Watch: Angel Pagan hits first inside-the-park walk-off since 2004
The Giants trailed the Rockies 4-0 in the sixth inning on Saturday afternoon, battled back to force extra innings, then watched closer Sergio Romo give up a leadoff home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the 10th.
With his team trailing 5-4, shorstop Brandon Crawford drew a five-pitch walk from Rockies' closer Rafael Betancourt to open the bottom of the 10th and was bunted into scoring position by Guillermo Quiroz, pinch-hitting for Romo. That brought up Angel Pagan, who only needed a single to keep the Giants alive in the game. Instead, after fouling off Betancourt's first pitch, he did this:
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That was the first walk-off inside-the-park home run since 2004, when Rey Sanchez of the Devil Rays hit one, also in the bottom of the 10th inning, also against the Rockies, albeit in a tie game. Here's that one:
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Most inside-the-park home runs are actually the result of fielding errors, and Sanchez's fit that bill. With one out and the bases empty in a tie game, Rockies' rightfielder Jeromy Burnitz attempted an ill-advised catch, missed the ball, then fell down trying to retrieve it. Sanchez's hit probably should have been a single (Burnitz should have fielded it on a hop) and a three-base error.
Pagan's however, was a legitimate home run. Rightfielder Michael Cuddyer may have gotten a bit to close to the wall, but he was attempting to play the carom when the ball came down only to be victimized by a very high hop. Centerfielder Dexter Fowler backed him up well, got the ball in quickly, hit the cutoff man, and cut-off man DJ LeMahieu's throw to the plate was strong and accurate.
Pagan circled the bases safely because he hit the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark, known as triples alley (there used to be a sign right next to where Pagan's ball hit), with a ton of hang time, particularly if you include that high carom. Playing in his home ballpark and likely knowing he had a chance at a triple, he was busting it out of the box. That high carom and the green light from third-base coach Tim Flannery was all he needed to take the extra base, and it was still a close play at the plate.
In addition to being the first inside-the-park walk-off in nine seasons, Pagan's home run was also just the third walk-off home run this season hit by a player whose team was trailing at the moment of contact. Evan Longoria hit the first with the Rays down 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth on May 11, and the Indians' Yan Gomes hit the second with his team trailing 8-7 in the bottom of the tenth this past Monday. For more on inside-the-park walk-off home runs, check out this list from Baseball-Reference.com (hat-tip @GiantsNirvana), but note that it only covers back to 1945 and is missing the greatest inside-the-park walkoff in major-league history. That came on July 25, 1956, when, trailing 8-5, the Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth against the Cubs' Turk Lown. Chicago manager Stan Hack then swapped out Lown to have future author Jim Brosnan face 21-year-old second-year rightfielder Roberto Clemente, who greeted Brosnan with the only inside-the-park walk-off grand slam in major-league history, and the Pirates needed all four runs for the win. Sadly, no video of that one exists.