Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Cubs hope to slow down Molina
By Rob Rains Special To ESPNChicago.com
Dale Sveum has admired how Yadier Molina has tweaked his approach and improved every year.
ST. LOUIS -- It likely will not come as a surprise to Cubs manager Dale Sveum that Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina got credited for a base hit on Wednesday -- for a game he played eight days earlier.
The NL's leading hitter, and a major nemesis for the Cubs, Molina got the extra hit when Major League Baseball reversed a ruling on a play from a June 11 game against the Mets that had originally been ruled an error.
Molina has not needed the help of an official scorer the last two days against the Cubs, getting five hits in seven at-bats so far in the series, plus being hit by a pitch.
For the season, Molina is hitting .600 against Sveum's Cubs, (9-for-15).
"Right now you just hope he hits the ball at somebody," Sveum said. "He's so locked in that you really have to make a great pitch to get him out or make him have a bad swing. It's very hard to make adjustments to those kinds of hitters because he is hitting everything – inside, down, breaking balls. He's very difficult to pitch to."
Molina has raised his season average to .367, opening up a 20-point lead in the NL-batting race.
"Probably right now he is the MVP of the league." Sveum said. "Each year he has just gotten better and better as a hitter. Each year you see some little adjustment he has made with his hand position, his backside, whatever. A lot of times that's what hitters need to do a lot of to get to another level."
It was Molina's third hit of the game, an RBI single in the ninth inning Monday night, which caused Sveum a few anxious moments. The hit put the tying run on base, and brought the potential winning run to the plate.
With Shane Robinson pinch-running for Molina, David Freese hit a bouncer to Darwin Barney, a potential game-ending double play. Robinson went after shortstop Starlin Castro and disrupted his throw to first, but umpire Fieldin Culbreth called interference on the play, ending the game.
"We've had a lot of bad walkoff losses in this place in the last few years and it seems Molina has been right in the middle of all of them, even back before he became the hitter he is now. He always seemed to be in the middle of clutch situations," Sveum said.
Sveum said he finally saw a television replay of Robinson's slide.
"I think it was the right call," he said. "He was trying not to end the game, doing whatever he could. Luckily from our part the umpire made the right call."
Sveum and Barney both said they did not believe there would be any repercussions from the play.
"I hope our players would do the same thing in the same situation," Sveum said. "You know the game is over. It wasn't like he did anything; he just slid too far away from the bag. He didn't try to hurt anybody."
Said Barney, "I wouldn't call it a dirty slide, I would call it an illegal slide. His leg came up, but he was just trying to get the job done. We don't look at it like a dirty play. That's not Shane Robinson. He's a good player and plays the game the right way."