ST. LOUIS — The All-Star break was the perfect time for Yadier Molina to start fresh, even if it was just a mental respite.
The starting All-Star catcher for the National League homered and drove in four runs, matching his RBI total from the previous 25 games and helping the St. Louis Cardinals overcome a rough start by rookie Jaime Garcia in an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
“I’m the same guy,” Molina said. “This time I’m finding some holes. Same guy.”
Chad Billingsley (7-5) was the second straight Dodgers starter to get cuffed around by the Cardinals, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in four innings. It was the second-shortest outing of the season for the right-hander, who has a 1.09 ERA in four day games but a 5.76 ERA in 13 night starts.
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“It was just a bad game, just two bad starts,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “When the opposition scores in the first five innings, it’s not a good sign.”
Randy Winn added two hits and two RBI, his first since June 13, off a pitcher he’s batting .481 against (13 for 27) with seven RBI. Winn got a spot start in right field ahead of St. Louis rookie Jon Jay, who’s batting .500 during a 12-game hitting streak.
“It doesn’t matter what you did last year or in 2005, it wasn’t something that was going to help me tonight,” Winn said. “When I hit it, they fall in, that’s about it.”
James Loney had three hits and an RBI for the Dodgers, who are 3-13 at 5-year-old Busch Stadium. Rafael Furcal, a .342 career hitter against the Cardinals, had two hits and a bases-loaded walk, and was robbed of a third hit by second baseman Skip Schumaker’s diving stab in the third.
The Dodgers had 13 hits but stranded 12 runners, going 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
“Throughout the season, that makes the difference in almost every game when the big hits happen,” said Jamey Carroll, who had two hits. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
Garcia is one of the NL’s top rookie pitchers at 8-4 with a 2.27 ERA, but the lefty missed almost all last season rehabbing from elbow surgery. He topped 100 innings but said mechanics and not the workload was the problem after laboring through 31⁄3 innings, allowing two runs and eight hits. In his past two outings he has allowed 17 hits and five earned runs in 82⁄3 innings.
“It was kind of tough,” Garcia said. “I was falling behind a lot of hitters. It was just one of those days.”
Kyle McClellan (1-2) allowed a hit in 12⁄3 innings for the Cardinals, who knocked out Clayton Kershaw in the fifth inning of the series opener Thursday.
Molina was the All-Star starter for the second straight year based on defense and not a .223 average. He’s 4 for 8 with five RBI in the first two games of the series after going 7 for 71 (.099) with four RBI the previous 25 games, raising his average to .231.
“He’s been a good hitter his whole career,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s starting from zero and he’s had a couple of good days.”
His brother Bengie had a pretty good night himself Friday, hitting for the cycle in Texas’ 8-4 win at Boston.
“He did? That’s awesome,” Yadier Molina said when told about his brother’s big game.
Los Angeles outfielder Manny Ramirez was removed after walking in the top of the first inning because of tightness in his right calf. Ramirez was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday from a right hamstring injury.
Torre said Ramirez felt something before the game and was wearing a sleeve on the leg. Ramirez went to left field before the bottom of the first but then headed for the dugout.
“It wasn’t the hamstring where he had the issue,” Torre said. “He went out to the outfield and I guess it grabbed on him more.”