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    Yadier Molina’s defense and longevity might earn him a ticket to the Hall of Fame. Suddenly the veteran St. Louis Cardinals catcher is on a home-run tear.

    He homered twice to back a strong start by Miles Mikolas and lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.

    Molina’s two-run homer in the sixth inning off reliever Jeremy Jeffress gave St. Louis the lead and the Cardinals held on behind the solid pitching of Mikolas and four relievers.

    Molina has five home runs in his last six games [url=http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.com/t.-j.-watt-jersey-authentic]Womens T. J. Watt Jersey[/url] , including another two-homer game in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

    Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the 35-year-old Molina has developed more power as he has grown older.

    ”He was such a young player when he came up,” Matheny said of Molina, who earlier this week set a major league record for most games caught with one team (now 1,762).

    ”You figured there was going to be room for improvement but the route he has taken is unique because you can’t always count on that kind of willpower. He’s as driven a player as I’ve ever seen.”

    Marcell Ozuna led off the sixth with a line-drive single to center and scored on Molina’s shot to right-center, a ball that bounced off the top of the wall and into the St. Louis bullpen for a 3-2 Cardinals lead.

    ”He did some damage today,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. ”He was their offense.”

    The Brewers (45-31) remained two games ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central after Chicago lost in Cincinnati on Saturday.

    Mikolas (8-2), who pitched in Japan last season, allowed three hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out five. Bud Norris earned his 14th save with a scoreless ninth. Jeffress (5-1) took the loss.

    ”We didn’t have any idea what we were getting when we got him and he’s been everything as advertised from the Japanese league, plus,” Matheny said of Mikolas. ”You just don’t know how that’s going to translate.”

    Mikolas retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced.

    The Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Jesus Aguilar and an RBI single by newcomer Brad Miller.

    St. Louis closed the gap when Molina led off the second inning with a solo home run to right-center.

    Brewers starter Chase Anderson did not yield another run in five innings, giving up two hits and striking out nine while walking four.

    The Brewers had a big chance in the eighth when they loaded the bases with two outs on two hit batters and an infield single. Aguilar grounded out to shortstop against Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala to end the threat.

    MILLER DEBUTS

    The Brewers recalled infielder Brad Miller from Triple-A Colorado Springs and optioned struggling outfielder Domingo Santana.

    Miller, acquired from Tampa Bay on June 10 in exchange for first baseman-outfielder Ji-Man Choi, was in the Brewers starting lineup at second base and had a bloop RBI single in his first at-bat.

    Santana hit .278 last season for Milwaukee with 30 homers and 85 RBIs, but never got on track this season. He hit .249, with three homers and 17 RBIs in 189 at-bats.

    Miller, who played 95 games at shortstop for Tampa Bay in 2016, likely will play a utility role with Milwaukee.

    ”I was pretty excited to get the call and come to a team in first place,” Miller said. ”I have the versatility to play everywhere but I’m definitely more comfortable in the middle of the diamond.”

    TRAINERS ROOM

    Brewers: Ryan Braun entered in the fifth inning to play left field, when outfielder Lorenzo Cain exited due to groin tightness. Cain also was hit by a pitch in the right elbow on Friday and hit by a pitch in the back in the first inning Saturday. Counsell said Cain would not play Sunday in the series finale. ”He’s just a little beat up,” Counsell said. Braun appeared for the first time since receiving a cryogenic injection in his right thumb on Wednesday and went 1-for-2. . RHP Zach Davies (10-day DL, right rotator cuff inflammation) is scheduled to make a second rehab start for Colorado Springs on Sunday.

    UP NEXT

    Cardinals: RHP Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.69 ERA) will be making his 16th start of the season and seventh career start against the Brewers. He is 2-2 against Milwaukee.

    Brewers: RHP Jhoulys Chacin (6-2, 3.18 ERA) had a six-game winning streak snapped in a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. Chacin is 0-6 with a 5.88 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against the Cardinals.

    Mike Zimmer was already smiling more than usual [url=http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.com/ben-roethlisberger-jersey-authentic]Youth Ben Roethlisberger Jersey[/url] , sporting a relaxed look of satisfaction rarely revealed in public during the NFL season, when he really let his guard down a few minutes into his postgame news conference deep inside Minnesota’s still-buzzing stadium.

