ST. LOUIS – The end of an era is nearing. This weekend marks the last time that Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright will take the field at Busch Stadium as St. Louis Cardinals teammates in a non-postseason format.
Pujols and Molina will wrap up their lengthy and dominant MLB careers when the 2022 season comes to an end. Wainwright has not yet announced his future plans beyond this year.
In seven full seasons as teammates, from 2006 to 2011 and in 2022, the Pujols-Molina-Wainwright trio set a standard that might not ever be matched again in Cardinals history. The three shattered baseball records and won two World Series titles together while taking pride in many charitable efforts off-the-field.
FOX 2 explores some of the top moments in the careers of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in a three-part digital series throughout the final homestand. Part II: Yadier Molina.
19 MLB seasons played (2004-2022)2,220 games/2,181 games caught18,275 innings caught381 runners caught stealing (40% CS)69 pickoffs.278 batting average (2,168 hits)176 home runs1,021 RBIs777 runs71 stolen bases
June 2000: The St. Louis Cardinals select Yadier Molina in the fourth round of the MLB draft as the 113th overall pick. Oct. 2002: Yadier Molina’s brothers Bengie and José Molina win their first World Series titles with the Anaheim Angels. Their youngest brother would win one four years later to become the only trio of brothers in history with Fall Classic championships.
June 3: After three-plus minor league seasons, Molina gets the call for a memorable Major League debut. Molina picks up his first pair of MLB hits at PNC Park against Pittsburgh Pirates starter Oliver Perez. Molina catches a full nine innings in his first start and guides Cardinals veteran Woody Williams to a 4-2 win. He also throws out Jack Wilson as his first caught-stealing victim. Molina’s first start in front of a St. Louis crowd comes the next day at Busch Stadium II. Aug. 7: Molina enjoys his first walkoff hit in a 2-1 win over the New York Mets. It happens in his first at-bat after he entered the game as a defensive substitute. Sept. 23: Molina smacks his first career home run off of Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Matt Wise. The eighth-inning round-tripper stood as the game-winner in a 4-2 Cardinals victory. Oct. 17-27: Molina gets his first taste of postseason. His first action comes in Game 4 of the NLCS. Ten days later, he starts his first World Series, a win-or-go-home Game 4 that the Cardinals dropped on behalf of a four-game sweep from the Boston Red Sox. Embracing the big stage as a rookie gives the Cardinals confidence to build around Molina as their catcher of the future and longtime starter Mike Matheny departs in the offseason.
April 5: Molina makes his first of 18 straight Opening Day starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, the start of a franchise-record among St. Louis position players. He catches a full nine innings and guides eventual Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter to his first victory of the season. Aug. 19-20: Molina pulls off late-game heroics in two home games against the San Francisco Giants, a three-run home run on Aug. 19 and a suicide squeeze bunt on Aug. 20, among the first of his career. The Cardinals win both games en route to 100 season wins. End Reg. Season: Molina finishes the season with nine pickoffs and a 64% caught-stealing rate, both which remain his personal season-bests. Oct. 19: Molina flies out to right field in the final out ever recorded at Busch Stadium II. The Cardinals lose 5-1 and drop the NLCS in six games. A tough moment, but the moment is a sign of Molina’s longevity. He is the last remaining active catcher to have played at Busch II.
March: Molina represents his native Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic for the first time. Prior to the new season, he also changes his jersey number permanently from No. 41 to No. 4. May 27: Molina ends the game with a pickoff for the first time in his career, catching San Diego Padres outfielder Brian Giles off guard to secure a 4-3 road victory. Oct. 19: Coming off of a tough offensive season, resulting in a career-low .216 batting average, Molina plays hero with one of the biggest hits of his career. In the ninth inning of a winner-take-all Game 7, Molina broke a 1-1 tie in dramatic fashion. He launched a two-run home run off New York Mets relief pitcher Aaron Heilman. Molina guides then-rookie Adam Wainwright out of a bases loaded jam, retiring frequent postseason hero Carlos Beltran to help the Cardinals advance to the World Series. The home run is often remembered as a stepping stone in Molina’s offensive improvements as a catcher. Oct. 27: Eight days after the heroics, Molina and Wainwright work together once again to secure the 2006 World Series for the Cardinals. Molina started each of the Cardinals’ 16 games in the postseason and capped off the title-clinching game with a three-hit night.
