Molina’s early double, Cardinals pitching stops Marlins 4-1

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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MIAMI — Yadier Molina hit a bases-loaded double during a three-run first inning, Daniel Ponce de Leon and the St. Louis bullpen protected the lead, and the Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 4-1 Monday night.

Molina drove in two runs with his 382nd double, moving past Hall of Famer Johnny Bench for eighth place on the career list among catchers.

“Not surprised, he’s earned every bit the right to be among the company of the greats,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “It means a lot to him. It’s well deserved.”

Ponce de Leon (1-0) allowed one run and three hits in five innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked one and hit Starling Marte twice. He relied on fastballs to shut down Marlins hitters as only 10 of his 93 pitches were off-speed.

“You love to go out there with all your weapons and fire exactly as you own them,” Shildt said. “But some days it doesn’t happen and the art of pitching is making adjustments and of course, Yadi is back there.”

St. Louis got a perfect sixth from Jordan Hicks and two scoreless innings from Giovanni Gallegos. Alex Reyes closed it with a scoreless ninth for his first save.

The performance by Cardinals pitchers helped overcome a difficult weekend in Cincinnati, where they allowed 27 runs in losing two of three games.

Miami starter Trevor Rogers (0-1) walked four batters in the first, propelling St. Louis to its early advantage. Rogers allowed two hits, struck out six and didn’t walk another batter after the first. He went four innings.

“I had a real tough time just trying to calm myself down,” Rogers said. “Probably the main thing was I was trying to strike them out on the first pitch, which isn’t possible.”

Tommy Edman led off the St. Louis fifth with a home run against John Curtiss.

“I wasn’t looking for a slider, he had thrown me a good one earlier in the at bat,” Edman said. “He hung one there on the 2-2 (pitch).”

The Marlins scored on Marte’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.

“We had the (roof) open tonight,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “You just don’t know what the wind does here honestly. We don’t play with it open that often. It’s nice when it’s open, but you don’t really know what it does. Not sure if it was knocking it down or not.”

QUIET NIGHT FOR CARDINALS INFIELDERS

De Leon and the three relievers induced 12 flyball outs and struck out six. Edman didn’t receive a chance at second base.

“Ponce is a flyball-strikeout pitcher,” Edman said. “We don’t get too many groundballs there. Obviously, you’ve got to stay ready.”

TRAINER’S ROOM:

Cardinals: (LHP) Kwang Hyun Kim (back stiffness) will throw in a game against minor leaguers Tuesday at the club’s spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla. Shildt said Kim is expected to throw approximately 75 pitches.

Marlins: OF-IF Garrett Cooper (reaction to second COVID-19 vaccine) was placed on the injured list. RHP Jordan Holloway will take Cooper’s spot on the roster. . The club also placed RHP Elieser Hernandez (right bicep inflammation) on the 10-day injured list and recalled RHP Nick Neidert.

UP NEXT:

Cardinals: RHP (John Gant, 0-3, 2.40 in 2020) will start the middle game of the series on Tuesday.

Marlins: RHP Sandy Alcantara (0-0, 0.00) will make his second start Tuesday after he pitched six scoreless innings in the season opener April 1.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.