San Francisco: The St. Louis Cardinals hope to call on injured catcher Yadier Molina as they continue their Major League Baseball playoff duel with the Giants in San Francisco.
Molina departed game two of the best-of-seven National League final on Sunday in the sixth inning with a strained left oblique muscle near his ribcage that he described Monday as the "worst pain I have ever felt in my career."
Molina doubled over after grounding out and had to be helped from the field in St. Louis.
But the Cardinals went on to win the contest and knot the series at one game apiece.
He woke up feeling better than he expected on Monday, playing catch as the Cardinals prepped for Tuesday`s game three in San Francisco.
Even if he doesn`t return right away against the Giants, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will be keen to keep him active, because any player cut now would also have to miss the World Series if his team advances.
"That`s a tough rule," Matheny said.
And Molina is a tough player for the Cardinals to replace.
"You lose him, the whole dynamic of this team changes," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said.
Tony Cruz, who filled in at catcher earlier this season when Molina needed surgery on his right thumb, took over on Sunday and did a creditable job.
"Cruz, he`s like Yadi Jr.," said Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek. "It`s going to be a loss, but I don`t think we`ll miss him as much because of Cruz."
The Cardinals tied the series in unlikely style. The team whose 105 home runs during the regular season were the least of any National league team, had four homers to take their playoff tally to 11.
"You know, throughout the season, people were worried about our power," first baseman Matt Adams said. "But we knew inside the clubhouse that we didn`t lose any power. We just have to go up there and have good at-bats, and we know the home runs will come."
Giants pitcher Tim Hudson will have the task of containing the Cardinals in game three, while St. Louis will send John Lackey to the mound.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said his team felt confident after claiming one victory in hostile territory. But he expects the series to remain close.
"This isn`t going to be easy," Bochy said. "We are playing a very good club, and they did a good job of coming back on us."
Hudson gave up just one run on seven hits in seven and one-third innings in the game two of the National League division series against Washington -- an 18-inning marathon eventually won by the Giants.
Lackey has won four of his past five playoff starts, going 3-1 last October for the World Series champion Red Sox -- who beat the Cardinals for the title last year.