Yadier Molina, man. Will that guy ever retire? I mean... now would be a good time.
Seems like Molina is always either doing something to hurt the Cubs or at least entertain Cubs fans, and Saturday night was the former. Molina’s home run off Adbert Alzolay in the seventh inning was the difference in a 2-1 Cubs loss to the Cardinals.
Just how long has Molina been around?
Yadier Molina's first 4 home runs against the Cubs were off Carlos Zambrano, Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly & Rich Harden— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 23, 2021
And he's still doing it, with one off Adbert Alzolay tonight
Saturday night’s, in case you care, was his 18th career long ball off Cubs pitching.
Speaking of Cubs pitching, Saturday night might have been the game where Alzolay really established himself as a major-league starter. He threw seven innings for the first time in his career and, except for two mistakes, dominated the Cardinals. One mistake was Molina’s home run, the other a two-out triple by Edmundo Sosa in the fifth. Sosa eventually scored. Beyond that, though — Alzolay threw an efficient 86 pitches in his seven frames, 70 for strikes. He didn’t walk anyone, and:
Adbert Alzolay has walked just 4.1% of batters, which is the eighth-best mark in MLB of pitchers with at least 40 IP.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) May 23, 2021
Over his last three starts, he's struck out 15 with zero walks in 18 innings.
These are SUPER encouraging trends. Should get better HR/FB% luck eventually too.
Matt Clapp is right. One of the things that had been holding Alzolay back until now was his lack of command and control, but he really seems to have found that, not only over his last three starts as noted, but over the entire season. His seven walks in 44 total innings this year contribute to a WHIP of 0.864, which would rank seventh in the NL if Adbert were a qualified starter (he’s one inning short of qualifying). That would rank just ahead of... Yu Darvish (0.878).
So that’s a good takeaway from this game. The bad part is that the Cubs went 1-for-7 with RISP and left eight men on base, including RISP in the first and fourth innings.
There are a couple of highlights worth looking at from this loss.
First, Javier Báez’ RBI single in the first inning [VIDEO].
Here are all six of Alzolay’s strikeouts [VIDEO].
And here is what was the Cubs’ final chance to tie the game up. With two out in the ninth, Nico Hoerner hit a little squibber up the third-base line [VIDEO].
You can see the ball start to begin to edge back toward fair territory just as Nolan Arenado picks it up. Umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled it fair, and, well... I guess you can see it just barely touching the third-base chalk. Such plays are not reviewable, so Nico had a gift infield hit. For a moment, I thought the Cubs might have caught one of the biggest breaks of the year, but pinch-hitter Nick Martini flied to left to end the game.
This was one of those “tip your cap to the other guy” type of games. The Cubs got great pitching from Alzolay (and one scoreless inning from Keegan Thompson), but couldn’t get any offense going against Miles Mikolas (who left the game with an injury), Daniel Ponce de Leon, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes.
One last thing I found odd about this game: David Bote was sent up to bat for Matt Duffy leading off the seventh. There was no explanation nor can I find any postgame comment on why Duffy would have left the game. Bote was called out on strikes, then Eric Sogard batted for him in the ninth.
They’ve still got a chance to get out of St. Louis with a series win by taking Sunday night’s game. It will not be easy as yet another longtime Cubs nemesis, Adam Wainwright, will go for the Cardinals. Zach Davies, who has been very good this month, gets the start for the Cubs. It’s the ESPN Sunday night game with a starting time of 6:08 p.m. CT.