STL@HOU: Molina goes deep to give the Cards a lead

HOUSTON -- Yadier Molina got a day off Wednesday. Well, kind of.

The Cardinals' everyday catcher played first base against the Astros, while Tony Cruz served as the St. Louis backstop. In the first inning, Molina crushed a two-run homer off Houston's Erik Bedard.

"It was trying to get all the righties in the lineup against a lefty while keeping Yadi's bat in the lineup," said manager Mike Matheny.

So why not stick Molina in the lineup as the designated hitter, given that Minute Maid Park is an American League venue?

Matheny said he wanted to make sure Molina could still catch if Cruz got injured or the game situation required it.

"You always need to be careful with the catcher's position so you can have someone available in case of emergency," Matheny said. "Putting Yadi in that DH spot is a little difficult, since he can't just hop back behind the plate."

As the Cardinals hit a stretch of games in American League parks and the season grinds on, Molina could be swapping the catcher's mitt for a first baseman's glove more often. Wednesday marked his first start at first base this season.

Matheny said the team is concerned about overworking Molina, who leads the National League in innings caught.

"We're not looking to set any records here," Matheny said. "It's getting to that time of year where it's heating up and we're going to have to be careful how many innings Yadi plays. His body's been able to handle it so far. We want to keep one of the top bats in baseball in there without limiting our catching options. We had to get a little more creative than usual."

Luhnow proud of work in Cards' scouting department

STL@HOU: M. Carpenter gaps a bases-clearing triple

HOUSTON -- There's at least one member of the Astros' organization with a soft spot for the Cardinals.

Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow spent more than eight years in the Cardinals' scouting department -- six as St. Louis' vice president scouting and player development -- and said he takes pride in the young core helping his former team to success.

"They're the best team in baseball," Luhnow said. "I have a lot of mixed emotions because I know so many of the players over there and known them throughout their baseball careers. I root for them as individuals and the organization is first class. Once first pitch comes, though, it's competition and one team comes out on top."

Before Wednesday's game, Luhnow chatted with several of his former prospects, including Joe Kelly, Seth Maness and Michael Blazek.

Overall, Luhnow had a hand in drafting or internationally signing 28 of the 43 players that are either on St. Louis' 40-man roster or on the disabled list.

Luhnow keeps tabs on many of them daily and said he "probably pays more attention to [the Cardinals]" than any other team besides the Astros. Even though he's no longer with the organization, he feels a person investment in the players' careers.

"No question I'm happy to see them do well," he said. "Any time you're involved in drafting a player and they make it to the big leagues, it's something you're proud about. That's what we all try and do as scouts and coaches, is help players get better and succeed. I'm hoping we follow that same path [in Houston] that I was involved in with the Cardinals."

Though Matt Carpenter wasn't a late-round pick, Luhnow identified the second baseman's progression from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft to his current status as the most impressive St. Louis prospect he had a hand in selecting.

"Matt Carpenter is having a tremendous year," Luhnow said. " A 13th round pick out of TCU, a senior sign; not the typical profile of a guy who goes through the Minors as quickly as he has and had the impact he's had, especially with the positional change. He's one I'm particularly proud of."

Adams honing his approach in part-time role

STL@MIA: Adams' RBI single in ninth keeps Cards alive

HOUSTON -- Learn by doing. That's the mantra across so many professions or hobbies and generally accepted by most, especially so in sports.

Unless you're Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams, who has taken advantage of his role as a part-time starter and pinch-hitter to hone his approach to the game.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny has repeatedly said Adams learned everything there is to know down in Triple-A and the 24-year-old absorbs more at the big league level even on nights like Wednesday, when he's not in the lineup.

"Every day, no matter what job, is an opportunity to get better," Matheny said. "I've told Matt it's about the work and effort you put in to do that. He's listening and learning, whether it's in the game situations or carrying yourself as a ballplayer."

For Adams, getting better starts with daily video work. Adams said the amount of video available on pitchers to study is the biggest difference between the Major and Minor League approaches.

"When I get to the park, I'm going to the video room and checking out the entire bullpen every day," Adams said. "If my name's in the lineup that day, I go back and study the starter for an hour or so."

After that, Adams lifts weights and does some early hitting work in the batting cages. After a brief break in the locker room, it's on to pregame infield work and batting practice.

Though Adams has only started 17 games, he's appeared in 22 more as a pinch-hitter, which has helped Matheny's advice to the young slugger truly sink in.

"Skipper just tells me to stay ready," Adams said. "He said it's going to be a tough role to go from being an everyday guy in Triple-A to a bench guy here, so you have to find the motivation all the time outside the diamond. That's what's helped me the most."