Bengie Molina hit the most unlikely cycle in history

'Pigs have flown in Boston, Massachusetts!'

July 3rd, 2020

Cycles are one of the strangest things you can accomplish on the ballfield. You need a combination of skill, luck, and, oddest of all, the ability to check off a number of accomplishments like you're in a video game. You can arguably have a better game, but if you hit a double, single and two homers? Ooh, sorry, but you needed that triple.

That triple is so challenging that it became a meme. The phrase "a triple shy of the cycle" is almost entirely meaningless for how often a batter manages to accomplish the feat at that point. You have a better chance of eating an ice cream cone on a 100-degree day without it dripping all over your hands and clothes than a ballplayer has of hitting the triple he needs.

But, on July 16, 2010, it happened -- and to the most unlikely player possible.

Bengie Molina is probably one of the more underrated players in the history of the game. One of the fabulous catching Molina brothers, along with Yadier and José, the catcher had some decent pop and was an excellent defender, too. But because this was in the days before pitch-framing statistics came into vogue, fans were likely undervaluing just how much he brought to his teams.

Still, he was a World Series winner who drew raves from his peers.

“I think the three Molinas, they come from another planet,” Francisco Cervelli, himself an excellent defensive catcher, told Grantland in 2013. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”

Because Molina was a catcher, that means a few things: namely, he was big and stocky, his knees took plenty of abuse, and he wasn't going to win many footraces. (For proof of that, I -- definitely not an athlete -- was once timed running to first base. The Angels coach who clocked me said that I was faster than only one player: Bengie Molina.)

So, when the Rangers, who had just acquired the catcher earlier that month, showed up to Fenway that fateful day, no one expected a cycle from the catcher. He was 35 years old and in his final big league season. After hitting 20 home runs the year before, his power had dried up and he would hit only five by the time the season was over.

The day started simply enough. Molina came to the plate in the top of the second and singled off Felix Doubront.

In the fourth, he doubled to right field. The ball clanged off J.D. Drew's glove and could easily have been called an error. Instead, it was an omen of a cycle to come.

Then, in the top of the fifth, with the bases loaded, Molina closed in. On Fernando Cabrera’s 1-2 pitch, the veteran backstop unloaded with a blast to dead center field for a grand slam. It broke a deadlock, giving the Rangers a 7-3 lead, and meant that Molina was … a triple shy of the cycle.

Still, there was no way this was going to happen ... right?

Only 14 catchers have ever hit for the cycle -- and only one, George Kottaras, has done it since Molina. Carlton Fisk was the oldest catcher to do it, and he was a mere 146 days Molina's senior when he accomplished it in 1984. Jeff Sackmann did the analysis and found that the Rangers backstop had a mere .42 percent chance of hitting for a cycle that season.

Surely the impossible wasn’t going to happen.

Molina dug in to lead off the top of the eighth against Ramon Ramirez. On a 2-1 pitch, Molina swung and hit the ball to dead center. It got over the head of Eric Patterson, who nearly made the grab. Instead, the ball got away and hit the wall. If it bounced back toward Patterson, it was over. Instead, it went to the one place Molina needed: the notch in center field.

Molina stumbled around first, but that didn't stop him.

"I kind of slipped a little bit before first [base], which kind of hurt my leg a little bit," Molina said. "But I kept telling myself, 'I've got to go. I've got to go.' You don't see that too often."

He picked up the pace, punching it into his version of high gear. He lumbered around second and headed for third. The throw came in, but it wasn't even going to be close.

Molina didn't just have triple, he had a stand-up triple.

"Pigs have flown in Boston, Massachusetts!" Rangers TV broadcaster John Lewin exclaimed over footage of a happy and huffing Molina standing on third base.

Lewin wasn't the only one who was surprised. Molina became the No. 1 Trending Topic on Twitter. Peter Gammons was ready for the end of days:

As for the catcher himself?

"It makes you happy for the guy who's probably the slowest guy in the world, who's been criticized for speed his whole career," Molina said.

We couldn't agree more.