Something interesting happened on Thursday afternoon in the Cubs-Cardinals game: a baseball literally stuck to catcher Yadier Molina. In the top of the seventh inning, reliever Brett Cecil threw a 0-2 pitch in the dirt that Matt Szczur swung over. Molina went to his knees to block the ball and the ball stuck to his chest protector. Molina had no idea where the ball went, so Szczur reached safely on the strikeout. Molina finally realized what happened, so he had a laugh about it.
Molina wasn’t laughing after the game when he was asked if he put anything on his chest protector. Because how else would a baseball defy the laws of gravity? “That’s a dumb question,” Molina responded, per Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Altering a ball with a substance — which Molina presumably could have done by rubbing his hand over his chest protector before returning the ball to his pitcher — is against baseball’s rules, of course. But there’s a bit of an unspoken rule where players are allowed to do it as long as they’re not obvious about it. The problem with past offenders like Michael Pineda is that they were way too obvious. Molina would fall under “too obvious” as well.
Aside from Molina’s flippant response, we haven’t heard any explanation about what happened. Hopefully Cecil and/or manager Mike Matheny provide some clarification.
Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.
It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.
While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.
If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.