The joy was born out of worry. Setup man Kevin Siegrist started the eighth with a 4-2 lead and left the inning with nobody out and two runners on the bases. Manager Mike Matheny called on Jonathan Broxton to put out the fire. Instead, the veteran doused gasoline on the flickery flames, bringing them to a roar. The righty issued two walks, including one to Tony La Stella with the bases loaded that plated a run, moved the tying tally to third base, and pushed the go-ahead run into scoring position.
Matheny had seen enough. With the lead shaved to one, he pulled Broxton in favor of groundball specialist Seth Maness. The manager was going for the double play. Maness got it in a most un-Maness like way: a flyball.
Addison Russell lifted a Maness sinker to shallow right-center field. Heyward called off center field Tommy Pham, lined up behind the can of corn, and caught it with his momentum homeward. The Gold Glover fired a dart to the plate, which catcher Yadier Molina caught on a hop and then applied the tag to Anthony Rizzo's foot before the sliding first baseman could reach the plate. The play was the embodiment of fundamental outfielding perfection, the stuff Tom Emanski's dreams are made of.
The Cardinals went from staring down a bases loaded, nobody out jam with a one-run lead to having two outs, runners on the corners, and the same one-run lead. The play was game-saving and the joy immediate, but momentary. For Molina stooped, asked for time from the home-plate umpire, then slung off his mitt, and paced around the plate in obvious discomfort. Jubilation over the game turned to worry about the season and postseason (in which St. Louis has clinched at least a wild-card berth) because Molina was in need of medical attention.
Here's the video of the play, which includes Molina's reaction after tagging Rizzo out:
Molina stayed in the game to finish the home half of the eighth. He caught seven Trevor Rosenthal fastballs. All of the Rosenthal heaters were 97 mph or faster; five clocked at 100. It appeared that Molina was okay.
But in the top of the ninth, Matheny pinch-hit for Molina with Matt Adams. Tony Cruz entered the game to catch the bottom of the ninth. And after Rosenthal closed out the Cardinals' 93rd win, we received the following news from the official Cardinals Twitter feed:
Yadier Molina left today's game in the 9th with a left thumb sprain. He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 20, 2015
Now we wait and hope that Molina's thumb sprain is not severe enough to keep him out of game action for long.
Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Molina will undergo an MRI on his right thumb on Monday.