Yadi follows Pujols’ lead, takes the mound

Catcher has same ERA as fellow Cards icon after pitching debut

May 22nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The owner of 152 shutouts as a catcher throughout his 19-year MLB career with the Cardinals, Yadier Molina found himself in the position of trying to preserve one as a first-time pitcher in a driving rainstorm on Sunday.

When he failed to do so by giving up four hits, two home runs and four earned runs, the future Hall of Famer faked some disdain, and he had to hear about it from his teammates in an otherwise joyous clubhouse.

“I’m so mad that I didn’t do it,” Molina said of losing the shutout before flashing wide smile following the first MLB pitching outing of his career in an 18-4 Cardinals rout of the Pirates.

Molina, who pitched for the first time in winter ball in Puerto Rico and struck out Royals infielder Emmanuel Rivera, surrendered a two-run home run to rookie Jack Suwinski, a solo homer to Yoshi Tsutsugo and an RBI single to Ke’Bryan Hayes on Sunday.

A week earlier, Cardinals DH Albert Pujols -- who hit two homers Sunday and now has 683 for his career -- closed out the ninth inning of a 15-6 win over the Giants with some relief pitching of his own. That night, Pujols joined Babe Ruth as the only players in MLB history with at least 600 home runs and one pitching performance. Pujols, MLB’s oldest player at 42 years old, surrendered three hits, two home runs and four runs to the Giants. By comparison, Pujols -- who helped Molina warm up before his first appearance -- allowed one fewer hit than Molina, but he did walk a batter.

“Yadi had better command of the fastball,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said playfully.

With Pujols and Molina, 39, having both given up four runs and two home runs in their one inning of relief -- and sporting unsightly 36.00 ERAs -- the postgame debate raged over which of them had the better pitching performance.

“At least I got an out before they hit a homer off me,” Pujols said. “You, first pitch, and pow!”

“It was raining, and I couldn’t get my grip," Molina replied. "If it wasn’t raining, I would have thrown my split-finger.”

"That was my spot there to go in and bring my ERA down and make it hard for you," Pujols added, "but they let you go instead!”

“Hopefully, we can keep scoring 20 runs a game," Molina said, "and you might be seeing me out there again.”