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Molina is still a thorn in Yankees' side

Molina is still a thorn in Yankees' side

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NEW YORK -- The Rangers' midseason acquisition of Bengie Molina gave a young and inexperienced Texas team a defensive-minded, veteran catcher willing to help take charge.

"Since we've been in the playoffs, he's been more vocal," Rangers manager Ron Washington said on Tuesday afternoon. "When he says something, you listen, because he's right on it."

But the typically mild-mannered Molina didn't need to say a word on Tuesday night. Instead, he let his bat do all the talking, blasting a go-ahead three run homer off Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, a fatal sixth-inning blow that helped the Rangers cruise to a 10-3 win. The Game 4 victory gives Texas a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, making Molina -- a longtime New York nemesis -- public enemy No. 1 to the crowd of 49,977, which he silenced with the clutch two-out shot.

"I don't see it like 'Here come the Yankees, I'm going to have a great game,'" said Molina, who hit .444 (8-for-18) with three homers and five RBIs as a member of the 2005 Angels, who upended the Yankees in the AL Division Series. "I don't see it that way. It's not a bad job for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of the way he runs."


Molina's blast -- which sailed into the left-field stands -- guaranteed a smooth saunter around the basepaths, as he pointed up at his wife and mother in attendance. Yankees manager Joe Girardi -- who made the decision to walk the left-handed-hitting David Murphy to face Molina in a righty-vs.-righty matchup -- wasn't quite as uplifted about the result of the fateful at-bat.

"We liked the matchup, A.J. against Molina," Girardi said. "We did. And unfortunately, it didn't work out."

The idea to walk Murphy -- who entered Tuesday a career 5-for-17 (.294) hitter with a homer against Burnett -- likely wouldn't have happened if not for a smart baserunning play by Nelson Cruz, who tagged up on Ian Kinsler's one-out fly ball to leave first base open.

Molina, a career 1-for-5 hitter against Burnett, watched Murphy draw the free pass but didn't necessarily use it as motivation.

"He kills right-handers, so why not walk him and face me?" said Molina, who had already reached base twice. "I haven't been having a great season. I don't think it's a bad move. I think it's the right move that went wrong."

Molina's track record says otherwise. In addition to a monster ALDS against the Yankees in '05, Molina -- who entered the game with a .318 postseason average -- had more than just his history on his side. Tuesday was also the four-year anniversary of his brother, Yadier Molina, clubbing a ninth-inning tiebreaking homer that lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-1 NLCS win over the New York Mets.

"I don't think it's the same," said Molina, who remembers sitting in his kitchen screaming at his brother through the television to sit on the changeup. "It's very happy for both of us, but he enjoyed it a lot. I'm just here still waiting for one more game."

Still, in a series headlined by the pitching prowess of ace Cliff Lee and the offensive onslaught of Josh Hamilton -- who delivered two homers on Tuesday -- Molina's blast may be remembered as the straw that broke the defending champion Yankees' back.

"It was a huge lift," said Hamilton. "[Molina] gets it done in the postseason, and he's done it for a long time. He came through and to just see him get fired up -- he's a pretty low-key guy -- got everyone else pretty fired up."

"The things he's doing for us offensively, I think it's been forgotten, because he got off to a bad start this year," Washington said of Molina, who chipped in two homers and 19 RBIs in 57 games with Texas. "But if you look on the back of his baseball card, he's always been an RBI guy. He finds ways to get RBIs in, and today we certainly needed someone to step up. And in a crucial situation there, he stepped up."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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