Catcher hits tie-breaking slam, completes feat with rare triple
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The Rangers, after their July 1 trade with the Giants, had won only once in seven games with Bengie Molina behind the plate before the All-Star break.
They have won two straight with him back there in the second half, and it's because he has suddenly been swinging a historically lethal bat. Of course, the Rangers have won all five games in club history in which one of their players hit for the cycle.
Molina became the fifth Rangers player in that exclusive club, when his four hits included both the fifth grand slam and sixth triple of his career in an 8-4 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park.
Molina's grand slam finished off the pivotal five-run fifth inning. Texas trailed, 3-2, going into that inning before rallying and defeating Boston for the second straight night to start the second half. The Rangers remain 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the American League West.
"This means a lot," Molina said. "I'm not a stats guy; everybody who knows me knows that. That's an individual thing, but being one of the slowest guys in the world, and being criticized for it all my career, to be able to do something like that really makes me feel good."
Molina's fifth-inning home run left him 3-for-3, including a single and a double in his first two at-bats. That left the triple, and Molina had just five in 4,664 at-bats over his career coming into the game. Nobody really expected the sixth.
That's because, despite many significant accomplishments over a 12-year career that commands respect, Molina has been known as possibly the slowest player in the game. The odds of a triple were not good.
Manager Ron Washington, standing in the dugout, asked somebody, "Where does Molina have to hit the ball to get a triple?"
The answer: "Nowhere in this park."
With his triple in the eighth inning vs. the Red Sox on Friday, Bengie Molina became the eighth player in MLB history to hit for the cycle while also hitting a grand slam.
But, batting against Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez to lead off the eighth, Molina hit one to deep center, just short of where his grand slam landed in the bleachers. This time, center fielder Eric Patterson went twisting and turning back to the wall to make the catch, only to have the ball deflect off his glove. It bounced away to the deepest part of the park: the right-center-field corner some 420 feet from home plate.
"You have it in your head, but you're not thinking about hitting a triple ... just hit the ball hard," Molina said. "But when he dropped the ball, that's when you're thinking, 'Got to go, got to go.'"
Problem was, Molina was looking at the ball and not where he was running. He slipped going around first base. The game had been delayed an hour in the fourth inning by rain, and it had continued intermittently even after play resumed. The infield was wet, and Molina tweaked his quad muscle as he ran. But he didn't stop.
"I kept saying, 'Got to go, got to try it, don't stop,'" Molina said.
He didn't, and he went in to third standing up to join Oddibe McDowell (1985), Mark Teixeira (2004), Gary Matthews Jr. (2006) and Ian Kinsler -- who did it last season on Jackie Robinson Day -- as Rangers to hit for the cycle.
Molina is the first catcher to accomplish the feat since Chad Moeller hit for the cycle for the Brewers on April 27, 2004, against the Reds. He is the eighth player since 1900 to include a grand slam in his cycle.
"He did it, and we're very proud of him," Washington said. "The guys in the dugout were all so very happy with him. He has been trying to fit in, and he's been trying to contribute in a meaningful way and he did that tonight."
Molina, after a slow start, is hitting .290 with two home runs and six RBIs since being acquired from the Giants on July 1. He also had a two-run home run in Thursday's win.
"Whoo, every mistake," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The last two nights, every mistake we make, he hits. He's knocking the ball all over the ballpark. He's kind of hiding out down there a little lower [in the order] and whacking the ball all over the place. He killed us."
Molina did have to come out of the game for a pinch-runner because the quad muscle was barking at him. But the injury is not considered serious.
"I'm not a stats guy; everybody who knows me knows that. That's an individual thing, but being one of the slowest guys in the world, and being criticized for it all my career, to be able to do something like that really makes me feel good."
-- Bengie Molina
"It's probably just tight, but I think I'll be back out there tomorrow," Molina said.
More important for Molina was getting the victory after the troubles the Rangers had with him behind the plate before the All-Star break.
"A win always makes it easier," Molina said. "That's obviously a big part. Just winning the game means a lot. I didn't come here to do anything but win. I wasn't happy, but this makes you feel good."
The triple made history. The grand slam changed the game.
The Rangers trailed, 3-2, going into the fifth, but got a big break to score five runs off Red Sox left-handed starter Felix Doubront and right-handed reliever Fernando Cabrera. The rally started with a leadoff single by Michael Young and a one-out single by Vladimir Guerrero, putting runners at first and second, with Josh Hamilton coming to the plate.
Hamilton smashed a line drive back to the mound that Doubront snatched. The rookie hurler also had Young doubled off second, but his throw bounced past shortstop Marco Scutaro and into center field.
"Sometimes that's what it takes to win," Washington said. "We left a lot of guys out there, but we got the ones we needed in at the right time."
The runners moved up to second and third, and Francona brought in Cabrera to face Nelson Cruz. But Cabrera walked both Cruz and David Murphy to force in the tying run. Cabrera then got ahead 1-2 on Molina. But he left a slider over the plate, and Molina hit it deep to straightaway center for a grand slam.
"The home run really hurt us -- the grand slam," Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash. "Bengie has done it for a lot of years. He's a good player, obviously. He's a good hitter, and he's one of those guys ... there's not a way to pitch to him. He just covers everything, especially like he did tonight."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.