October 20, 2010
Old school baseball thinking says you never put the go-ahead run on base. But with a one-run lead in Tuesday's ALCS Game 4 against the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi dismissed that axiom.
With two outs in the sixth inning, he had A.J. Burnett(notes) intentionally walk David Murphy(notes) to face Bengie Molina(notes). Besides what conventional baseball wisdom says, there was some merit to the decision. The left-handed Murphy had a .925 OPS against Burnett in 22 plate appearances and hit a home run off of him in August. Molina, meanwhile, was 1-for-5 versus Burnett.
In the 2005 ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Molina hit three home runs against the Yankees. In Game 1, he smacked a homer off of Tanyon Sturtze(notes). In Game 2, he hit another long ball against Al Leiter. And in Game 3, he took Randy Johnson(notes) deep.
The TBS broadcast reminded viewers of that history just before Molina stepped into the batter's box to face Burnett, showing clips of each of those home runs. And just as Ernie Johnson mentioned that Molina hit .444 with three homers and five RBIs in that series, the Rangers' catcher turned on an inside fastball and cranked it out for a three-run homer.
"It's not bad for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of when he runs," Molina said at a press conference after the game.
Kudos to the guys in the TBS production truck for some extremely fortuitous timing. They looked absolutely prescient with that highlight montage.
Interestingly, each of the home runs that Molina hit in 2005 came on inside pitches. But Burnett's first pitch to him wasn't supposed to go there. Catcher Francisco Cervelli(notes) set up outside, looking for a pitch low and away. Obviously, Burnett didn't make that pitch and Molina pounced on it, giving the Rangers a lead they never surrendered.