Molina, Francoeur make presence known
Rangers newcomers provide offense in Game 1 victory
ST. PETERSBURG -- Everyone knows how much of an impact the trade for left-hander Cliff Lee in July had on the Rangers.
But two deals that did not get nearly as much attention when they were made looked awfully good Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, where the Rangers started the American League Division Series with a 5-1 victory over the Rays.
Veteran catcher Bengie Molina, acquired from the Giants on July 2, went 3-for-4 with a home run, and right fielder Jeff Francoeur, a fourth outfielder with the Mets before coming to Texas on Aug. 31, drove in the game's first run with a second-inning double and scored the second run on a Molina single.
Standing in front of his locker in a corner of the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field late Wednesday afternoon, Francoeur said he would be on a Florida beach right now if he had not been traded to the Rangers on the deadline for players to be on a postseason roster.
"There is no better place that I would rather be than right here," Francoeur said. "I got a chance to come over here. They wanted me. I came here to hit lefties and do this kind of stuff. To come up and have a big hit like that feels good."
The line drive Francoeur hit in the second inning off Rays left-hander David Price sailed over B.J. Upton's head in center field, hit the wall and caromed back. Ian Kinsler, on first via a single, scored easily.
One out later, Molina dumped a single into right field. Francoeur never hesitated and romped home with the second run of the game.
Molina hit a solo home run in the fourth inning and capped his big day with a single in the ninth.
"Those are guys who have been through the wars before," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the unsung duo.
"We got guys who have visited the postseason and have had some success in the game," hitting coach Clint Hurdle added. "Francoeur is more than a show-up guy playing against left-handed pitching. He has played every day his entire career.
"We got him at a good time. This is a good place for him. I saw him in Atlanta, so I know his swing, and when Molina was in San Francisco, he used to wear us out in Colorado. Both are great additions to our club."
Molina, who hit 20 home runs for the Giants last season, became expendable because the eventual NL West champions decided Buster Posey was ready for the big leagues. They were correct.
Posey is a Rookie of the Year candidate, and once Molina got over the shock of being swapped, he's become a happy camper in Texas.
"At first, I didn't feel so well because I had a lot of friends on the other side [with the Giants]. I took care of those pitchers and they took care of me good. We were like a family there.
"But once I came here, you've got to turn the page. You've got to say [the Giants] didn't want you and these guys [Rangers] really do want you. So I took it very nice and was very positive about it."
Being a National League guy most of his career, Hurdle knew both players extremely well and knew they would fit in. So he was especially pleased with what they did in the Division Series opener.
"You couldn't ask for a better first game than the one Bengie had," Hurdle said. "Both guys have length in the game. Bengie has a baseball card that when you flip it over, it's impressive. He's been there [playoffs] before.
"He has some veteran leadership and some experience. His heart beats slow and it played out today. He did a nice job with Cliff. We love having Bengie as part of the club."
Francoeur, who broke in with the Braves and played in the 2005 National League Division Series, going 4-for-17, was batting .237 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs with the Mets. He also led the league with 11 outfield assists before the trade.
Francoeur had no assists on Wednesday, but he made a key defensive play in the ninth inning.
Back-to-back walks started the inning and got the capacity crowd back into the game. More noise came when Ben Zobrist, who had hit a home run in the seventh inning, hit a line drive to right field.
Francoeur raced to his left, reached up and made the catch.
Was it a tough play?
"Anytime the ball is hit in the air here, it's a tough play," Francoeur said. "Zobrist had a great game. He squared up three balls and right there [in the ninth], we were playing a little deeper, and that made it easier."
Two batters later, the Rangers were lining up on the infield for the congratulatory high-fives.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.