K-Rod allows decisive homer in Mets' loss
Giants catcher Molina belts tiebreaking blast in 10th inning
NEW YORK -- On any other day, Francisco Rodriguez's belt-high fastball to Giants catcher Bengie Molina -- which sailed into the left-field stands at Citi Field for a tiebreaking solo homer -- might have caused a lot of heartbreak.
But it was the throws outside the strike zone that hurt the most, turning the Mets' 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Giants into a chilling and emotionally-charged display in front of a crowd of 39,652.
The tension started when third baseman David Wright left the game after taking a fastball to the helmet in the fourth inning from Giants starter Matt Cain. Then with two outs in the seventh inning, Johan Santana intentionally threw behind Pablo Sandoval, who blasted a solo homer two pitches later to give San Francisco (63-53) a 4-1 lead.
"I feel like I have to protect my teammates," said Santana. "You can call that whatever you want. But there's no question we are in this thing together, and I'm going to protect them the same way they protect me."
While Santana wasn't specific about what factors -- other than the game's score -- caused him to wait several innings to retaliate against Sandoval, he did make it clear that hitting the following batter, Molina, was an accident.
"It happened once, and that was it. And they took advantage after that -- [Sandoval] took a good swing and hit the ball out of the park," Santana said. "After that, I was just trying to come in on Molina. I just tried, and it went too far in. I didn't have any intentions to hit him at all."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy thought otherwise. Following Molina getting hit in the elbow, Bochy came onto the field to exchange words with home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora, who issued Santana a warning following the pitch to Sandoval.
"I'm not going to sit there and watch my guys get thrown at," Bochy said. "They have their core player get hit in the head, it's not a good thing. I understand that. But if you know the game, that pitch got away from [Cain]. Matt's not that type of pitcher, but I can't sit there and watch my guys get thrown at, especially after a warning."
Although the Mets (54-62) removed Santana, inserting Sean Green before the game's events could escalate any further, the clubhouse reaction was decidedly different.
"You got the best player, or any of your teammates, going down that way, sometimes you as a pitcher feel like you need to protect your hitters," Rodriguez (2-4) said. "And I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Although the Mets were quick to point out that they felt Cain's pitch was unintentional, the old baseball adage to "protect your own" still applies.
"You can take it for what it's worth, but when your third-hole hitter gets dosed in the head, I think you got to come back at them a little bit," Jeff Francoeur said.
The Mets came back with their bats as well, rallying from a three-run deficit to nearly steal the game.
New York's first run came in the fourth after Wright's hit-by-pitch moved Luis Castillo -- who had singled to open the inning -- over to second base. Castillo advanced to third on Gary Sheffield's fly ball and scored on Daniel Murphy's sacrifice fly, sliding in well ahead of Nate Schierholtz's throw to Molina, which forced the backstop out several yards in front of the plate.
The Mets struck again in the bottom of the eighth after chasing Cain to tie the game at 4. Anderson Hernandez scored from second base on Cory Sullivan's single, and after Castillo walked, Fernando Tatis -- playing in place of the departed Wright -- plated Sullivan on a single to right field. Sheffield tied the game, serving up another sacrifice fly to Schierholtz to score Castillo, who easily beat the outfielder's short throw for the second time.
Santana, who did not allow a hit until the fourth inning, was touched for three runs in a 25-pitch sixth inning, and allowed four runs on nine hits on the day. While hardly his best performance, Santana wasn't concerned with his pitch location or how he fared on the hill. Instead, the dominating lefty aired his frustration about his club's latest hard-luck loss: the injury to Wright.
"I don't know what else we can go though, to be honest with you," Santana said. "Throughout this whole season, it's been crazy for us, and it's not good to see [Wright] going down that way. It's not good at all."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.