Posted on 27 July 2011.
It was 2004 when the Cardinals handed the reigns of their pitching staff over to a young, talented, and defensively sound Yadier Molina. The younger brother of Major League catchers Bengie and Jose, Yadier arrived in St. Louis being regarded as a player who was defensively ready, however, fans were warned that he would be learning to be a hitter at the Major League level.
Very early in Molina’s career, the Cardinals’ up-and-coming superstar, Albert Pujols, seemed to have taken the backstop under his wing. It was not long before the St. Louis organization had a behind the scenes “bro-mance” on their hands.
A baseball bro-mance should yield some results for the fans, writers, and followers of the ball club. Two players being connected on the same team for such a long period of time begs the question of their combined production. Not just the production of their combined season statistics but also a look into just how they feed off each other in individual games.
The interesting standpoint here is that we are dealing with two very different players. This is not Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle. This is a player that is regarded as the best in Major League Baseball defensively at his position. It is another player that is regarded as possibly the best hitter baseball has ever seen.
That defensive player has seen himself evolve into a player that is becoming respected for his bat. That reason alone led this writer into researching just how many times the members of this relationship had achieved the pinnacle of power, the home run, in the same game.
Molina was brought to the big league club in 2004, but it was not until his third career home run on May 18, 2005 that he and Albert Pujols would go deep in the same game. It would happen in the top of the third inning as Pujols, with Larry Walker on first base, would put the Cardinals ahead 2-0 on a two ball, two strike delivery from Jon Lieber of the Philadelphia Phillies. The home run was the 170th of Albert’s still young career. Later in that same inning, Molina would drive the first pitch he seen out of the park with Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez on second and third, putting the Cardinals ahead 5-0. It is the only time to date that the duo has gone deep in the same inning. The team would go on to win the game 8-4 and our bro-mance begins to take hold.
The tandem would not wait long for a repeat performance and would not waste the curtain call on a road crowd this time. Back in the confines of Busch Stadium, it would be Molina who would put his name in the box score first with a solo shot off the Pittsburgh Pirates starter Mark Redman in the bottom of the third inning of a scoreless game on June 25, 2005. The Cardinals would be ahead 5-0 when Pujols would step to the plate against reliever Ryan Vogelsong. Chris Carpenter and David Eckstein would score from second and third on Albert’s dinger, his 180th of his career, and the final runs of the Cardinals 8-0 win that day.
Two years and a combined 114 home runs would pass before the two hitters would find themselves going yard in the same game again. During a game in St. Louis that the Cardinals would go on to win 6-4 on August 22, 2007, Albert’s two run homer in the bottom of the first inning off Florida Marlins’ starter Scott Olsen would plate So Taguchi and mark the 280th career long ball of his career. It was the 20th home run of Yadier Molina’s career, a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth off of Olsen, that would put the duo’s name in the box score side by side for the third time.
May 3, 2008 would mark the first time the pair would go deep in the same game with no one on base as the Cardinals would drop a game to the rival Chicago Cubs 9-3. Molina would touch the Chicago Cubs’ Ted Lilly for a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth while Albert would follow suit in the bottom of the sixth.
Albert would once again reach the thirty home run plateau on September 1, 2008 as he would take one of the best left handed hurlers of the time, Randy Johnson, out of the ballpark in Arizona in the top of the third inning with Ryan Ludwick on second base. While Johnson could seem untouchable at times, it was Molina that actually reached him first with a solo shot in the top of the second that day, his sixth of the year and 28th of his career. Johnson would get the last laugh as the Diamondbacks would hold on to win 8-6.
The Pittsburgh Pirates starter Ian Snell would take the mound in St. Louis and yield a two-run home run to Albert Pujols in the bottom of the third, scoring Colby Rasmus. The game was already out of hand with the Cardinals leading 8-1 by the time Yadier Molina would take relief pitcher Donald Veal deep for a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, but the teammates had left the ballpark in the same game for the sixth time and the team would hold on to win 9-3.
Not quite a month later, the subjects of our discussion would again enjoy some home cooking and find themselves producing a pair of solo shots on Cinqo De Mayo 10-7 loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was Molina taking Brett Meyers out of the park in the bottom of the fourth and Albert greeting his old friend Brad Lidge in the bottom of the ninth to achieve the feat this time.
The eighth such game would occur once again in St. Louis, this time against the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals would lose 11-4 but it would mark the third time in one season that the pair would go deep in the same game, more than any other year to date. Rockies starter Jorge de la Rosa would give up solo shots to the pair in the bottom of the sixth for Pujols and bottom of the seventh for Molina.
The only time the two would leave the yard in the same game in 2010 would also be the only game featuring multiple home runs from one of them. The Cardinals would visit the Cincinnatti Reds to open the season on April 5, 2010 and Aaron Harang would find himself in trouble early, giving up a solo home run to Albert in the top of the first. Albert was not done for the day and would hit a two run homer in the top of the seventh off Mike Lincoln, driving in Brendan Ryan from first. Yadi would get to put the nail in the coffin on this day as he would take Nick Masset out of the yard in grand fashion, emptying the full bases and driving in Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Felipe Lopez, giving the Cardinals an 11-6 opening day victory.
June 16, 2011 in the Nation’s capital would find the backstop and first baseman reaching the bleachers once again. It was the Nationals’ Tyler Clippard surrendering a solo shot to Albert in the eighth and his bullpen mate Drew Storen who could not contain Yadier Molina in the ninth from a solo shot of his own. The team did not fair as well, dropping the game 7-4.
The eleventh and most current game to feature the two men hitting home runs in the same game would occur on July 22, 2011 in Pittsburgh. Pirates starter Paul Maholm would serve up a two run bomb to Pujols, his 430th of his career, scoring Jon Jay from first. Chris Resop would be on the mound in the eight when Yadi would find a way to drive the ball over the fence for the 47th time in his career, giving the Cardinals a 6-4 victory over the suddenly competitive Pirates.
The duo will continue to grace the field in the same uniform for the remainder of 2011. Beyond that, the story has yet to be written, but time will tell if the career numbers might continue to coincide for years to come or fans may need to relish the few games they have left with two superstars in the same lineup.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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