CHICAGO – Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals are taking charge of the NL Central by grinding out tough, ugly wins.
And bouncing back after absorbing some unpleasant blows.
Molina overcame a painful foul tip to get three of St. Louis' four hits, including a two-run single, and the Cardinals held off the fading Chicago Cubs 2-1 on Friday.
“We're playing good baseball right now,” Molina said. “We can get a little better doing the little things, but we're winning games. That's all that matters right now.”
Carlos Martínez got the final two outs, and the Cardinals stretched their NL Central lead to 31/2 games over Milwaukee and five games over Chicago. The Cubs were 11/2 games behind the Brewers for the second wild card before Milwaukee's game against Pittsburgh on Friday.
Chicago has totaled nine runs in four straight losses. The Cardinals have won the first two games of this key four-game set, and they'll play the Cubs five more times over their final eight games.
The Cubs scored their run following an error in the second, and the Cardinals rallied in the sixth.
David Phelps (2-1), the second of eight Cubs relievers, walked Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna to start the inning. Steve Cishek took over and walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases before Molina grounded a 2-2 pitch up the middle.
“I pride myself on being able to command the baseball,” Phelps said. “Going out and doing that is embarrassing.”
Manager Joe Maddon and his players have no explanation for the slump, which comes on the heels of a five-game winning streak when the Cubs outscored opponents 59-18.
“We have to somehow get more consistent offensively,” Maddon said. “When the opportunities come up, we have to take advantage of them. We've had some good at-bats.”