Edward Mujica had converted all 21 save chances he had this season prior to Thursday night. But the St. Louis Cardinals closer blew his first save of the season when he allowed the Los Angeles Angels to score three runs in the ninth for a 6-5 comeback win on July 4. He has an interesting explanation for the blown save.
Mujica allowed four hits and was charged with two runs in two-thirds of an inning. He entered the game in relief of Adam Wainwright, who allowed Albert Pujols to reach with a base hit to lead off the inning. Mujica promptly surrendered a two-run home run to Josh Hamilton, two more hits, got two outs, and then allowed the winning hit to Erick Aybar, which gave the Angels a walk-off win.
Mujica said after the game that shaking off catcher Yadier Molina was the problem. Molina called for a fastball on Hamilton, and Mujica wanted to throw his split-changeup. Hamilton hit the split-changeup out for a home run. Then against Aybar, Molina also called for a fastball, but Mujica shook him off to throw a split-change. Aybar dumped it into left field for the winning hit.
“I didn’t follow Yadi, and that’s a mistake I can’t make anymore,” Mujica said, via MLB.com. “From now on, I’m just going with Yadi. It was a big mistake.”
Mujica’s split-changeup is an awesome pitch and has been his bread and butter all season, so it’s not like going to it is some absurd notion. But both Hamilton and Aybar seemed ready for it, unlike Alberto Callaspo, who was completely fooled by it when he popped out with two on in the ninth. Maybe Molina recognized that Mujica was throwing it too frequently and that he should mix it up by throwing fastballs. Fangraphs says Mujica throws the split-changeup 55.6 percent of the time, and it seems like he threw it even more frequently against the Angels.
The big mistake was manager Mike Matheny’s decision to pull Wainwright. Why send him out for the ninth if you’re just going to pull him for allowing a bloop single? If you’re planning to have that short of a hook, just have Mujica start the inning.
And what does this say about Molina? He has long been considered the best defensive catcher in baseball, not just for his ability to block balls and throw out runners, because of how he calls pitches. This seems to be more proof that he is the best in baseball at his job.
Below is video of Hamilton’s home run.