10/20/11 1:56 AM ET
Molina's arm shuts down Texas' running game
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Reading about it got Carpenter thinking about how Yadier Molina protects him: how he makes his job easier with his game-calling and how he has a knack for constantly getting him out of tough spots.
Game 1 of the World Series -- one that saw the Cardinals beat the Rangers, 3-2, and one that saw Molina set the tone early by throwing out the speedy Ian Kinsler at second base -- brought those comparisons right back.
"They talk about the left tackle covering the quarterback's blind side, and if it wasn't for the left tackle, he doesn't have the time off to make the quarterback a star, or that wide receiver a star, because he's not doing his job," Carpenter, who got the win after giving up two runs in six innings, said of "The Blind Side." "That's what Yadi is. He's secretly behind the scenes; he just makes it that much easier."
The Rangers display plenty of pop, but their aggressive approach on the basepaths is just as lethal. They ranked fourth in the American League in stolen bases during the regular season, came into the Fall Classic tied with the Cards for postseason steals and went into Wednesday night with the declaration that they'd be as aggressive as possible.
"Go ahead, man," he said following Game 1. "I'm going to be ready for it."
And was he ever.
In the very first inning, after Kinsler led off the game with a single, Ron Washington called a hit-and-run with No. 2 hitter Elvis Andrus at the plate -- even though Carpenter is one of the best right-handers in terms of controlling the running game and even though Molina is among the most dangerous catchers to run on.
Then Molina threw Kinsler out, firing a heat-seeking missile to Rafael Furcal despite a low fastball.
Then the Rangers never ran again.
"Wash likes to put action on with me and Elvis," Kinsler said. "That's something we've been doing all year, but that time it didn't work out."
"They're going to be aggressive, I know that," Molina added. "I have to prepare myself and try to be ready for it."
It may have only been the first inning of a scoreless game, but throwing out Kinsler as impressively as Molina did may have an impact on how the Rangers behave on the basepaths the rest of the way.
Never was that more evident than in the top of the sixth inning of a 2-2 game, when Texas was presented with the exact same scenario it had in the first -- Kinsler on first with none out, Andrus at the plate.
That time, Washington had Andrus bunt, taking the out in order to ensure Kinsler would make it safely into scoring position. Then Josh Hamilton flied out and Michael Young grounded out to end the frame. Then the Cardinals drove in the eventual winning run in the next half-inning.
"We know Carp's really quick to the plate, but [Molina] throws out one guy and it kind of puts it in their mind," said St. Louis backup catcher Gerald Laird, who played under Washington in Texas from 2007-08. "It takes their game away a little bit. They're a team that likes to run, they steal bases. And to throw the first guy out, it makes them think twice about running. That's what [Molina] does. He's the best at it."
Molina put up an unspectacular .292 caught-stealing percentage during the regular season, but that tends to be a skewed statistic considering there are so many occasions when a runner will pick up a base off a pitcher. In the postseason, Molina has thrown out five of seven would-be basestealers.
His latest was key to the Cards taking a 1-0 series lead.
"It's huge," third baseman David Freese said of his teammate's play. "That's a momentum swing."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.