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Giants blinded by the light

San Francisco’s 6-game win streak snapped by Yadier Molina and the Missouri sunshine

San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
Three San Francisco Giants converge attempting to catch a flyball against the St. Louis Cardinals
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants six-game winning streak came to an end with a 4-0 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals.

On a hot, bright, sweaty, sunscreen-in-the-eyes Missouri afternoon, starter Jakob Junis re-matched against Dakota Hudson. Junis put up similar numbers to his May 8th start, going 5.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on six hits with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. He didn’t have the best feel of his slider, but he maintained control over counters with an early in the count sinker. He didn’t dominate hitters, but he ate up innings and kept the Giants in the game, which was listed in the preferred qualifications when San Francisco posted the job for a deep-rotation, spot starter.

The Cardinals bagged a run off consecutive doubles in the second and then padded the lead on a solo home run by Tommy Edman in the 5th that barely eked over the laces of Luis González’s glove in right field.

In the 7th, the Cards padded their lead on a two-out Paul Goldschmidt fly ball that landed next to Austin Slater in deep center after he completely lost it in the sun. Nolan Arenado followed with a truer double to left that brought in Goldschmidt.

The Giants hit the ball well for the most part, creating scoring opportunities, but were unable to cash in on any of them. One of their biggest chances came in the 5th: a burgeoning threat that turned into a rug being pulled out from under them by one of the greatest catchers of all time.

The Giants were down 1-0 with runners on first (Joc Pederson) and third (Joey Bart) and two outs.

Mike Yastrzemski was up. Yaz has been hitting the ball well since coming back from the COVID-IL. He had a big 2 RBI double last night and put some good swings on pitches earlier in the game with nothing to show for it. In general, the Giants bats were punching the ball well against Dakota Hudson—just right into the Cardinal’s defense. A hit was a possibility—even after Yaz went behind in the count 0-2.

On the third pitch of the at-bat, Pederson attempted to steal second before Yaz fouled off the pitch. Pederson, who had been cautious on the base path after a groin injury, slowly walked back to first reading the signs relayed to him by third base coach Mark Hallberg. Back at first, Antoan Richardson cupped his hand over his mouth and whispered something into Pederson’s ear. Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing too suspect—but Yadier Molina was watching.

After Dakota Hudson became set on the mound, longtime Cardinals catcher Molina signaled a pitch out and stood up behind home plate. He relayed the 93 MPH fastball towards second to freeze Pederson twenty feet from the base, desperately retreat back to first in an attempt to delay the inevitable and generate an opportunity to have Bart break for home and maybe score. It didn’t work.

I see the logic in the initial hit-and-run call. It puts the go-ahead run in motion, giving Pederson a good jump and opportunity to score if Yaz is able to put a ball in the gap or outfield corner. It maybe puts a little bit of pressure on Yaz to swing, but his K rate is the lowest it’s been in awhile, when he makes contact his average exit velocity is in the top-4% in the league, and putting the runner in motion might open up a hole in the defense he could exploit.

I like the move and I like it in that situation. The error came when the Giants tried it again after showing their hand.

There’s a reason Yadier Molina has been able to play 19 seasons in the Major Leagues in the most physically demanding position in the game. He sees all. He’s the Eye of Sauron and one does not simply steal second base with him behind the plate. Keeping the hit-and-run play on after the foul is as foolish as Frodo and Sam thinking they can just knock on The Black Gate and walk into Mordor.

It was pretty funny watching the replay on the NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast. Javy Lopez narrates how between pitches Yadier Molina literally steals the sign in front of our eyes, watching the sign relayed from the bench to Hallberg at third to Pederson back at first.

Most of the time, you don’t need a telescope, video camera or a trash can to steal signs, you just need to know where to look. Molina does. He always does. He saw that the play was still on, shrugged his shoulders, let everyone in the middle of the Cardinals infield know, and got the Cardinals out of a mid-game conundrum.

Taking a swing away from a hitter is an invaluable thing in baseball. Molina did that to Mike Yastrzemski and the Giants on Saturday and it quite possibly won them the game.

P.S. If you need a pick-me-up after the loss...