CHICAGO -- Though he described his lower back as "way better" than it was on Saturday, Yadier Molina was kept out of the Cardinals' lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Cubs.
Molina exited during the ninth inning on Saturday after straining his back trying to avoid a Carlos Marmol pitch. Molina said he was still experiencing some spasms on Sunday, but that he was encouraged by the fact that he woke up with minimal stiffness.
"I'm moving a lot better than yesterday. That's a good sign," said Molina, who did not participate in any pregame baseball activities on Sunday. "Hopefully each second it'll get better. That's what I expect."
Tony Cruz started in Molina's absence place Sunday, which ended a string of 12 straight starts for Molina, who has already appeared in 130 games for the fourth straight season.
"That's a lot of games," Molina said. "You can't take a day off because you want to be there helping your team to win. You feel it after the game. When you're in your room, that's when you feel your body is tired. When you start, you don't feel that. You are just excited about the game, so you don't feel it."
The pitching staff has a 3.66 ERA when Molina is behind the plate, and the job that he has done to lift his offensive game to an elite level has him in the mix for National League MVP Award consideration this year.
Ill Beltran doesn't start, delivers pinch-hit RBI
CHICAGO -- A day after delivering a game-tying, ninth-inning homer, Carlos Beltran spent time in the trainers' room, largely quarantined from teammates.
Beltran came down with an illness late Saturday night. The club initially suggested Beltran stay away from the park on Sunday in case he was contagious, but the training staff, after examining the right fielder, gave the OK for Beltran to report.
Beltran received fluids and took some medication to help quicken the recovery. It turned out to be a good enough remedy that Beltran, in the middle innings of Sunday's game, passed along a message that he'd be available, if necessary to pinch-hit.
Manager Mike Matheny accepted the offer in the eighth, and Beltran came through with an RBI single in a 6-3 victory over the Cubs. He had not had the opportunity to swing a bat before coming to the plate.
Beltran -- unsure whether the illness was brought on by food poisoning, which Matheny, earlier in the day, suggested might have been the case -- said he was feeling better by the time the game ended. That bodes well for him being cleared to rejoin the starting lineup Monday.
Motte fourth Cardinals closer with 40 saves
CHICAGO -- Calling it simply a "cool" achievement, Jason Motte, caught up much more in the team's collective push to a Wild Card spot, placed only minimal significance on the personal milestone he hit along the way.
Motte worked around a leadoff single to close out the Cardinals' 6-3 victory over the Cubs on Sunday. It marked Motte's sixth save in the club's last seven games, and it pushed the second-year closer to a season total of 40, the oft-recited benchmark for a special season.
"It's one of those things, the season is not over yet," Motte said. "We have nine more games. Once the season is over, maybe I'll look back at something like that. But we have nine more games in the season, so for me, that's what I look at. For these next nine games, 40 is kind of irrelevant."
Perhaps there's no time for immediate reflection. But Motte has nevertheless joined select company in the achievement. There have been only five previous 40-save seasons in St. Louis history. Those were reached by only three different pitchers -- Jason Isringhausen (2004), Lee Smith (1991, '92, '93) and Bruce Sutter (1984).
Motte will forever be etched as No. 4.
"To be in company with those guys is pretty good," Motte said. "Those guys had great careers."
Motte sealed the save with a strikeout of infielder Luis Valbuena, and that ball was kept in safekeeping. It will substantially grow Motte's collection of baseballs, too. He said he has the ball he threw to close out Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2011, as well as the one that notched his first career strikeout.
Holliday's back tightness flares up in Chicago
CHICAGO -- Matt Holliday's late-inning exit in each of the Cardinals' last two games was due to back tightness, the club divulged after Sunday's 6-3 win over the Cubs.
Holliday said his back has bothered him throughout the series, surmising that the issue could have been brought on by the lack of firmness of the beds at the team's Chicago hotel.
The left fielder received extensive treatment on his back before Sunday's game, but did make the start. He reached twice in four plate appearances before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth. A day earlier, Holliday was replaced by a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of a tie game.
Holliday was bothered by back tightness earlier this season. That, though, was concentrated on the left side. This, Holliday explained after Sunday's game, is more on his right. He said the tightness is most bothersome when he runs.
Holliday has started 144 of the team's 153 games.
Humorous note follows Waino's 'kissing' comment
CHICAGO -- Having some fun with Adam Wainwright's postgame kissing comment from Saturday, someone scribbled an announcement on the dry erase board inside the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Sunday morning.
Written in red marker, it read: "No kissing teammates on the mouth."
It was an obvious, good-natured poke at Wainwright, who delivered one of the funnier lines of the year after Saturday's 5-4 win. Wainwright was taken off the hook for a loss by Carlos Beltran's ninth-inning solo homer. An inning later, the Cardinals had a last at-bat victory.
Asked about the turn of events, Wainwright replied: "If we would have lost that game, I don't think I would have slept today at all. Carlos, I kissed him right on the cheek. I'm not afraid to tell the whole world either. I wanted to kiss him on the mouth. He saved me. He saved the team today."
Several teammates got a kick out of watching the interview play on MLB Network on Sunday morning. Wainwright took the ribbing in stride, joking that he would give out a smooch again if the time was right.
"That was kind of a strong statement, so we just wanted to make sure that he knew that wasn't a part of our celebrations," Matheny said, tongue-in-cheek, when asked who was behind the white-board message. "I understand where he's coming from because we were all very excited when we saw that ball leave the park. It's happened to us so many times this season when you're right there. It's nice to return the favor."
Center fielder Jon Jay has started 32 straight games for the Cardinals, but manager Mike Matheny is not looking to find a way to get Jay some time off any time soon. Asked when Jay might be due for a day of rest, Matheny joked: "I was thinking like November."
Playing a full season is not new territory for Jay, who appeared in more games last season (159) than anyone else on the club. He started 107 of those. This year, Jay ranks second in the National League with a .306 batting average from the leadoff position.
The Astros' rotation for their upcoming series against the Cardinals lines up as follows: Fernando Abad (0-5, 5.11 ERA) will pitch on Monday, followed by Lucas Harrell (10-10, 3.89) on Tuesday and Bud Norris (5-13, 5.05) on Wednesday. The same three starters faced St. Louis in a series last week. The Cardinals swept that series.
Lance Berkman is expected to rejoin the team in Houston, which is also his hometown, on Monday. He will remain with the Cardinals for the rest of the season as he continues to rehab from recent knee surgery.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.