Pirates rough up Molina, Cardinals in win
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yadier Molina may never want to play on Aug. 28 again. At least if it means playing in Pittsburgh.
The St. Louis Cardinals catcher left Tuesday night’s 9-0 loss to the Pirates in the second inning following a violent collision at home plate with Pittsburgh second baseman Josh Harrison. Eight years to the day, Molina took a similar shot at PNC Park, one that also left him groggy.
“It’s unbelievable,” Molina said. “That’s life. That’s baseball, too. It’s unbelievable. Same date. It’s crazy.”
It’s also pretty scary.
Molina was attempting to block Harrison from scoring on a single by Jose Tabata when Harrison lowered his left shoulder and drilled Molina in the head in an attempt to dislodge the ball.
The four-time All-Star held onto the ball, ending the inning and also his night. He was diagnosed with neck, shoulder and back injuries and is listed as day-to-day. Manager Mike Metheny said the team is considering bringing up Bryan Anderson from the minors in case Molina’s condition worsens.
Molina complained of headaches afterward and said he hadn’t watched a replay.
“I never saw the guy coming,” Molina said. “I was concentrating on catching the ball. I never saw him coming, but the real pain was in my head. I don’t know if he was (targeting) my head or not.”
Harrison insisted he wasn’t trying to hurt Molina and didn’t take offense when the Cardinals retaliated by having Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook drill Harrison in the leg in the fifth.
“That’s just part of the game,” Harrison said.
So is taking on hard-charging runners when you’re a catcher. Molina is among the best in the game at absorbing the blows. He took a memorable one from Pittsburgh’s Ty Wigginton in a 6-4 St. Louis win on Aug. 28, 2004.
Molina hung on and stayed in the game that day. Not this time. Tony Cruz took over when the Cardinals returned to the field.
“He wasn’t even in the frame of mind to argue,” Metheny said of Molina.
The play seemed to spark the Pirates, who won for just the second time in their last eight games.
While Harrison’s hit failed to produce a run, it appeared to provide a spark for the Pirates, who came in losers in six of seven.
Pedro Alvarez homered twice and drove in four runs and James McDonald scattered two hits over seven innings as Pittsburgh drew within two games of the Cardinals in the race for the NL’s second wild-card spot.
McDonald (12-6) gave up two hits, walked one and struck out six to beat the Cardinals and Westbrook (13-10) for the second time in the last two weeks.
“I think it’s just part of the growing process,” catcher Mike McKenry said of McDonald. “He’s just starting to come into his own. He had a tremendous first half and every pitcher struggles at some point and he just happened to struggle at the wrong time. He just enhanced it and we just had to take the world off his shoulders.”
Having the streaky Alvarez warming up certainly helped. The powerful third baseman put the Pirates up 3-0 in the third with his 24th homer of the year and Pittsburgh poured it on in the fifth, sending 10 batters to plate to chase Westbrook.
Alvarez got things going with an RBI double to score Andrew McCutchen and McKenry added a run-scoring single to make it 5-0. Westbrook exacted a little payback by drilling Harrison in the leg with a fastball, drawing a warning to both dugouts from home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.
By then, however, the damage was done, and when Clint Barmes followed the plunking with a two-run single the Pirates were up 7-0.
That was more than enough for McDonald.
The right-hander has struggled since the All-Star break but for a night returned to the form that made him one of baseball’s biggest surprises during the first half of the season. He had little trouble against the Cardinals’ surging lineup, surrendering a two-out single to Molina in the second and a two-out double in the sixth.
Other than that McDonald was flawless, allowing Pittsburgh’s weary bullpen to get a needed break.
The Cardinals didn’t get a runner to third base until the eighth while getting shut out for the second time this month and the seventh time this season.
Westbrook has been a key part of the Cardinals’ rise during the second half of the season. He came in with wins in six of his previous seven decisions, but could do little as the Pirates snapped out of their swoon in a big way.
The veteran right-hander gave up seven runs and 11 hits in five innings, tying a season high with four walks while striking out two. He threw just 61 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
“I haven’t been very good the last couple outings and I can’t ask the offense to pick me up that big like they did last start, so it’s just a matter of figuring it out,” Westbrook said.
NOTES: The series wraps up on Wednesday in the final meeting between the clubs this season. Joe Kelly (4-5, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Cardinals against Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.01).