ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Steps from the visitor’s dugout, confusion ran rampant as key stakeholders for the Cincinnati Reds scrambled for an explanation of what had just happened.The Busch Stadium crowd didn’t pay any mind to the events unfolding on that side of the field. They were taking their cues from the home team, who was busy mobbing its catcher between first and second base after his latest season-saving feat.
It may not have been 40,000 voices—or even the 38,830 announced as the official attendance—but for those left in the building, the emphatic chants of ‘Yadi! Yadi! Yadi!’ gave no indication the game’s outcome was in any doubt.
With his brother, Bengie, serving as color analyst on the first-ever Spanish broadcast of a Cardinals home game, Yadier Molina played the hero Thursday night in a 4-3 win over the Reds. Long before the evening’s dramatic conclusion, Molina launched a home run in the fifth inning. As he rounded third, the youngest Molina brother flashed a smile and gave a double pump of his fists before pointing toward the broadcast booth on his way to home plate.
“I can’t wait to listen to that,” Yadier Molina beamed when asked about his brother being on the call for his big night. “That will be awesome.”
“I haven’t seen Bengie in a while, so I’m happy to hit that homer for him. I just did it for him.”
Molina’s eighth home run of the season gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead, but the Reds scratched across a run in both the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game. To keep their postseason aspirations realistic, the Cardinals offense needed to produce again.
Molina was happy to oblige, showing off in front of big brother one more time in the most critical moment of the season. In the bottom of the ninth, Molina roped a line drive off the left field wall(ish) to score Matt Carpenter from first for a walk-off winner, keeping the Cardinals clinging to life support in the Wild Card chase.
Replay showed the ball struck some signage above the wall and should have been ruled a ground-rule double, meaning Carpenter should have been sent back to third base. It wasn’t until after the Gatorade-cooler celebration on the field that Molina realized there was a potential controversy brewing.
“I didn’t know what happened,” Molina said. “I was waiting for you guys for the interview and then I saw the players on the field still. I didn’t know what happened, so I came inside and they were saying it was a ground-rule double. I didn’t know what happened in the moment.”
As bizarre as the situation was, the Cardinals have come to expect nothing less in what has been an unconventional year for the franchise.
“It’s been like that all season,” Molina said. “Ups and downs. Tonight was sensational. You gotta give them some credit for coming back off the closer, but we put some good at-bats at the end.”
Molina’s had his own ups and downs over the past year. When an initial offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb didn’t take, the seven-time All-Star went under the knife for a second time two months later to try again. That December procedure meant an abbreviated spring training for Molina, the effects of which were present in his sluggish .259/.329/.341 pre-All-Star break slash line.
After having the All-Star weekend off for the first time since 2008 as a result of his diminished performance, Molina has enjoyed a 180-degree pivot at the plate. His second-half slash line of .357/.390/.507 has been an unmistakable boon to the Cardinals down the stretch.
“He’s come through,” Stephen Piscotty said. “He’s hit the ball well for so long in the second half. He’s a tremendous player and hopefully he can keep us rolling.”
Earlier in the week during a radio interview, Bengie Molina was asked about his brother’s incredible turnaround, and gave insight to the severity of Yadier’s injury.
“I think he’s getting used to his body and getting used to his thumb hurting,” Bengie said. “He’s finding ways to do things. He was hurting, man. People don’t understand how much he was hurting on the left thumb. He has to go out there and catch 100 miles per hour on that thumb. The people that play, yeah, they understand, they know how hard it is. But the people outside, they don’t understand that. And he still has to go out there and hit.”
For Molina to display this type of offensive authority after such lethargy to begin the season is truly remarkable. Alas, Molina probably won’t find his name very high on anyone’s MVP balloting this season. And because of uncharacteristically mediocre defensive statistics this year, his string of consecutive Gold Glove Awards may come to an end at eight. Echoing the sentiments of his brother, though, even if outsiders don’t get it, Molina’s teammates understand and appreciate the value he brings.
“He’s everything,” Carpenter said. “What he does behind the plate and the way he’s swinging the bat as of late, it’s been fun to watch.”