players to injuries during Saturday’s 8-6 win over the Cubs, including starting catcher Yadier Molina. Molina caught the first eight innings of the game before getting struck with a 101.5-MPH foul tip from Kris Bryant. The ball struck him in the lower abdomen/groin area, causing the catcher to double over and prompting an immediate visit from manager Mike Matheny and team trainers. He appears to be day-to-day for the time being, though the full extent of his injury has not been revealed.

This is the first significant injury Molina has sustained all season, though it might not be severe enough to put him on the disabled list. (Worth noting, even so: Top catching prospect Carson Kelly was scratched from his Triple-A start and is expected to join the team this weekend.) If it does, it’ll be his first stint on the DL since 2014. Prior to the injury in the ninth inning, the 35-year-old backstop went 0-for-3 with a walk against the Cubs. He’s batting a robust .279/.293/.468 with six home runs and a .762 OPS through his first 116 PA of 2018.

Molina wasn’t the only Cardinals player to make a hasty exit on Saturday. Tommy Pham was lifted in the second inning after experiencing a flare-up of lingering groin tightness and is expected to undergo further evaluation. In the 10th, closer Bud Norris was also removed from the game when he felt some tightness in his right triceps. Neither Pham nor Norris are likely to be placed on the disabled list, though that could change depending on how smoothly their recovery goes over the next few days.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.