Molina mashes Giants to victory in 10th
Catcher belts tiebreaking homer off Mets closer Rodriguez
NEW YORK -- The decisive act of the Giants' 5-4 victory Saturday over the New York Mets -- Bengie Molina's tiebreaking home run -- didn't occupy center stage at Citi Field, as it normally would have.Instead, the game's central moment was the fourth-inning beaning of Mets third baseman David Wright, who was hit near the left ear flap of his batting helmet by a Matt Cain fastball. Wright sustained a concussion and was expected to be hospitalized overnight for observation. That unintentional incident sparked an intensity that continued to escalate until Molina broke a 4-4 tie leading off the 10th inning off Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez (2-4). Obeying baseball's time-honored ritual of retaliation, Mets ace Johan Santana flung a seventh-inning pitch behind Pablo Sandoval with two outs and nobody on base, leading home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora to warn both teams that any escalation in hostilities wouldn't be tolerated. Two pitches later, Sandoval ricocheted his 18th home run of the season off the second-deck facade in left field. Santana then hit the next batter, Molina, with a 1-2 pitch, which prompted Giants manager Bruce Bochy to approach O'Nora and demand that the left-hander be ejected from the game. Meanwhile, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was strolling to the mound to remove Santana anyway, since the Giants led, 4-1, and had pounded nine hits off the two-time Cy Young Award winner. The Mets (54-62) scored three eighth-inning runs to pull even, thrilling the crowd that booed Cain loudly in each of his three plate appearances after he hit Wright. But Molina's 15th homer of the year rescued the Giants, who had lost five of their previous seven games. Brian Wilson (5-5) pitched a season-high 2 2/3 innings to earn the decision. "That's as big a home run as you can hit -- we needed it," Bochy said. "There's a tendency to get down, but the club didn't. They fought. You can't say enough about how they battled today." The Giants' glee was muted by their concern for Wright, the popular four-time National League All-Star. Cain clearly looked worried as he crouched between the pitcher's mound and home plate and gazed at Wright as Mets trainers tended to him. He later asked Mets catcher Brian Schneider for an update on Wright's condition. After the game, Cain said that he planned to contact Wright to express regret.
"It was nice to see that he walked off the field," Cain said. "Hopefully he'll be all right.""We felt terrible," Bochy said, recounting the widespread feeling in the Giants' dugout. "That's the last thing you want to see. Unfortunately in this game, pitches get away." Several Giants (63-53) pointed out that with a runner on first base, nobody out and the teams locked in a scoreless tie, Cain had no reason to hit Wright purposely. The Mets knew this, too. "I've known Matt Cain for a long time," Mets right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "Obviously, I'm sure that no one feels worse than he does." "I don't think he had any intention to hit him, not at all," Santana said. So why did Santana throw behind Sandoval? "I'm protecting my teammates regardless [of intent]," Santana said. "So that's the way I play the game. ... You just got to find the right way and the right time to do it." Sandoval, who reacted angrily Wednesday after Dodgers right-hander James McDonald pitched inside to him, remained placid this time. Nevertheless, Molina, Sandoval's mentor who was waiting on deck, felt compelled to urge Sandoval to stay calm. Molina didn't need to.
"That ball passed behind me; I just calmed down myself," Sandoval said.Sandoval insisted that he derived no vengeful sense of triumph from homering on Santana's 2-0 pitch. "Normal," he said, explaining his feelings. Referring to Santana's malevolent fastball, Sandoval said, "That's part of the game." Said Bochy, "Pablo's not going to get intimidated. He's as tough as they come. It was a great at-bat for him, to get thrown behind him and step up there and hit a home run." Bochy wasn't so thrilled when Santana hit Molina.
"I can't sit there and watch my guys get thrown at, especially after a warning," Bochy said, relating that O'Nora told him that he didn't think Santana hit Molina intentionally.Santana denied trying to plunk Molina, saying that he was trying to pitch inside.
"I didn't have any intention to hit him at all," Santana said.Like Sandoval, Molina expressed no ill will toward Santana: "No hard feelings. Santana is a pro, man. He's defending his players."
In fact, Molina sensed that, as the Giants' key hitters, either he or Sandoval was going to get hit by a pitch to even the score.
"I actually thought to myself, 'I hope it's me because I don't want any trouble,'" said Molina, trusting himself to remain dignified.Molina's only violent act was the vicious swing he put on Rodriguez's 0-1 fastball in the 10th. Asked if being Rodriguez's former Angels batterymate helped his plate approach, Molina said that facing his ex-teammate and grounding out in Friday night's ninth inning helped more. "He threw four fastballs by me, and I couldn't see them," Molina recalled. "I said, 'You know what? He might feel the same way today.' So I was just sitting on 95 [mph]. If he had thrown any other pitch, I would have been the first out of the inning."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.