He got hit by two foul balls in the same spot on his left wrist, settled down rookie pitcher Ervin Santana and drove in the go-ahead run with a homer in the Angels’ 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
It was the Angels’ 12th win in 15 games.
Molina thought he might have to leave the game after Nick Punto fouled a second ball off him in the first inning.
“Once you get hit two times in the same spot, you lose all the strength in your hand and the grip. That (soreness) isn’t going to go away for a week,” he said. “I wasn’t catching the ball very good.”
And the 22-year-old Santana wasn’t pitching very well early on.
“I told him, `Hey, we’re falling behind in the counts. You got to work ahead and let them hit your pitches,”’ Molina said. “He settled down and threw a lot of strikes.”
Santana (3-3) allowed one run and five hits in five innings, struck out three and walked two. Francisco Rodriguez, the third reliever, pitched a hitless ninth and struck out three for his 16th save in 17 chances.
Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who went 2-for-4, was impressed with Santana.
“He has a live fastball and a nice slider. This guy’s going to be good,” he said. “I’ve been watching him on TV. He’s aggressive, he goes right after you and he’s not scared of anybody.”
Molina had two hits, including his seventh homer of the season that gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning.
“He did a magnificent job behind the plate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He had some young pitchers out there that were a little bit high strung and trying to overthrow. He blocked just about everything in the dirt.”
Santana has been solid at home, where his ERA is 3.03 in five starts, compared to a 14.63 ERA in two road starts.
“After the first inning, I was more relaxed,” he said. “He (Molina) told me, `Just think about the glove and don’t think about the hitter.”’
The Angels had a chance to increase their lead later in the fifth with two runners on, but Vladimir Guerrero broke his bat grounding into an inning-ending double play.
Scott Baker (0-1) gave up two runs and five hits in five innings, struck out five and walked two in his first major league start and second appearance.
But Baker may be consigned to Triple-A play for the immediate future because the Twins have five quality starters.
“You don’t want him to sit up here and watch other people pitch, so you have to keep him pitching down there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But we think we have a quality major leaguer ready to go, and he kind of proved that theory again.”
The Angels tied the game at 1 on Guerrero’s RBI groundout in the first.
The Twins’ first four hitters were a combined 7-for-17, while their final five were 0-for-17. … Guerrero went hitless for just the third time in his last 24 games since coming off the DL on June 10. … Ten of Molina’s last 17 homers have tied the game or given the Angels the lead. … The Twins had won seven of their previous eight games. … Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart went 3-for-5. … Shortstop Macier Izturis dropped a popup in the ninth inning, the Angels’ first error in 15 games.