By Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
PITTSBURGH — The insult of the Pittsburgh Pirates pounding the Cardinals, 9-0, Tuesday night at PNC Park was added to by the injuries to catcher Yadier Molina, who absorbed a violent blow to various parts of his upper body from Pittsburgh baserunner Josh Harrison in the second inning.
Molina suffered a strain to his upper back, left shoulder and neck after Harrison bowled him over, leading with his left shoulder. Harrison was trying to score from second on a single to right field.
The Cardinals’ four-time Gold Glover and All-Star is being listed as day to day for his return. He underwent a Major League Baseball protocol SCAT-2 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) as well as X-rays for the injured areas, both conducted by the Pirates’ medical staff.
No evidence of concussion was found nor did X-rays reveal anything broken.
But Molina said he nonetheless was sore, especially in the neck and head.
“I would love for him to slide, but this is baseball,” Molina said. “It’s one of those things that is going to happen.”
Asked if it was a clean play by Harrison, Molina responded, “You tell me. I know it’s part of baseball. I don’t know if it was clean or not.
“I don’t know if he had an opportunity to slide or not. I never saw the guy coming.
“I’ll be OK, for sure, but I’m pretty sore right now.”
Molina has been run into several times before, including by Pittsburgh’s Ty Wigginton exactly eight years ago here and by Chicago Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly a couple of years ago in St. Louis. But he recalled suffering just one concussion, when hit by Philadelphia Phillies baserunner Eric Bruntlett on June 15, 2008 in St. Louis when Molina left the field on a stretcher. He missed just four games, returning first as a designated hitter for an interleague game and then at first base before he came back to catch.
“They did a bunch of tests,” said Molina after Tuesday’s game. “I was fine with the tests. There was no concussion. Just a really bad headache.”
Tony Cruz finished the game behind the plate but before Wednesday night’s series finale, catcher Bryan Anderson will be recalled from Class AAA Memphis, along with righthander Trevor Rosenthal. Brandon Dickson, who pitched three innings of mop-up Tuesday and infielder Ryan Jackson will be returned to Memphis.
On the play in which Molina was hurt, Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran’s throw home sailed toward the runner coming down from third. Molina made a short-hop pickup but had little time to brace himself for Harrison’s forceful arrival.
Molina was knocked over backward and stayed on the ground for a while, got up and then went back down again before he left for the clubhouse, accompanied off the field by manager Mike Matheny, whose own catching career was cut short by a series of concussions.
Matheny said he felt better about Molina’s health after the game but understandably was frightened. “It was scary,” said Matheny. “He took a lick there.
“What a great play, taking that ball and hanging on to the short hop. He’s legitimately the toughest player in this league. It’s just a shame that he’s down.”
Asked if the play was legitimate, Matheny said, “What do you mean by legitimate? Everybody has the option to slide. He had an option to slide and he didn’t.”
One Cardinals player said, “He probably would have been safe if he had slid. That was not the play.”
Beltran said, “A runner has a choice—to slide to home plate. Or hit the catcher. He chose to hit (Molina) and he almost ended up hurting Yadi. For the 14 years I’ve been in the big leagues, I’ve had situations like that and you have the choice as a player. It’s not a dirty play, but, like I say, you have the choice. Go for the base or try to hit the guy.
“It (looked) terrible,” said Beltran. “He feels a lot better, compared to what we thought it was going to be.”
Matheny said Molina was wobbly when the manager and training staff arrived. “He wasn’t thinking very well. Just stunned,” said Matheny.
“You’re in a fog and don’t exactly know what’s going on. But you could tell right away that his neck was bothering him. He popped back up. I would have liked to have seen him sit there for a minute.
“He took a shoulder straight to the head and there’s a lot of things that could go wrong there.”
Harrison told Pittsburgh reporters, “I felt like he had the plate blocked, I didn’t want anyone to get hurt, but it’s part of the game. If he feels I did it intentionally, and tried to run the guy over and put him out … fine … them feeling so is part of the game, too. We play the game hard. You don’t want anyone to get hurt. You feel bad but (you’ve) got to move on. That’s the bittersweet part.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, “(Molina) took the plate away from Josh. Josh had no place else to go. So a baseball play happened.”
As for the game, the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez, who has tortured the Cardinals all season, hit two home runs, including a gargantuan 469-foot blow, as he had four hits and he drove in four runs.
Pirates starter James McDonald, who blanked the Cardinals on two hits for six innings in St. Louis on Aug. 17, did the same for seven innings Tuesday as he scored his 12th victory.
And Cardinals righthander Jake Westbrook (13-10), in the course of suffering his fourth loss in five decisions to the Pirates this year and seventh in eight verdicts in his career, took what he may have deemed appropriate action when he hit Harrison in the upper left leg with a pitch in the fifth inning. No warning was issued. Hurdle was upset that there wasn’t and Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, from the dugout. was seen yapping at the Cardinals’ dugout.
“We pitch inside,” said Matheny, tight-lipped.
Westbrook, also offering up nothing, said, “I was very erratic the entire game. I was all over the place. That’s two ball games in a row I haven’t pitched very well. I’ve got to figure some things out, which I’m going to do.
“(The Pirates) seem to have my number. And not pitching very well seems to compound that.”