PHOENIX – The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled to get that one big hit they have needed recently, particularly during a three-game weekend sweep by Atlanta.
Yadier Molina came through early in a key situation, sparking the Cardinals to a play-from-ahead victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Molina hit a two-run single in the first inning and homered, helping the Cardinals end a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday night.
“Yadie comes through and he’s got a knack for that and has for a long time,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Then the other guys just kept coming.”
The Cardinals played from behind most of their series against the Braves, but jumped on the Diamondbacks early.
Molina hit a two-run single in the Cardinals’ four-run first inning against Robbie Ray (3-1) and hit his 12th homer off the Arizona left-hander in the sixth.
Jedd Gyorko also homered and had two RBIs to end Ray’s nine-game winning streak, dating to last season.
Martinez (5-4) allowed two runs on six hits and lined a double. Bud Norris worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances.
“We really wanted to come here and win the first one,” Molina said. “We had a good plan against their pitcher and we executed it.”
Paul Goldschmidt had four hits and an RBI for the Diamondbacks, who were not able to overcome the early deficit for their fourth straight loss.
“We got too far behind too early to play catch up,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
Martinez snapped a three-game losing streak his last start, holding Cleveland to two runs on six hits in six innings. The right-hander was staked to a four-run lead before taking the mound and gave up Jake Lamb‘s run-scoring single in the bottom half.
Goldschmidt lined a run-scoring single in the fifth inning off Martinez, who struck out seven.
“We talk about being sharp in the first inning and I thought he was,” Matheny said. “He still had a couple things happen in a hurry, but he did a great job of limiting the damage.”
Ray returned from the DL (strained right oblique) to throw six scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over Miami on Wednesday.
The Arizona left-hander had a shaky start to his second post-DL outing, allowing four runs on five hits in the first inning.
Ray struck out six while retiring 12 of the next 13 hitters before Molina and Gyorko connected on consecutive solo homers to put the Cardinals up 6-2 in the sixth inning.
Ray allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings in his 100th career appearance.
‘”‘I felt like I was making my pitches,” Ray said. “They were just putting good swings on them.”
LOVULLO AND MOLINA
Lovullo and Molina nearly came to blows the last time their teams met in April after the Diamondbacks manager uttered a profanity Molina thought was directed at him while arguing with an umpire. Molina charged Lovullo during the argument and both were suspended a game for their actions.
Lovullo said the profanity was not directed at Molina after the April game and met with the Cardinals catcher during batting practice on Monday to patch things up.
“Everything is in the past,” Molina said. “I have a bunch of respect for him and the organization, so everything is good.”
The Diamondbacks got a huge boost before the game, when center fielder A.J. Pollock was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list. The former All-Star had been out since May 14 with a broken left thumb and wasn’t expected to be back so soon, but was in the lineup batting fourth.
Pollock finished 0 for 4 and scored a run.
The Cardinals place OF Dexter Fowler on paternity leave so he could be with his wife, Aliya, for the birth of their second child. St. Louis recalled rookie OF Tyler O’Neill from Triple-A Memphis to fill his roster spot. O’Neill started in right field and batted third, going 1 for 4.
Diamondbacks 2B Ketel Marte returned as a replacement in the seventh inning after missing Sunday’s game to a right hamstring cramp suffered Saturday against San Francisco.
Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke is 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 19 career games against the Cardinals headed into Tuesday’s game. He’ll face RHP Jack Flaherty, who will be making his first career start against Arizona.