By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Somebody needs to tell Cincinnati Reds fan to give Yadier Molina the silent treatment. When he comes to the plate in Great American Ball Park, it should be deadly quiet — shush and hush.
Or maybe they should give him the shock treatment and give him a standing ovation.
After all, it has been eight years since Molina and then Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips engaged in a home plate shoving match. The dust-up was torched in 2010 when Phillips uttered some derogatory words about Molina’s St. Louis Cardinals.
From that day forward, every time Molina steps into the batter’s box, boos cascade from the stands. And Molina smiles and breaks their hearts with a big hit or a big play.
It happened again Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning and public address announcer Joe Zerhusen said softly, “Batting for the Cardinals, No. 4, Yadier Molina.” And the Reds portion of the 34,469 attendees assaulted his ears as if he is Genghis Khan.
And he did it again. He mashed a three-run double off the center field wall, the big blow in a 6-4 Cardinals victory, their 13th straight win over the Reds. By winning the second straight game in this three-game series St. Louis also assured itself that it would win a seventh straight series against the Reds.
“Yeah, please quit,” said manager Jim Riggleman about the Molina boos. “But that’s how good these fans are. They are loyal to that team eight years ago. They’re loyal to The Big Red Machine, they’re loyal to the ’90 team and loyal to that 2010 team that had the scrap here with the Cardinals.
“I think all that is very interesting. . .but Molina probably loves it, actually,” Riggleman added.
While fantasizing about things, how about enticing the Cincinnati city commission to pass an ordinance to keep Michael Wacha off any pitching mound when the Cardinals are playing the Reds.
Wacha was the winning pitcher Saturday afternoon and is now 11-and-1 in 17 career starts against the Reds.
Reds starter Luis Castillo looked as if he was going to yank away the Cardinals bird seed in the first inning when he struck out Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham on six pitches — one, two three and one, two,three.
Then Jose Martinez stepped into the rectangle. On Friday he homered twice, once in the first inning. He homered again Saturday in the first inning, a 391-foot drive to right field. And the next batter, Marcell Ozuna, cranked one 435 feet, deep into the center field beyond and it was quickly 2-0.
Castillo invited his own misery in the third when he walked opposing pitcher Wacha, hitting .045, to open the third. And misery arrived quickly.
Yadier Molina walked to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. The crowd unloaded as always and then Molina unloaded, sticking a bat in their mouths with his three-run double. And it was 5-0 St. Louis.
Riggleman was amazed to hear that Castillo struck out 10 Cardinals in his six innings.
“Was it ten, did he have ten? Wow. I knew he had six after three and we were losing 5-0,” said Riggleman. “It was my message to the ball club after the game. It was exciting to see what Matt Harvey (Friday) and Castillo did. You saw the talent of Castillo in his last three innings and it was outstanding. It is exciting to know this guy is going to be around here a long time and he is just going to get better and better.
“There was a down side in the runs scored early against us, but it just shows our position players playing behind them how good these guys are,” Riggleman added. “That part is encouraging and I just love putting Luis out there. We have to somehow find a way to turn those early three-run innings against us into one. It’s asking a lot of our club to fight back every night. It’s part of baseball, it is going to happen. But it is happening too much.”
Giving Michael Wacha a five-run lead is like handing him a code card to the The Louvre and telling him, “Take all the art work you want.”
Wacha did suffer temporary amnesia in the fourth when he gave up three of the four hits he gave up all day and the Reds scored two runs. Scooter Gennett led with a single and Eugenio Suarez nearly knocked down the Kroger ‘K’ signs in the left field upper deck, a 448-foot two-run home run that drew the Reds to within 5-2. Adam Duvall also doubled with one out but Wacha retired the final two.
After that slight lapse, Wacha retired seven of the next eight, issuing one walk, until he departed with two outs in the sixth inning.
Castillo left after six innings, giving up only four hits, but two were homers and one was the Molina’s three-run double to account for all five runs.
Austin Brice took Castillo’s place in the seventh and retired two Cardinals before Matt Carpenter launched a solo home run into the right field seats, the sixth St. Louis home run in the first two games of the series and St. Louis led, 6-3.
The Reds scored a run off bullpenner Mike Mayers in the seventh on doubles by Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler. They scored another run in the eighth, but it could have been much more.
They were facing relief pitcher Sam Tuivailala and he gave up a one-out 438-foot home run to Jesse Winker, a blast that narrowly missed the Toyota sign in center field.
That made it 6-4 and Curt Casali and Peraza followed Winker’s home run with back-to-back one out singles, putting the potential tying runs on base. But Brandon Dixon lined to the warning track in right field and Scott Schebler was called out on a ground ball pitcher to first base after a review of a little over a minute.
About the team’s late fights to scramble back into games, Riggleman said, “We don’t allow our spirits to fall. That hasn’t happened and it isn’t going to happen. These fans buy tickets and a good effort is required — run the ball out, be accountable. Our players do that and it has been pounded into them.”
And the game went into the bottom of the ninth with St. Louis leading, 6-4, just as it was Friday night when the Reds scored two in the bottom of the ninth off closer Bud Norris to tie the game. But they lost, 7-6, in the 11th.
This time instead of Norris, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny brought in flame-throwing Jordan Hicks.
He threw five pitches at 101 miles an hour to strikeout pinch-hitter Alex Blandino on a full count. He threw four pitches at 102 miles an hour to Joey Votto to a full count before Votto singled on a 101 miles an hour fast ball.
He threw three fastballs at 101 before striking out Scooter Gennett with a slider. He finished off his first major league save by striking out Eugenio Suarez at 102, 101 and 100.
“Hicks really throws hard and that was a great at-bat by Votto,” said Riggleman. “After he was 0-and-1 he battled to 3-and-2, as he is prone to do, then stuck a hit out there and gave us a chance to bring the tying run to the plate.
“And Hicks threw a great breaking ball to Scooter to strike him out,” said Riggleman.