10/16/12 1:55 AM ET
Pagan's leadoff homer gives Giants a needed jolt
By Jay Lee / MLB.com
Pagan made a sliding catch at the warning track to rob Cardinals' leadoff hitter Jon Jay of an extra-base hit, and came around to lead off the Giants' side of the first by belting a 1-2 sinker from Chris Carpenter into the right-field seats. The home run gave the Giants their first lead at home of the postseason, sparking them to an eventual 7-1 win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night.
Pagan joined Jimmy Rollins (2008) to become the second player in Major League history to hit two leadoff home runs in a postseason, with the first coming in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Reds. He became aware of the feat when he watched video of the at-bat during the game so he could study Carpenter's pitch locations.
"I wasn't shooting for it, I'll tell you that," Pagan said. "I'm just looking to go out there and do my best for my team. When I was watching the replay, it said it on the bottom and I was surprised. I just want to go out there and give it all for my teammates."
Pagan now has the only two leadoff postseason home runs in franchise history, and is one of five players to have multiple postseason leadoff home runs, joining Derek Jeter (3), Rollins (3), Brady Anderson (2) and Johnny Damon (2).
Much like he did against the Reds, Pagan's homer jump-started the Giants' offense to an all-around effort on Monday. Game 4 of the NLDS provided the first real signs of life from the Giants' offense in the postseason after struggling badly against the Reds' pitching staff in the first three games of the series, and they had been held scoreless in eight innings of Sunday's 6-4 loss in the NLCS opener.
"We can go back to Cincinnati, and that's when everybody got pumped up and wanted to keep the line moving," Pagan said. "That definitely set the tone, and when I hit this one, everybody got fired up. We got a point on early in the game, and that's what we needed."
The Cardinals would come around to tie the game in the top of the second when Carpenter doubled home Pete Kozma from first, but the Giants regained the lead in a four-run fourth inning. In the rally, Pagan walked to load the bases with two outs, and later sprinted home from first when Marco Scutaro's single to left field was misplayed by Matt Holliday.
"It was nice getting a lead," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It didn't last long, but still something we needed. We did it in Cincinnati. He hit a home run there to get us going and he did tonight. So it's always good to get an early lead there."
The Cardinals may have been the ones taking the early lead if it hadn't been for Pagan's catch on Jay's fly ball in the top of the first, on which the center fielder had to battle the glaring sun from behind home plate and the shadows as he sprinted toward the wall.
"It was right in the sun, and the sun was right in the eyes," Pagan said. "I'm glad that I made that catch because that could have changed everything."
"I don't know how he caught it, and he didn't know either," Gregor Blanco said. "When we came in and I told him he made a nice catch, he just said to me, 'I don't know how I caught it.' When you're out there the ball just gets lost in the sun so it's so hard to make that catch."
Pagan, who also had singled in the eighth inning, entered this postseason with five career leadoff home runs, including two this season. His last one came against the Cardinals on Aug. 6.
"I'm there to get on base any way I can," Pagan said. "I'm blessed enough to have good power, and if I square up, it has a good chance to go out. But that's not my mentality. I'm just trying to get to first base any way I can. That's how I set the tone, putting on that kind of pressure. That'll pass through my teammates."
Jay Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.