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Cycle one for the books

Molina’s feat impresses mates

By Robert Mays
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2010

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Count Ron Washington among the incredulous.

As Bengie Molina stepped to the plate in the eighth inning at Fenway Park last night a triple shy of the cycle, the Rangers manager turned to a fellow member of the dugout and inquired about his notoriously plodding catcher.

“I said, ‘Where do you think he has to hit this ball to get a triple?’ ’’ Washington said.

The answer? Nowhere in this ballpark.

Molina said when he stepped to the plate, history was in the back of his mind, but he wasn’t expecting it either.

“You have it in your head, but it’s not what you’re thinking,’’ Molina said. “You’re not thinking to hit a triple. Not at all.’’

Especially not when you’ve only hit six in 4,998 career at-bats.

But on a 2-1 pitch, Molina sent a fly ball deep into center field and when it hit off Eric Patterson’s glove and bounced away he saw his chance.

“I kept telling myself, I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta try,’’ said Molina, modestly listed at 225 pounds.

Molina rounded second and made his way for third at the one speed he has.

“I didn’t see any gear shift,’’ Washington said, “but he made it standing up.’’

Molina said he was so caught in the moment that he stumbled as he rounded first base and tweaked his leg, prompting Washington to replace him with a pinch runner.

It was the end of a night where Molina became just the eighth player since 1900 to hit a grand slam and hit for the cycle in the same game.

“It makes you happy for the guy that’s probably the slowest guy in the world, who’s been criticized for speed his whole career, for 11 1/2 years in the big leagues,’’ Washington said. “To do something like that, it’s personally very good.’’

Molina was 4 for 4 with four RBIs, including the ones on his fifth career grand slam, which put Texas up for good in its 8-4 win.

The cycle is the first for a catcher since Chad Moeller’s April 27, 2004 while playing for the Brewers, and it’s the first cycle hit against the Sox at Fenway Park since 1978.

“Since he got here, he’s been trying to fit in, and it’s nice for him to contribute in a big way like he did tonight,’’ Washington said.

Molina was traded to Texas July 1, and his performance last night is the type of contribution his manager and his teammates know he’s wanted to provide.

“We know he’s going to make plenty of [contributions], but I’m sure for him, coming to a new team, he wants to get off to a good start,’’ said third baseman Michael Young.

When Molina made his way to the dugout following the triple, he was greeted with smiles and jokes. He says that feeling is even better than making history.

“There’s nothing better when you play baseball than when you do something and you see your teammates laughing and smiling and enjoying the moment,’’ Molina said. “There’s nothing better in the game.’’

Robert Mays can be reached at rmays@globe.com.

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