NEW YORK – Angel Pagan had a night to remember, and not just because he reached base in all five trips to the plate or finished a double away from the cycle or gear-shifted the Giants to a fourth consecutive victory, which they hadn’t accomplished since the first week of May.
It was Roberto Clemente night around Major League Baseball. It was Orlando Cepeda’s birthday, too. And when you are a baseball player from Puerto Rico, that confluence of events is like All Saint’s Day.
Wowing his former fans in New York? That was a nice bonus, too, in the Giants’ 8-5 victory at Citi Field.
Pagan learned how to be an effective gap-to-gap hitter here in the Mets’ brand-spanking pitcher’s park. That’s a major reason he was able to transition his game so well last year to AT&T Park, where so many first-year Giants hitters have struggled to come to terms with the breeze and the bricks.
And his ability to make things happen, abroad but especially home, is what made the Giants miss him so terribly in those three months he spent on the disabled list with a hamstring injury that eventually required surgery.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t spend much time in the what-if chamber. But does he wonder where his club might be if he had Pagan all season?
“Yeah, I do because I’ve seen the difference,” Bochy said. “You have to deal with injuries and good teams are able to overcome them. But it showed how important he was to our club, with his presence leading off.
“He had a big hit tonight and kept going. He changes our club, no question about it. I think we’d be in a better situation than where we are.”
Of course, part of the Giants’ failure to keep the season afloat without Pagan rests with their lack of outfield depth. They hoped to patch together left field with Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres, believing neither player would get exposed as part of a platoon. But when they had to become two everyday players, the results weren’t pretty. (And management didn’t do anything to replace those four months of stellar production they got from Melky Cabrera, either.)
To be fair, Pagan couldn’t have done anything to stop the Dodgers when they decided to play .800 ball for nearly three months. Having Pagan probably would’ve helped pull the Giants out of their offensive stupor a little quicker. It’s an interesting debate.
But perhaps it’s less important to think about how Pagan’s absence affected the Giants’ fortunes this year. Maybe it’s more comforting to look ahead instead of behind.
“We can all see right now that we’re a good team, a championship team,” Pagan said. “This year happened to be a tough one but that happens to every team. I think the most important thing is to reflect on the year and use it as motivation and look at what is happening now.”
Right now, the Giants have a dynamic presence atop the lineup again. Pagan’s home run, which would’ve been out at AT&T Park, too, was his first since his dashing, inside-the-parker walked off the Colorado Rockies on May 25 – his last act before going on the DL.
His hamstring procedure was no little scope job. He had one of his three tendons removed. So the way he is playing now is a confidence boost, for sure.
“Especially because some people said I will lose a step in my career,” Pagan said. “But I feel pretty good and it’ll keep getting better because I’ll keep working hard in the offseason. I have two tendons instead of three but if I make them strong, it’ll be the same for next season.
“That was the purpose of my coming back. I wanted to come back so the team can finish strong and feel good about ourselves. We’re not going to the playoffs, but we can reflect and use this as motivation and prepare for next season. We know we have a good enough team that we can reflect on that and get back to winning.
“I have energy every day, man. I’m going out there 100 percent every day.”
Pagan nearly had one more chance to become the 11th Giant in the San Francisco era to hit a cycle, but Roger Kieschnick struck out to strand him on deck.
“Well, I’m not greedy like that,” Pagan said. “If I had the opportunity to hit, I was going to get on base. If it was a double, it’s a double. And if it’s a triple, I’m going to keep on going.”
Right-hander Sandy Rosario was taken out in the ninth inning because of a strained hip, and it sounds like it might be more than a day-to-day thing.