“We should take some positives away, even though we lost this ball game today,” manager Rick Renteria said after the 5-4 loss. “Even in the end, we had the potential tying run on second base.”
“I got a little lucky that they were playing me to pull,” Molina said. “It was a good at-bat. I was able to put the ball in play and good things happened.”
The defending National League champions had lost four of five to fall a game below .500. The Cardinals scored all their runs with two outs.
Molina, moved into the No. 2 spot to jump start the lineup, was 0 for 4 before coming through in the ninth.
Kevin Siegrist (1-1) got the win in relief, while Trevor Rosenthal picked up his eighth save in as many opportunities despite a scare in the ninth inning.
Hector Randon (0-1) took the loss for the Cubs, who were attempting to win four straight games for the first time since July.
While Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had looked for Molina, one of his hottest hitters, to get the offense going, it was a couple of struggling batters at the bottom of the lineup who got things started early.
With two outs in the second inning and Jhonny Peralta on first base, Randal Grichuk drilled a triple into the right-center field gap for a 1-0 lead. Mark Ellis followed with a double to left-center to make it 2-0.
Both Grichuk (.167) and Ellis (.143) entered hitting well below .200.
St. Louis stretched the lead to 3-0 in the third. After the first two batters were retired, Matt Holiday walked and Matt Adams followed with a double into the gap in left-center to score Holiday.
The Cubs pulled within 3-2 in the fourth with some clutch two-out hitting. With one out, Ryan Kalish singled and John Baker walked. After a groundout moved the runners to second and third, Hammel singled, his first hit of the season, to right to drive in both.
“The hit was nice. I was just trying to get the foot down early,” Hammel said. “I was still late, but found a hole. (Cards starter Lance Lynn) provided most of the distance with his velocity.”
Hammel went six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. St. Louis scored two runs in the second after two were out and Hammel issued a walk and then another in the third with the same scenario.