ST. LOUIS -- About two hours after Yadier Molina had to be restrained following what he viewed as an unwarranted ejection, the Cardinals were still fuming about a potentially game-changing judgment decision and the possibility of longer-term ramifications.
The incident that dominated discussion following the Cardinals' 4-2 loss to the Giants on Sunday occurred at the end of the third inning. With two on, Molina was called out on a bang-bang play at first base after Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford made a diving stop and throw from his knees in shallow left field. Molina slammed his helmet down after the call and then turned toward the dugout.
The frustration, he clarified later, was not at the out call made by first-base umpire Clint Fagan. In fact, he said the call was correct. The reaction was to the play itself, as Molina, when he made contact, first thought he had an RBI hit in a game the Cardinals trailed by two.
"It was a big situation," Molina said. "I thought I got a base hit, and they made a play. I knew I was out. I wasn't upset that he made the call. I was upset with myself. I tried to hold my helmet."
As Molina turned his back to the field, Fagan ejected the veteran catcher. Umpire crew chief Tim Welke -- who would not let Fagan, a rookie umpire, speak -- told a pool reporter that the ejection was due to perceived "obvious discontent over the call."
After hearing Fagan toss him from the game, Molina turned around and headed toward the umpire. He got more incensed the closer he got. Bengie Molina, serving as fill-in first-base coach, immediately stepped in to restrain his brother. Manager Mike Matheny sprinted in from the dugout to get between Fagan and his catcher, as well.
"He never said a word to the umpire. He never said a word," said Matheny, who did not hide his dissatisfaction of the call during his postgame press conference. "He was upset because he thought that ball was through and it would be a run for our club. He thought we had a rally going. Then all of a sudden, he's thrown out. He wasn't even close to talking about the call. It was just frustration on himself.
"I just don't understand how that call can be made if you're not out looking for it, especially from a young umpire," Matheny continued. "It's frustrating, because that changed the game for us. Now, I'm not saying that if he stays in the game, we win. But I'm saying that that wasn't necessary. That's all there was to it."
It took only seconds for Matheny to also be ejected by Fagan.
"I guess he doesn't like to hear what my opinion is, and he has the right to throw me out at that point," Matheny said. "I didn't really care. He needed him to know that he changed the course of the game because he made a decision about equipment being thrown. And if that's the case, then it could be an equipment violation. I just don't see an excuse."
As Matheny argued with Fagan, second-base umpire Mike Everitt came over, seemingly trying to keep Molina from going back toward Fagan. The two did make contact with each other, though the umpires deemed it "incidental," as Everitt was holding back Molina and Molina was trying to push his hands off.
"There was incidental contact, in my opinion," Everitt said. "But it was violent in nature. He had to be restrained by two coaches and the manager."
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo stepped in to help Bengie restrain Yadier.
"The only thing I saw was that the umpire didn't have a feel for the game," Bengie Molina said. "I know most of them do, but the kid out there didn't have a feel for the game. And what I mean by that is Yadi was mad at himself for the guy making a good play. It was a big turnaround in the game. He was out. He slammed the helmet, wanted to go back to the dugout and he threw him out.
"If you're going to throw him out for that, then you're going to have to throw out half of the team. They get mad sometimes when they get out and they make a good play. That's part of the game. That's what I'm saying about having a feel for the game. I'm not saying what to do, but the umpire should just look at the play. If he would have said something to the umpire, then kick him out. He was just mad, straight up, at the play."
The ejection was the third of Molina's career, his last coming on Aug. 2, 2011, in Milwaukee. Matheny has now been ejected three times as a manager, too. It was his first ejection of the season. He'll likely incur a fine for his critical postgame comments of Fagan.
The Cardinals are hopeful that a suspension won't follow for Molina. The umpires will file a report with the Commissioner's Office, and that write-up will be reviewed by Joe Garagiola, Jr., the senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball.
"That would be a further tragedy," Matheny said of the possibility of Molina being suspended. "We can't take the emotion out of these guys. Once again, he did nothing towards the umpire. The umpire went out of his way to instigate something. It should have never happened like that. It shouldn't. It did, and of course, because he cares, he's not going to be happy. So at that point, he's going to show his frustration."
"I'm just trying to get an explanation as to why he threw me out," added Molina. "Hopefully they look at it, because I didn't do anything wrong."
Bench coach Mike Aldrete returned from a personal leave about the time of Matheny's ejection and joined fill-in bench coach Chris Maloney to handle managerial duties for the rest of the game. Maloney served as the official acting manager and made the pitching changes.
Tony Cruz replaced Molina behind the plate and went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts.
"They outplayed us on the field," Matheny said. "But when you lose a player of Yadi's caliber and impact -- not that Tony Cruz can't do a great job -- you lose that for something that shouldn't have happened, that certainly shouldn't happen."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.