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Pittsburgh0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 061
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  W: M. Wacha (12-7)   L: I. Nova (11-13)
11:15 AM PT12:15 PM MT1:15 PM CT2:15 PM ET14:15 ET18:15 GMT2:15 11:15 AM MST1:15 PM EST1:45 PM VEN22:15 UAE1:15 PM CT, September 10, 2017
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri  Attendance: 44,683

Molina, Wacha lead Cardinals to shutout win over Pirates

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- ST. LOUIS -- Most of the accolades handed out to St. Louis Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina over the years have centered on his Gold Glove-caliber defense.

It might be time to reserve some of that praise for his offensive abilities.

Molina equaled his career high with five RBIs, including hitting a three-run homer, to carry the Cardinals to a 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday which moved them even closer into the heat of a pennant race in the NL Central.

Combined with the 3-1 win by the Milwaukee Brewers over Chicago, the Cardinals closed to just two games behind the Cubs in the NL Central. St. Louis will play Chicago seven times in the last 15 games this season.

The Cardinals completed the series sweep of the Pirates and have now won nine of their last 11 games in keeping heat on the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card race as well. They are now a season-high seven games above .500.

It was Molina's offense and the pitching of starter Michael Wacha that led them to the win against the Pirates, who lost their fifth in a row and fell 10 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.

After driving in the first run of the game with a single in the first inning, Molina responded to a pitch high and tight from Ivan Nova to power a ball into the left field seats in the third. The homer was his 17th of the year and second in as many games this weekend.

He capped his big day with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, matching his career high of five RBIs that he set on Sept. 17, 2010 against San Diego.

Molina left the clubhouse before the media arrived after the game, but his manager and pitcher had plenty to say about his performance.

"The guy is just special, how he goes about his business," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's one of those players that continues to figure out ways to keep himself sharp and his body strong and continue to improve. He's just an amazing player."

In addition to his 17 homers -- which rank third among catchers in the NL -- Molina has driven in 72 runs, the most by a catcher in the league and the most by any player on the Cardinals to go along with a .280 average.

"Whenever the lights come on, that guy comes out and shines," Wacha said. "He's one of the greatest players I've played with. He's not only unbelievable behind the plate but at the plate he's a force. He's a guy who can drive in runs and have big time at-bats."

The biggest Sunday was the one in the third inning, where Nova said he was not trying to send a message with the pitch which came close to Molina's head. The ball just got away, Nova said, and the next pitch wasn't where he wanted it either -- and he certainly didn't want to see it end up in the seats.

"He's a really good, smart hitter," Nova said of Molina. "I made a mistake. I wanted the pitch to go down and away and it went up and in."

Wacha did not make very many mistakes while he was on the mound, scattering five hits over his eight shutout innings. He walked seven and did not walk a batter, throwing 68 of his 95 pitches for strikes.

Wacha has won his last three starts and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he could see why after watching the latest game, when he only allowed one runner get to second base, when David Freese doubled with one out in the second.

"He had command of three pitches and he was throwing 95 in the eighth inning," Hurdle said. "He threw strikes. He's got a good skill set. He competes well and his execution was very sharp."

Randal Grichuk added his 20th homer for the Cardinals.

NOTES: An MRI on Cardinals OF Dexter Fowler's left knee came back clean on Sunday but he will still miss at least a few games because of inflammation. Fowler was hurt trying to make a catch in Saturday night's game. ... Cardinals OF Tommy Pham has been bothered again by vision problems, which are worse during day games, and that kept him out of the lineup on Sunday. ... The Pirates purchased the contract of LHP Dan Runzler from Triple-A Indianapolis and transferred 2B Josh Harrison to the 60-day DL. With Indianapolis' season over, the Pirates also recalled RHPs Tyler Glasnow, Johnny Barbato and Edgar Santana, LHP Jack Leathersick and C Jacob Stallings.

Updated September 10, 2017

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