Bengie Molina hits for cycle, creates rip in time-space continuum

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We have witnessed many unlikely events already this season — Stephen Strasburg striking out 14 in his major league debut, four no-hitters, two perfect games, one almost perfect game, the first-place San Diego Padres and the National League actually winning an All-Star Game — but I can say without hesitation that Bengie Molina’s cycle against the Red Sox on Friday night was the most improbable of them all.

Molina was already 3-for-3 with a single, a double and a go-ahead grand slam when he came up to the plate in the top of the eighth inning. That’s a great night by anybody’s standards, but Molina wasn’t done. He proceeded to crank a long drive to distant center field, not far from where he hit his grand slam in the fifth inning. After the ball ricocheted off Eric Patterson’s glove and into Fenway’s famous nook in right center field, the notoriously slow-footed Molina legged out his sixth career triple and successfully completed the first cycle by a catcher since Chad Moeller on April 27, 2004.

Even more incredible, Molina is the eighth player and the first catcher to hit a grand slam and complete the cycle in the same game. It happened.

If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend watching the video footage here.

Here’s what Molina told T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com:

“This means a lot,” Molina said. “I’m not a stats guy; everybody who
knows me knows that. That’s an individual thing, but being one of the
slowest guys in the world, and being criticized for it all my career, to
be able to do something like that really makes me feel good.”

The fact that Molina was forced to leave the game immediately after the triple with a tight right quadriceps is rather appropriate. It’s like he was punished for messing with the cosmos or something.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.