BOSTON -- The absurdity of the proposition occurred to Texas manager Ron Washington even before Bengie Molina, the self-described “slowest guy in the world,” came to the plate in the eighth inning Friday night against the Red Sox needing one more hit to complete that rarest of batting feats, the cycle.
Not just any hit. A triple.
Molina came to the plate with 4,997 plate appearances -- and five triples. Or one triple every 1,000 times it was his turn to bat. Molina, the oldest of the three catching Molina brothers -- Yadier and Jose are the others -- last hit a triple in 2009.
Washington turned to his pitching coach, Mike Maddux.
“I mentioned to Mike, ‘Where do you think he has to get this ball to get a triple?’’’ Washington said. “And Mike said, ‘Nowhere in this ballpark.’’’
Molina, who turns 36 on Tuesday, was leading off the eighth against Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez, who had just entered the game. Ramirez missed with his first two pitches, both fastballs. Molina took the next pitch, another fastball for a strike. When Ramirez threw him one more fastball, Molina swung and launched it into the center-field triangle, the deepest part of Fenway Park, 420 feet away.
A better center-fielder likely would have caught the ball. Eric Patterson, playing center because Mike Cameron sat and Jacoby Ellsbury is in Florida rehabbing, had the speed to reach it but the ball clanked off his glove.
“I thought he had a chance to catch it,” Molina said. “I wasn’t even thinking [about a triple]. When he dropped it, when I saw the ball rolling around, that’s when I thought I had a chance.
“It means a lot. Obviously I’m not a stats guy … but it is a great individual thing. It makes you happy for a guy that’s probably the slowest guy in the world, who has been criticized for his speed his whole career.”
Molina became the first player since John Valentin in 1996 to hit for the cycle at Fenway Park, and the first visiting player since Cleveland’s Andre Thornton in 1978. He is the first catcher in six years (Milwaukee’s Chad Moeller in 2004) to hit for the cycle, and the first catcher ever to hit a slam as part of his cycle.
“I would have bet everything I owned that Bengie Molina would never hit for the cycle in his career, ever,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who last season became the fourth player in Rangers history to hit for one. “He was pressing a little when he got here [to the Rangers] and wanted to make an impact right away and knew we were having a winning season. Since the All-Star break, he has been able to settle down.”
Molina came to the Rangers on July 1 in a trade with the Giants. He hit his first home run for Texas in Thursday night’s 7-2 win over the Red Sox, but was batting just .185 in his first eight games. One great night’s work lifted that average to .262 for the Rangers, who have now won two straight after losing four in a row and at 52-38 have the second-best record in franchise history after 90 games.
“He’s been a great teammate since he got here,” said Rangers third baseman Michael Young. “I’m sure for him coming to a new team, he wants to get off to a good start. Hitting for the cycle and the home run was a big grand slam … just had a [heck] of a game.”