Kruk and Kuip: 'The bounce finally went their way'
Angel Pagan’s inside-the-parker was the Giants’ first since Conor Gillaspie’s on Sept. 27, 2011, which also happened to be against the Rockies. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – Angel Pagan swears he had help making his mad dash around the bases to win Saturday’s game for the Giants.
As he rounded third on his way to a walkoff, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 10th, he noticed everything – a sellout crowd going bananas, Giants players prepared to burst out of the dugout.
“When I was coming around third, I saw all of my teammates carrying me toward home plate,” Pagan said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Inside-the-park home run wins it for Giants]
In reality, one of the most memorable game-ending plays in franchise history was all Pagan’s doing.
His two-run homer – the first walkoff inside-the-park job by a Giant since Bill Terry back in 1931 – gave his team an emotional 6-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies that seemed destined to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
The Giants were robbed on two close plays on the bases that seemingly were missed by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. They rallied from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game, only to see Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki homer in the top of the 10th off Sergio Romo to give the Rockies a 5-4 lead.
“I can’t say enough about how they did find a way to win that ballgame,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “because that’s one that probably would have stayed with us a long time.”
Bochy was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing the second controversial call by Marquez, so he was watching from a clubhouse television as the bottom of the 10th unfolded.
Down a run, Brandon Crawford worked a leadoff walk against Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt. Guillermo Quiroz sacrificed him to second base. Then Pagan drove an 0-1 pitch deep to right-center. The ball hit against the base of the wall and took a hard carom toward center field.
As center fielder Dexter Fowler ran the ball down and fired to second baseman D.J. LeMahieu for the cutoff, Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery was waving Pagan around the whole time. Flannery said a key was that Tulowitzki, the Rockies strong-armed shortstop, wasn’t the primary cutoff man.
Pagan, his tank near empty as he chugged around third, dove head-first into home plate, well ahead of LeMahieu’s throw.
“You’ve got the wind, the deepest part of the park, Tulowitzki wasn’t the cutoff man …” Flannery said afterward. “It takes a perfect storm sometimes. I’ve been a part of eight (inside-the-park homers). That one there, though, was probably the most fun.”
Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was watching from the dugout and hoping the ball would blow over the fence. He was disappointed it didn’t until he saw Pagan racing around the diamond.
“(Jean) Machi was about to jump the rail. He kicked me,” Pence said. “It was like a ‘yes … no … yes’ kind of thing.” Flannery said he’s always on the lookout to send a batter all the way around the bases. He said players often complain about AT&T Park’s deep dimensions – 421 feet in right-center -- and the funky configuration of the outfield wall in that section. So Flannery points out to them that such a setup can lend itself to an inside-the-park home run.
Flannery also said he keeps in mind some advice he got years ago from Giants hitting coach Joe Lefebvre about coaching third on a potential inside-the-parker.
“Only send the people that deserve to be sent,” Lefebvre told Flannery.
Pagan, running hard out of the box from the get-go, deserved the green light. His hustle was indicative of the Giants’ never-say-die spirit when they’re behind in a game. They trailed 4-0 after the Rockies took an early lead against left-hander Barry Zito, who gave up four runs over six innings.
But they found a way to even this three-game series with the Rockies going into Sunday’s finale. The Giants are now tied with Colorado, a half-game behind N.L. West leader Arizona. Colorado came in having won four straight over the Giants.
San Francisco has seven walk-off victories this season. Pagan was Saturday’s hero, though he said he wasn’t in a rush to watch the highlights of his homer.
“If you watch the good things, you have to watch the bad things too,” Pagan said.
He and his teammates walked away from this one remembering the good.
Pagan’s inside-the-parker was the Giants’ first since Conor Gillaspie’s on Sept. 27, 2011, which also happened to be against the Rockies.
No major league team had won on a walk-off inside-the-park homer since Rey Sanchez did it for Tampa Bay on June 11, 2004. The Rays’ opponent that day?