Cubs respond to brief benches-clearing incident with Molina, Cardinals: ‘I thought it was stupid'


ST. LOUIS — Cole Hamels fired his second pitch of the second inning and when he saw the 90 mph fastball graze Yadier Molina's elbow guard, he turned around and cursed himself for putting the leadoff runner on base.

By the time Hamels spun back around, Molina was staring daggers into the Cubs pitcher. The two veterans started jawing and walking toward each other, prompting a benches-clearing incident.

It lasted just a matter of minutes and no punches were thrown:

"I dunno, I thought it was stupid," Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler. "Maybe Yadi's trying to fire his team up. The guy's smart; he knows what he's doing. I was in the hot tub, so I didn't really know what was happening. I should've run out with my sliders on."

The Cardinals had just lost Friday night to this same Cubs team that was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention a few days ago and they were trying to avoid a second straight defeat. St. Louis began Saturday with a 1-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central, so the game was huge for division race.

The Cubs understood that. 

The problem for the Cardinals was Molina was stranded at first base and Hamels went on to throw four shutout innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs scored 2 runs in the top of the next inning and went on to win an 8-6 game. 

"Yeah, I think [the benches-clearing incident sparked us] a little bit," said Ian Happ, who homered twice and drove in 4 runs. "It's always tough to play against a team that has nothing to lose, like we do right now. We've experienced that in the past and I think Yadi was just trying to get the guys fired up in their dugout, because it's a big couple games for them. 

"Understand completely what he was trying to do. And for us, just get a bunch of guys out there playing with their hair on fire, we got nothing to lose."

The roles for these two teams were completely reversed a year ago, when the Cubs were trying to stave off the Brewers to win the division title. 

So the Cubs know what the Cardinals are going through right now, but that doesn't mean they're about to back down from what they thought was a silly challenge.

"It's kind of a crazy situation," Hamels said. "I think we all know what's at stake over there. We were there last year. The intensity's a little bit different. The thoughts are a little bit different. They can kinda get skewed a little bit. So I think just really trying to understand the point of what was happening. But I do. 

"I know when I'm not in the wrong and something that obviously just transpired, I'm gonna stand up for myself and for what I believe in and not hold back. I don't care the situation of what it might look like, what could be predicted. I just know when I feel like I'm pretty confident that I'm right in a situation, I'm gonna stand up for myself. And vice versa."

Both teams escaped the drama without any injuries or anything to warrant a suspension and will close out the 2019 regular season Sunday afternoon.

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