The St. Louis Cardinals will enter Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs in first place in the National League Central, up 2.5 games over their detested rivals.

Alas, the Cardinals will also enter without the services of catcher Yadier Molina, who is expected to miss a month after undergoing groin surgery. Molina was struck by a foul tip in that area late during Saturday's game. While details about the operation have yet to be disclosed, here's what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina underwent surgery Saturday night and will be out for at least a month, according to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.

Molina hits the disabled list with a seasonal .272/.292/.456 slash line -- marks good for a 105 OPS+. He'd already homered six times, an impressive feat considering he'd homered eight or fewer times in three of the last four seasons. Molina's trademark defense is no longer the league standard -- he's yet to throw out a basestealer -- but losing his mitt is a blow, too.

If there is a silver lining, it's that it's for only a month. If there's another, it's that the Cardinals have a better squat-in option available to them than backup Francisco Pena. St. Louis is expected to turn primary catching duties over to prospect Carson Kelly. Kelly, 23, is regarded as a strong defender. He hasn't shown much with the bat during his 44 big-league appearances, and he's hit just .234/.337/.364 in Triple-A this season. Scouts do believe he will hit more as he matures, but for the time being his skill set remains slanted in favor of run prevention.

Between Kelly's presence and the potential short-term nature of Molina's recovery, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals will explore external catching options. Not that there's much out there, as the New York Mets, who lost their starting and backup catcher within a week's span, can attest. The Miami Marlins' J.T. Realmuto is expected to be the top available backstop at the deadline, but the Fish have every right to demand a big-time return for his services.