Motte impresses in return to the mound
Cards reliever delivers 1 2/3 scoreless innings in win over D-backs
ST. LOUIS -- Jason Motte had just offered a fist pump, celebrating a relay play that ended with catcher Yadier Molina preserving a tie game by tagging Ender Inciarte out at home to close the 10th inning. The batterymates -- reunited on the field for the first time since 2012 -- then met on their way to the dugout, finishing that walk together, Molina's arm over Motte's shoulder.
There was a chest pat, a smile and then a few words.
"I'm glad to have you back," Molina said, as recalled by Motte.
Motte can indeed now be considered officially back, ending a 19-month absence during which he underwent and rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. Having last thrown a meaningful pitch in Game 7 of the 2012 National League Championship Series, Motte threw 15 in a 1 2/3-inning appearance in Wednesday's 3-2 win over Arizona.
It was his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, and those who remained from a crowd of 40,542 at Busch Stadium welcomed Motte in from the bullpen in the 10th with a standing ovation.
"Running out, I tried to keep my head down," Motte said. "I heard it all coming from the bullpen. It reminded me kind of like the  World Series, coming into Game 7. I kept my head down, took it in a little bit. I tried to calm down a little bit, tried to breathe a little bit because in that situation you can't go out there and be out of control."
He entered with a runner on first, one out and threw three straight balls to Chris Owings before getting him to fly out with the count full. Paul Goldschmidt then ripped a cutter to left, though Motte would be bailed out by a terrific Matt Holliday-Daniel Descalso-Molina relay play.
Manager Mike Matheny sent Motte back out for the 11th, and the right-hander retired the side in order. He closed the appearance with a strikeout.
"It looked like he was pitching," Matheny said. "He was not just rearing back letting it fly as hard as he possibly can. I thought he did a real nice job. We needed him right there, it was big."
Motte's fastball velocity sat at 92-93 mph -- a notably lower velocity than what he was throwing pre-surgery. His strikeout came when Martin Prado swung through an 88-mph cutter.
"I learned a long time it's not what you throw, it's where you throw it," Motte said. "I was just trying to go out there and locate."
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.