In the bottom of the ninth, rookie pitcher Adam Wainwright – filling in as emergency closer – found himself in a two-out, bases-loaded situation against center fielder Carlos Beltrán, who had already homered three times in the NLCS. Molina called for a mound conference. Initially, he wanted a sinker from Wainwright but changed his mind because he suspected Wainwright would overthrow it and give Beltrán an easy pitch to hit. Molina made an unconventional choice by calling for a changeup to start the sequence against Beltrán. It was called for a strike. Had Beltrán successfully got a base hit, the scheme may have caused tension for the third-year catcher with La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan because throwing a first-pitch changeup ran contrary to Duncan's teaching. Molina then called for two curveballs. Beltrán fouled off the first, but Wainwright struck him out looking at a "bender that started up and away and bit hard to the low inside corner" for the final out of the game. The Cardinals' conquest of the NLCS gave them a return trip to the World Series after two years. They proceeded to defeat the Detroit Tigers in five games, giving Molina his first championship ring. His mask was turned in for display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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