The bases were loaded in the eighth inning at CitiField Saturday night. The Mets were batting, with one out in the eighth inning, and were threatening to take the lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks, after already blowing the lead earlier in the game.
Up until this point, the game had been typical for the Mets. Oliver Perez would struggle to make it through the fifth ining, allowing 11 men to reach base in those five innings. He would give up a home run to Justin Upton in the first inning, putting the Mets behind before they even had a chance to bat.
The Mets would give him the lead before the bullpen would relinquish it. Now with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Mets had a chance to regain the lead and put themselves in position to win the game.
Only this is the 2009 Mets. The same Mets who can't hit and can't score. The same Mets who could field a team of players who can't play due to injury that would be more impressive than the team they put on the field Saturday night. The same disappointing, injury-plagued Mets who have been a mess on and off the playing field all season long. The 2009 Mets don't come through in these spots. The 2009 Mets don't win these types of games.
Then, with one swing of the bat, a ball was hit deep into the Queens night, deep to left field, and out of the cavern where home runs go to die. It was a go-ahead grand slam off the bat of...Angel Pagan?
Yes that Angel Pagan.
The same Angel Pagan who the Mets drafted in 1999 and then sold to the Cubs in 2006. The same Angel Pagan who was traded back to the Mets for two no-name minor league players prior to the 2008 season. The same Angel Pagan who saw his fast start with the Mets in 2008 negated by an injury that would allow him to play only 31 games. The same Angel Pagan who was passed up for a corner outfield spot in spring training in favor of Daniel Murphy, Ryan Church, and Fernando Tatis.
While the Mets would watch Church end up in Jerry Manuel's doghouse, Tatis struggle at the plate, Murphy stumble around in left field, the team stumble around in the standings, the locker room become a M.A.S.H. unit, one team executive impersonate Hulk Hogan and another impersonate an major league GM, something began happening under the radar.
Angel Pagan was proving he could play.
Since being called up to the big club, Pagan is hitting .288 with eight stolen bases and 20 runs scored in 33 games played. He's helped the Mets become relevent again, even if it probably is too little and too late, by playing great baseball, batting lead-off and playing centerfield, a feat not even prized prospect Fernando Martinez could accomplish.
Pagan's excellent defense, quality at-bats in the lead-off spot, and speed and agressiveness on the basepaths have helped soften the blow of losing both Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.
That's impressive. In fact, Pagan has played so well, there is finally talk of him staying in the starting line-up, and in the lead-off spot in the order even after Reyes returns.
So with his first home run of the season, first in his 60-plus games in Flushing, and his first career grand slam, Pagan helped the Mets to their sixth win in their last eight games, and helped the Mets win the type of game they wouldn't have been able to win even a few weeks ago.
Indeed, Saturday nights game is the type of game good teams win. It's the type of game you only win if you "never say die." Unfortunately, the Mets, the New York media, and the Flushing faithful have been saying die for quite some time now.
Except for Angel Pagan.
No, Angel Pagan hasn't said die all season, and finally, it looks like it's paying off.