April 6, 2007: It’s the first time with a starting battery of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in a 15-year marathon to MLB’s battery record. Wainwright hurls seven innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts in his first MLB start. Molina catches all nine innings and guides the way with nine putouts and a double play for a 4-2 road victory over the Astros. Aug. 16, 2007: Molina slugs his first multi-home run game, picking up a pair off of Brewers starter Dave Bush. The Cardinals cruise to an 8-0 win over the Brewers. Sept. 19, 2007: Molina comes up clutch on his own bobblehead night. He picks up three hits, including a walkoff tenth-inning single for a 2-1 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies. Jan. 14, 2008: Molina agrees to a four-year, $15 million deal with the Cardinals, the first multi-year deal of his career.June 22, 2008: Molina makes a start at first base to give Albert Pujols a breather, the first and only time he starts any position other than catcher over his first five seasons. End 2008: Molina earns his first of nine Gold Gloves behind an MLB-leading seven pickoffs and a 35% caught-stealing percentage. July 13, 2009: Molina earns his first All-Star selection, fittingly at Busch Stadium, joined by Pujols and Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin. Unlike the norm, Molina caught eight innings in the game and also drove in a run. The NL All-Stars still lost 4-3. July 18, 2009: Molina comes out of the break in All-Star form and rips his first four-hit game. The Cardinals win 11-7.April 5, 2010: Molina blasts his first-ever Opening Day grand slam en route to help the Cardinals top the Cincinnati Reds 11-6. April 17, 2010: Molina plays all 20 innings (yes, 20) in a marathon matinee with the New York Mets. It’s the most innings he ever logs in a game. The Mets persevere for a 2-1 win, but Molina goes 3-for-9 with the lone Cardinals RBI in the game.Sept. 17, 2010: Molina goes to work with a four-hit, five-RBI game against the Padres. It’s one of his most productive offense games ever and leads the Cardinals to a 14-4 win. Off-the-field: Molina launches the Fundación 4 foundation. The nonprofit aims to enrich lives and provide opportunities for underprivileged children in his native Puerto Rico, in addition to supporting the country during natural disasters.
May 15-18: Molina strings together four consecutive multi-hit games for the first time, a feat he later repeats during a stretch run in late-September. Aug. 25-Sept. 28: The Cardinals overcome a 10.5-game deficit out of a postseason spot and secure the NL Wild Card game on the final day of regular season. Molina played 27 of 31 games in that stretch and heats up with .341 batting average in August and September. October: Molina proves a catalyst on both sides of the plate as the Cardinals make an improbable run to the World Series. He steals out three-of-four Texas Rangers baserunners and picks up 8 RBIs, driving in the final run of the Fall Classic. The Cardinals overcome a 3-2 series deficit, down to their final strike twice in Game 6, to secure their 11th World Series championship. Molina becomes the first Cardinals catcher to compete in five postseasons and works behind the plate for each of the three postseason series-advancing moments. November: Molina wins his fourth straight Gold Glove and the inaugural NL Platinum Glove Award. The later recognizes the best defender in each league, and Molina wins it in four of the first five seasons.
March 1, 2012: Molina signs a five-year contract extension with the Cardinals worth $75 million through 2017. The deal makes him the second-highest paid catchers in the majors. May 1, 2012: Molina puts his wheels and instincts to the with the first two-stolen base game of his career. He ends the season with a personal-best 12 stolen bases. End 2012: Molina ends the season with a personal-best 22 home runs and his fifth straight Gold Glove honor. The breakout campaign marks his first of two straight Top-4 NL MVP finishes. He also guns down a career-high 35 runners in caught stealing attempts. June 18, 2013: Molina picks up a three-hit game to improve his batting average to .367, his highest mark ever through the first two-plus months of a season. It comes during a stretch where he leads the National League in batting average for nearly half of the season. He ends with a .319 batting average and 80 RBIs, both career-bests.Sept. 24, 2013: To date, it’s the closest Molina has ever come to catching a no-hitter. Rookie Michael Wacha fires 8 2/3 no-hit innings before losing the bid to Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman. Molina also drives in one of the game’s two runs in a near-history-making Cardinals win. End 2013: Molina paces Cardinals rookie pitchers to 36 victories, one of his most successful in guiding first-year arms. And the accolades are abundant. Five straight All-Star bids, six straight Gold Gloves, his first Silver Slugger award and the only Top-3 MVP finish of his career.
