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MIL@STL: Molina blasts a two-run shot to retake lead

ST. LOUIS -- On a day in which he was recognized for his defensive excellence, Yadier Molina reminded that his value isn't limited to the work he does behind the plate. Molina monopolized the spotlight with his 10th career four-hit game, one that included a go-ahead home run in the Cardinals' 7-3 win over the Brewers on Saturday.

That two-run blast, which the veteran catcher hit in front of an announced Busch Stadium crowd of 42,586, also came just in time to back Kyle Lohse, who, with it, sealed his second consecutive four-win April.

"I think people are beginning to catch on that he can swing it," Lohse said of his battery mate. "It's not just the power. It's the key hits and the ability to come through. He's kind of coming into his own."

Molina flipped a tie game into a Cardinals lead by launching Marco Estrada's first-pitch curveball over the left-field wall in the sixth. Also scoring on the hit was Carlos Beltran, who had worked a walk from a 1-2 count.

The hit was one of three Molina had off Estrada on Saturday, which had already been set aside as the day the Cardinals were to honor the three-time All-Star. Prior to the game, Molina was presented with his 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove and Platinum Glove awards. The latter is an honor given to the league's best defender at any position.

"I know where he stacks his priorities, and first is the responsibility of taking care of his pitching staff and doing what he needs to behind the plate," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's almost like two different games for him, and he does a nice job separating them as well."

Molina capped his day by singling and scoring in the Cardinals' two-run eighth. He also enjoyed a sixth-inning curtain call, his first of the season.

"It's always nice when you have the best town for baseball screaming your name," said Molina, who now has a team-leading eight multi-hit games. "I don't look at my stats. I look at the end of the game. We got the win, that's a good day."

A day after the Cardinals scored 13 times without the benefit of a home run, four balls left Busch Stadium in the second game of this three-game series. David Freese, who was celebrating his 29th birthday, contributed a solo shot in the fourth. The home run was Freese's fifth of the year, a total that ties him with Beltran for the team lead.

It also came an inning after the Cardinals capitalized on a pair of gifts to take a two-run lead. With one out, Estrada walked Lohse in a nine-pitch at-bat. Rafael Furcal then reached when first baseman Mat Gamel let a grounder scoot through his legs.

Jon Jay singled home Lohse, before Matt Holliday plated another. It marked the 13th time in 21 games that the Cardinals have scored first. The club is now 11-2 in those games.

"We're not playing good baseball, but they are doing everything right," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Every time they do something it works out, and it's hard to stop that."

That hit by Jay was the first of three he'd get in the game, giving him consecutive three-hit games for the first time in his career.

The Brewers, though, pecked away at the deficit and had more success against Lohse than anyone else has had this year. Solo homers from Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez gave Milwaukee their first two runs. The Brewers then tied the game when Lohse's command left him in the sixth.

With a pair of runners in scoring position and two out, Lohse went after Gonzalez with three straight sliders. All three missed the strike zone, as did a fourth-pitch fastball. Lohse's changeup then alluded him against George Kottaras, who pushed in the tying run with a five-pitch walk.

"You have days where you can't miss a spot. And then today was a battle," Lohse said. "I gave everything I had, and I didn't have the exact location. But that's pitching. Sometimes you have to go out there without your best stuff and give your team a chance."

With the bases still full, Roenicke stuck with Estrada. Matheny kept with Lohse.

"I have a lot of faith in what he's done," Matheny said. "He's been leading this staff since the first game, and we have to show that we trust him in big situations. He didn't let us down."

Lohse ended the inning by striking out Estrada.

Asked if he was surprised not to see a pinch-hitter in Estrada's place, Lohse said: "It definitely helped my situation. I was struggling with my command, and I was able to make three good pitches to get out of it."

Though Lohse was credited with a quality start, this was the rockiest of his five outings so far. After walking two in his first 27 1/3 innings, Lohse issued four on Saturday. The three runs allowed matched his total from his four previous starts combined.

Still, Lohse was good enough to get the win and now joins teammate Lance Lynn as the National League's only four-game winners. Lohse would have picked up a fifth April win had it not been for a blown save in his April 17 outing against the Reds. He finished the month with a 1.62 ERA and extended the Cardinals' string of consecutive quality starts to eight.

"He kept us in the game," Molina said. "You'll take that anytime."

Victor Marte, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte followed Lohse and retired all nine batters they faced. The win was the 10th in the Cardinals' last 12 games against the Brewers, and they have outscored Milwaukee, 70-34, during that span. Comments