LOS ANGELES -- Having heard that a ninth-inning bunt by Yadier Molina in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Padres had elicited plenty of second-guessing, manager Mike Matheny spoke again on Thursday about what was behind Molina's decision and his endorsement of it.
As a refresher, the situation unfolded as follows: With the Cardinals down by one, Allen Craig led off the ninth with a double. Wanting more speed on the basepaths, Matheny swapped Craig for pinch-runner Adron Chambers. Molina advanced Chambers to third with a sacrifice bunt.
Each of the Cardinals' two chances to score Chambers then fell short. David Freese grounded out sharply to third and Skip Schumaker grounded out weakly to first.
Questions immediately surfaced as to why Matheny would call for Molina to bunt -- in other words, why he would seemingly be playing for a tie -- after taking his cleanup hitter out of the game. Matheny, who did not call for the bunt, said he still would have inserted Chambers even if he had known it was coming.
"We want to play for the win, obviously, on the road," Matheny said. "But we have to get the tie first."
As for the bunt, Matheny emphasized again on Thursday that he endorsed his catcher's decision. Said Matheny: "I 100 percent support what he did yesterday with everything put into the equation."
The biggest factor in that equation was Padres reliever Luke Gregerson and how tough Molina felt it would be to drive a ball off Gregerson to the right side. Laying down the bunt was seen as the safer option in advancing the runner. Also a factor was Molina's physical state. He has been dealing with several nagging injuries recently.
"There's a lot going against just being able to move a guy over in that situation," Matheny said. "And with all that being said, that's why I said it's a good baseball play. Yadi is one guy, in particular, that I give more freedom to than a lot of the other guys on this team, only because he puts so much effort into the thought process."
SoCal native Kelly excited to face Dodgers in LA
LOS ANGELES -- With at least 150 friends and family expected to be in the stands to watch on Friday, Southern California native Joe Kelly will make his first start at Dodger Stadium, a ballpark he frequented as a child.
Kelly grew up in nearby Anaheim and was raised mostly on Angels baseball. But Friday will represent the closest Kelly has come to pitching in his hometown.
"It's going to be fun," Kelly said. "I'm just going to go out there and be the same. I'm going to throw the same here as I would in, say, Milwaukee, though it will probably feel a little different to me. There will be some excitement. I'll just go out there control my energy and try not to put any more pressure on myself."
Pressure was something Kelly did put on his shoulders back in July, when he made his first career start against the Dodgers in St. Louis. Afterward, Kelly noted that his childhood dislike of the Dodgers caused him to be a little more amped up than he needed to be for the start.
In that outing, Kelly allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in six innings.
"I don't want to go out there and try too hard again," Kelly said. "It's not like my last start against them was terrible, but I feel like I could have done a lot better. I'm going to go out there and learn from my mistake."
With the Cardinals' rotation in a precarious position as of late, the rookie Kelly has been one of the most consistent performers. He's made quality starts in 10 of his last 13 outings and has given up a combined four runs in 12 2/3 innings this month.
"He's a tough competitor," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's done a real nice job of trying to figure out how to improve. He's real conscientious in trying to learn how to compete. All those things put together makes really fertile ground to establish yourself in this league and have a long career."
Cardinals prospects set for instructional league
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals will open their annual instructional league in Jupiter, Fla., next Thursday. Among those scheduled to participate are seven of the top 14 picks from the Cardinals' 2012 Draft class.
Instructional league allows for players to work on specific teaching points with several coaches upon the end of the Minor League season. The league runs from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14 and includes six games against Minor League players from the Mets' and Marlins' organizations.
Of the Cardinals' two first-round picks in the June amateur Draft, only James Ramsey -- ranked 18th among the team's top prospects -- will be participating. The other, Michael Wacha, the team's No. 7 prospect, is still playing with Double-A Springfield, which is one win away from the Texas League championship. The Cardinals do not want Wacha, who pitched 113 1/3 collegiate innings before being drafted, to take on any additional workload this season.
Also highlighting the instructional league roster are third baseman Patrick Wisdom, catcher Steve Bean and third baseman Carson Kelly, ranked as the Cardinals' No. 11 prospect. In all, 19 pitches, four catchers, 11 infielders and nine outfielders will be participating.
Three of the organization's Minor League managers -- Mike Shildt, Oliver Marmol and Steve Turco -- will be among the group of coaches to provide instruction.
Manager Mike Matheny kept David Freese out of the lineup on Thursday, noting that the third baseman looks "a little worn down." Freese is still not at 100 percent since twisting his left ankle last Saturday. He is available off the bench.
The decision to sit Freese was also influenced by a desire to find Matt Carpenter additional at-bats. Carpenter, who started in right field on Wednesday, played third on Thursday. Carpenter contributed a two-run homer on Wednesday and has seven hits and four RBIs in his last 16 at-bats.
"We'll always have that as a nice available option," Matheny said of Carpenter's playing time. "We'll kind of read it day by day. He continues to impress us, and the guys see how much he means to us when he's in there. He's made the most of his opportunities."
Freese and Matt Holliday are scheduled to visit the set of the TV sitcom "The Office" on Friday. Three of the show's actresses -- Phyllis Lapin-Vance, Jenna Fischer and Ellie Kemper -- were raised in St. Louis, and Holliday and Freese will be spending time with the trio. Fischer is also scheduled to attend at least one of these four Cardinals games in Los Angeles.
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.