    ”Hey, let’s open these things up!” Zimmer blurted out mid-sentence, prodding a Vikings official to push the button that removes the window shades and allows the premium ticket-holders in an adjacent lounge to peer in the room.

    His wish to interact with the customers who cheered the Vikings on to a last-play divisional round victory was granted.

    Zimmer then proceeded to slowly and rhythmically clap above his head, dignifying the ritual ”Skol” chant performed by the purple-clad fans at each game honoring the area’s Scandinavian heritage and the team’s nickname.

    ”You deserve it!” Zimmer said, again interrupting his own answer to acknowledge the crowd.

    From peers around the league to players in the locker room to people up and down the organization, there’s a strong sentiment that Zimmer has earned this, too, pulling within one win of a Super Bowl appearance.

    The way the Vikings finished their 29-24 victory over New Orleans on a last-chance 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs suggested they’re on some kind of charmed path, an uncharted territory for this championship-deprived franchise. Zimmer, for his part, has experienced his own share of painful setbacks.

    ”I just think he was so proud of us,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. ”Proud of us for fighting until there were zeros on the clock.”

    Zimmer is only here, preparing the Vikings for the NFC title game in Philadelphia on Sunday, because he himself resisted the urge to quit.

    After being passed over for so many head coach vacancies during a six-year run as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, Zimmer nearly canceled a second interview in Minnesota in 2014 after a different team that considered him chose a different candidate. He ignored the discouragement in his head, instead accepting the offer to become the ninth head coach in team history at age 57.

    ”Sometimes you wonder, but I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Zimmer said at his introductory news conference at team headquarters. ”I feel like I was destined to do this.”

    That first season, the Vikings improved by two wins to finish 7-9 with rookie Teddy Bridgewater forced into action ahead of schedule at quarterback and running back Adrian Peterson absent for all but one game because of the child abuse case and subsequent NFL discipline dispute he was involved in. In 2015, they went 11-5 and ended Green Bay’s four-year hold on the NFC North title.

    The potholes in the road were waiting, though.

    Blair Walsh’s 27-yard field-goal try went wide left at the end of the one-point wild-card round loss at home to Seattle.

    The 5-0 start in 2016 was washed away by a torrent of season-ending injuries, including Bridgewater [url=http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.com/ben-roethlisberger-jersey-authentic]Womens Ben Roethlisberger Jersey[/url] , Peterson and several offensive linemen.

    Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned the day after Zimmer had the first of eight eye surgeries to address a torn retina. The third procedure forced him to miss a game for the first time in his career .

    The first quarter of the 2017 season brought knee injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Dalvin Cook, who needed reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL.

    The Vikings didn’t blink, though, particularly with the experience of 2016 so fresh. Case Keenum deftly took over for Bradford, and Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray became a productive backfield tandem.

    All of these on-field hurdles have paled next to the pain Zimmer has endured in his personal life. His wife, Vikki, died suddenly in 2009. His father and former high school coach, Bill, passed away during training camp in 2015.

    Zimmer was hired by the Vikings because of his acumen as a defensive strategist and teacher, having started his 24-year NFL career as the defensive backs coach for Dallas before a promotion to defensive coordinator in 2000.

    Calling plays has been his forte, a responsibility he has yet to give up despite his duty as the main man on the staff on game day, but his ability to mold a disciplined, selfless unit from a collection of alpha males and high draft picks helped the Vikings’ defense rank first in the league in 2017 in both fewest yards and points allowed.

    Beneath the gruff exterior is a deep affection for his players, an emotion that has caused his voice to crack and his eyes to well up several times over the years in various public discussions of their development or character.

    He’s a football coach just like his father, though, and the critical eye and demanding approach are always quick to come out.

    ”We can’t make these mistakes in playoff games or we’ll be going home,” Zimmer said on Monday, reflecting on the reality of the performance after the euphoria of the winning play had worn off.

    Now the Vikings must go on the road to face a team with a 14-3 record just like theirs, the last and biggest obstacle looming before they can experience a Super Bowl.

    ”We’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team,” Zimmer said. ”They’ve been a resilient bunch all year long. I expect it to continue to be that way.”

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