ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received two awards for his defense before Saturday's game with the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his offense that stole the show.
Molina went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer to lead the Cardinals to a 7-3 win over Milwaukee. Molina has 10 four-hit games in his career, the last coming on May 22, 2011, against Kansas City.
He has always been known for his defense as evidenced by the pregame presentation of his fourth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove as a catcher and the inaugural Rawlings Platinum Glove awarded to the game's best overall fielder. Now he has become a force offensively as well, hitting .305 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs last season, all career highs.
But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Molina still knows what is most important.
"I know where he stacks his priorities," Matheny said. "His first responsibility is taking care of his pitching staff and doing what he needs to behind the plate. It's almost like a separate personality when he grabs the bat. It's two different games for him."
The multi-hit game was the eighth for Molina this season. His home run to left field with one out in the sixth off Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada (0-1) broke a 3-3 tie and earned him a curtain call.
"It's nice," Molina said. "When you got the best fans in baseball screaming your name it makes you feel good."
Beyond that, Molina wasn't too excited about his performance.
"It feels good to get the win," he said. "I don't look at my stats. I look at the end of the game. We got the win. That's a good day."
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke has seen Molina have plenty of those.
"I'm seeing the same guy," Roenicke said. "He killed us last year. He battles you; he's very hard to strike out."
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse also battled.
Lohse, who entered the game with a 0.99 ERA, tripled his walk total for the season by allowing four base on balls. He gave up six hits and three runs while striking out five.
He is 4-0 for the first time, and the Cardinals have won three straight to extend their lead over the Brewers to five games in the NL Central.
"It was one of those struggles. I didn't have the command I've had," Lohse said. "I made pitches when I had to, but I wasn't quite as sharp as I've been."
Cardinals third baseman David Freese celebrated his 29th birthday with a solo home run. Freese has a hit in 15 of the 17 games he's started and has driven in 20 runs.
Jon Jay had three hits, including an RBI single, and a stolen base for the Cardinals.
Estrada gave up five runs (four earned) with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings. Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez had solo home runs for the Brewers.
"I felt pretty good," Estrada said. "They're a good hitting team. They capitalized on the mistakes I made."
Before Saturday, Lohse had not allowed a run in the first five innings of any of his previous four starts. Ramirez ended that streak when he hit a 396-foot, home run into right center-field bleachers with one out in the fourth to make it 2-1.
Freese answered that with a 407-foot shot to the same area leading off the bottom of the inning. But Gonzalez led off the fifth with a homer, and the Brewers tied it when Lohse walked Gonzalez with two outs in the sixth to load the bases, then walked George Kottaras to force in a run.
Notes: Ramirez, who has a six-game hitting streak, is batting .361 (13-for-36) in his last 10 games after batting .103 (4-for-39) in his first 10. ... Jay has an eight-game hitting streak and six hits in the first two games of the series. ... Milwaukee leads the National League with 29 home runs.