March 31, 2014: Molina busts a late scoreless tie on Opening Day with a seventh-inning solo home run. It stands as the game-winner and only run scored in a road victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The win also gives Molina and frequent battery mate Wainwright 100 wins together in starts. Oct. 4, 2014: Molina works back into postseason form after a midseason thumb injury and picks up his 89th career postseason hit. That passes Albert Pujols for the franchise record, one which Molina has since extended to 101 knocks. 2015: Molina deals with a second surgery on his left thumb in as many years, but Molina still wins his eighth consecutive Gold Glove and fourth Platinum Glove honor. April 8, 2016: Molina breaks the Cardinals’ all-time games caught record with his 1,440th game behind the plate. He has since increased that led to more than 2,000. The moment was symbolic of a durable season that also leads Molina to a career-high 147 games and 1,218.1 innings, caught. March 2017: Molina signs a three-year, $60 million contract extension with the intent of retiring as a Cardinal. He returns on a pair of one-year deals after the 2020 season. Aug. 9, 2017: Molina delivers a go-ahead grand slam at Busch Stadium just moments after a cat runs onto the field, a moment Cardinals fans frequently dub as the “Rally Cat” game.
June 19, 2018: Molina sets the MLB record for most games caught with one team. Behind the plate for his 1,757 time, he passes former Cubs backstop Gabby Hartnett. The Cardinals fall 6-5 to the Phillies in extra innings, but Molina does his part with three hits in the effort.June 20-23, 2018: Molina slugs a pair of two-home run games against the Phillies and Brewers. The power surge gives him five home runs over a six-game stretch. End Reg. Season 2018: Molina finishes with a personal-best .998 fielding percentage at catcher and earns his ninth Gold Glove, his first such honor in three years. Oct. 24, 2018: Molina wins the Roberto Clemente Award for his work through Fundación 4, providing aid to victims from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. April 1, 2019: Molina makes his first appearance at third base in an extra-inning marathon. It’s the only time he has taken the field other than a catcher or first baseman, aside from one later mentioned moment in his sendoff season. Oct. 7, 2019: On the brink of elimination in the NLDS, Molina rose to the occasion. In Game 4, he sparks the Cardinals to a comeback win with a walk-off, tenth inning single against Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran. Oct. 9, 2019: In the same postseason series, Molina sets a record for the most appearances by a National League player in the postseason with 94 games. It comes in a 13-1 blowout win (and a historic 10-run first inning) to help St. Louis advance to the NLCS.
Sept. 24, 2020: A pandemic-shortened campaign challenges Molina to attain a rare Cardinals milestone. In the final home stand of the truncated season, Molina singles for his 2,000th career hit. It comes in the seventh inning of a Cardinals’ 4-2 win against Brewers relief pitcher Justin Topa. Molina remains reliable, starting behind the plate in 24 of 27 September contests in a marathon 58-game season.April 14, 2021: Molina catches his 2,000th career game with the Cardinals. He’s the only backstop in MLB history with at least that many having just played for one team. Aug. 24, 2021: Molina signs a one-year contract extension and officially announces his plans to retire after the 2022 season. Sept. 3, 2021: Molina and Wainwright make their 300th career start as an MLB battery, becoming just the fourth duo to reach that feat and setting up a record-chasing campaign in 2022.
April 7: The final of 18 consecutive Opening Day starts for Yadier Molina, a St. Louis Cardinals franchise record. Molina and Wainwright kick off the quest to MLB’s most-common starting battery by matching fourth-place all-time. St. Louis earns a 9-0 victory and Wainwright wins his 100th game at Busch Stadium III. May 15: Molina and Wainwright go to work for a primetime Sunday Night Baseball contest and it delivers history this season in the first of two ways. A win against the Giants gives the Cardinals 203 wins with Molina and Wainwright as a starting battery, helping the duo become the most-triumphant in MLB history. It’s also the first time Albert Pujols pitches in his farewell tour, setting up an interesting situation for Molina just one week later. May 22: With an 18-run lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Molina takes the mound for his first appearance as a pitcher. Like Pujols the week before, he gives up four earned runs, but closes out the final frame of the game. Molina makes a second pitching appearance on June 8 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sept. 8: The history-matching start for Molina and Wainwright comes at Busch Stadium, like many others leading up to it. While the Nationals play spoiler, Molina unleashes for likely the final two-home run game of his MLB career. Sept. 14: A record that might never be broken. Molina and Wainwright make their 325th career start as a MLB battery, officially passing Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan of the Detroit Tigers for the top spot. Molina picks up one hit and Wainwright tosses five innings in a 4-1 win over the division rival Brewers amid a postseason push. Sept. 29: Days after the Cardinals clinch their last division title and postseason ticket with Molina, he announces he will manage his native Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. It comes after appearance in four previous WBC tournaments.
Part I of the St. Louis Cardinals Legends Timelines: Adam Wainwright (Friday, Sept. 30)
Part III of the St. Louis Cardinals Legends Timelines: Albert Pujols (Sunday, Oct. 2)