To say that Jose Molina is slow is an understatement along the lines of "Mike Trout is a good hitter" or "Ahab really wants to get that white whale." At 38 years old and 250 pounds, Molina doesn't so much run as lumber like a bear shaking off the effects of a tranquilizer dart. It should come as no surprise that, in 2,302 career at-bats, Molina has just 114 doubles, three triples and two stolen bases. Actually, the fact that Molina has somehow managed to hit even three triples is borderline incomprehensible.
This is all a longwinded way of saying that Molina isn't the kind of player you expect to see taking the extra base or testing an outfielder's arm. But Friday night against the Orioles, the veteran catcher did just that, legging out a double, moving to third base on a flyball to rightfield, and then scoring on a sacrifice fly, all to the endless delight of the Rays' dugout.
After ripping a line drive down the leftfield line off Jason Hammel to lead off the second inning, Molina watched as Yunel Escobar lifted a flyball to rightfielder Nick Markakis. That Markakis has a good arm didn't deter Molina, who tagged up, put his head down and rumbled toward third base, beating the throw from a presumably horrifically embarrassed Markakis.
Next up was David DeJesus, who hit a flyball just shy of the warning track in leftfield, where Mike Morse hauled it in for the second out. But Molina decided to test the fates once again, and took off for home, once again beating the throw to score Tampa Bay's third run of the game and somehow not causing the seventh seal to be broken and ushering in the Apocalypse.
All that hustle by Molina earned him some hearty cheers from the bench, especially Chris Archer, who reacted to Molina's advance to third base as if he'd just been electrocuted.
Molina nearly put up another base-running clinic in the bottom of the fourth inning, slapping a line drive into rightfield and then taking a wide turn around first base. But out of sympathy for Markakis, or maybe because he was still winded from his baserunning a couple innings earlier, Molina retreated back to first, settling for a single.
Molina now needs just a triple and a homer for the unlikeliest cycle in baseball history.Kazuto Yamakazi