ST. PETERSBURG -- Hundreds, if not thousands of times, Cardinals fans have sounded off in unison with chants of “Yadi! Yadi! Yadi!” as Yadier Molina was performing for St. Louis.
Never before, however, have those chants come when Molina was not only pitching, but striking out an opposing MLB batter.
Molina, who is in his 19th and final season with the Cardinals, came in to pitch in relief Wednesday in the eighth inning of the 11-3 loss to the Rays. It was the second time this season that Molina has pitched -- and he fared much better than May 22, when he allowed two home runs and four runs. This time around, Molina allowed two hits, but he kept Tampa Bay scoreless in the eighth inning.
“I wanted to get some outs and try not to let them score this time,” said Molina, who lowered his ERA from 36.00 to 18.00.
This time around, Molina struck out Isaac Paredes on three pitches. Molina set Paredes up with pitches of 49 and 51 mph, and then he fired a 76 mph changeup past the pinch-hitter. After the strikeout, catcher Andrew Knizner threw the ball out as a keepsake and it was proudly sitting in Molina’s locker after the game. He said it will go into his St. Louis house along with all his other mementos from his MLB career.
Rays manager Kevin Cash got a laugh out of the experience, saying, "It's not every day you get to face a Hall of Fame catcher on the mound."
As for Paredes, the experience won’t be remembered as fondly, but he certainly will never forget it, as Cash noted, "No [not a happy memory], and that's part of it. But it was something to tell your kids one day when you get to face Yadi Molina."
Red-clad Cards fans who filled the stands at Tropicana Field cheered loudly. The 39-year-old Molina playfully doffed his cap to the crowd. What made Molina even happier was the fact that he now has a better ERA than his close friend Albert Pujols, who allowed four runs and two home runs May 15 in the only pitching outing of his career and is saddled with a 36.00 ERA.
“It’s a competition now,” Molina joked of his pitching stat line compared to that of Pujols.