CINCINNATI Angel Pagan's sensational diving catch in the eighth inning came at a price. By the time the center fielder got back to the Giants dugout, the celebration that awaited him was perilous.
"Oh, man," the center fielder said. "I got punched. I got pushed. I got so many high-fives."
If the moment was painful for Pagan, imagine what it felt like for the Cincinnati Reds, who watched the Giants make several brilliant defensive plays to cling to a 6-4 victory in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
Two batters before Pagan, shortstop Brandon Crawford added his own rally-crushing catch. And catcher Buster Posey pulled the plug on another Reds threat by throwing out a runner trying to steal in the sixth inning.
"In this type of ballgame, you have to be on the top of your game. You have to be heads up on every play," Pagan said. "It was a very good ballgame for us defensively."
In terms of style points and degree of difficulty, no play was bigger than Pagan's. The Giants led 6-3 with two outs in the eighth, but the Reds had the tying run at the plate after Scott Rolen and Todd Frazier singled off reliever Santiago Casilla.
Manager Bruce Bochy summoned reliever Sergio Romo to face pinch hitter Dioner Navarro. As the announced crowd of 44,142 finally made some noise, Pagan silently assessed the situation.
"I thought that Navarro was a line-drive hitter, so I had to give myself an opportunity to make a play," said the center fielder, who does his own positioning. "I had to be not too shallow and not too deep."
Navarro smacked a low liner to almost straight-away center. Because of his excellent positioning, Pagan didn't have to range to his right or left. Instead, he took off on a dead run toward the plate before leaping forward to pluck Navarro's drive inches from the turf.
When the ball smacked his glove, he did a barrel roll and popped up with his right fist already raised in celebration.
"Man, I think I got pumped up before I got there," he said, "I was anticipating the play. I wanted that ball to be hit to me. That's how you make those plays: You anticipate the play."
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