The St. Louis Cardinals are happy to have Yadier Molina back, not only for what he does at the plate but also behind it.
Molina, playing just his second game since returning from the 15-day disabled list, went 2-for-4 with a double and a two-run home run as the Cardinals blanked the Chicago Cubs 4-0 on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
He also called a solid game behind the plate as starter Joe Kelly scattered four hits over six scoreless innings and three Cardinal relievers collectively gave up one hit.
"It's good to have him in there," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "He's going to be an impact for our club. He made a nice strong throw (on a difficult third inning Cubs bunt) and then we walked Joe through it.
"And on offense that's easy to see and realize the impact it has. We're happy he's here."
The shutout was the St. Louis' first at Wrigley Field since Sept. 21, 2003. The Cubs, meanwhile, have failed to score in five of their last seven games.
Molina's shot to left-center in the sixth, his first since returning last Thursday from disabled list, scored Matt Holliday for a 4-0 Cardinals lead.
"From the first at-bat I was feeling good to the very end," Molina said. "I was concentrating enough that I saw the ball pretty good."
Kelly (4-3) is 4-0 since July 12, while St. Louis evened the weekend series at a game apiece in front of an announced crowd of 41,981 at Wrigley Field.
Chicago left-hander Travis Wood (7-10) suffered his third loss in his last four decisions.
The Cubs had a promising start with bases loaded in the third and only one out. But Kelly struck out Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz grounded to second.
The Cardinals broke the shutout in the fourth when Matt Carpenter led off with a double and Carlos Beltran brought him home with a first-pitch double for a 1-0 lead.
St. Louis added a run after loading the bases in the fifth. Jon Jay doubled with one out, Pete Kozma walked, Kelly was hit by a pitch and Carpenter popped to short left for the second out.
But an inattentive Starlin Castro didn't immediately return the ball to the infield and Jay bolted for home, beating a late throw after Castro belatedly realized what was happening.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum pulled Castro after the mental lapse. Third baseman Donnie Murphy moved to shortstop and Cody Ransom came in to play third.
"It was my fault," Castro said. "I apologized especially to Woody and my teammates and the coaches. I just put my head down. It was a mental mistake."
Molina's sixth inning home run was his ninth of the season and first since July 26. He went on the 15-day disabled list on July 30 because of a right knee sprain.
St. Louis had Molina on third and Jay on first with one out in the ninth. Molina doubled to open the inning, reached third on a wild pitch but was tagged at the plate on a fielder's choice.
Kelly departed after six full innings after allowing four hits, striking out three and walking six. Right-hander Seth Maness entered in relief and worked a scoreless seventh.
Michael Wacha, the fourth Cardinal pitcher of the day, struck out the side in the ninth.
Wood (7-10) allowed four earned runs on four hits. He struck out three and walked one.
"I was throwing pretty good there for a little bit," Wood said. "In the fourth Carpenter hit that one down the line and Beltran followed him up with a double. That was a run there and I got into a little bit of a jam in the fifth there (but) felt I worked around it. But the pitch to Molina there in the sixth -- just something offspeed -- and hit hit it out of the park."
The Cardinals send right-hander Adam Wainwright (13-7, 2.71 earned-run average) against Cubs righty Edwin Jackson (7-12, 5.05) in Sunday's series wrap-up.
NOTES: The Cardinals recalled left-hander Ted Lyons from Triple-A Memphis and optioned left-hander Sam Freeman. Lyon is 7-2 with a 4.39 ERA in Memphis and 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in seven starts with St. Louis. ... Wainwright has never lost at Wrigley Field in 10 starts. He's 5-0 with a 3.97 ERA in 15 games. Overall, he's 6-6 in 29 games against the Cubs. ... Molina was a .429 hitter this season against the Cubs this season entering Saturday, but only .229 in 57 career games at Wrigley Field. ... The Cubs are 34-33 outside their division, but only 19-36 against NL Central teams. ... Wood remains only one of three pitchers in the majors with an ERA below 3.00, but with at least nine losses. He's joined by Chris Sale (8-11, 2.74) of the White Sox and Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.83) of Washington.