Angel Pagan said there’s a saying in Puerto Rico about baseball that essentially goes: The baseball is round but comes in a square box, so anything can happen. In the Giants’ 5-4 loss to the Miami Marlins on Sunday, the left fielder epitomized that idea.
A seesaw game at AT&T Park pivoted in the late innings on moments involving Pagan. He lost a fly ball in the sun in the sixth inning that helped the Marlins score a run. He came up in the bottom of the inning and hit an RBI single that re-tied the score.
In the eighth, with the Giants trailing by a run, Pagan batted with the bases loaded and no outs and tapped a ball back to Marlins reliever David Phelps, who threw home to start a double play. Phelps then struck out Joe Panik, and the Giants were left ruing the chances they missed in the finale of what could have been a sweep of Miami.
“Even though it’s April, those are games you’ve got to win,” Panik said. “All these games matter. That’s why it’s frustrating. This is a game we should’ve put away. We had opportunities, just didn’t get the job done.”
The Giants stranded 11 runners, including six over the final four innings, and also had a man – Pagan – thrown out at home when third-base coach Roberto Kelly tested Christian Yelich’s arm on Matt Duffy’s single to left in the fifth. Had Pagan been held at third, the Giants would have had the bases loaded with one out for Buster Posey.
Instead, it started Pagan’s eventful afternoon. Derek Dietrich led off the next inning with a single against Giants starter Matt Cain, and J.T. Realmuto lofted a playable fly to left. But Pagan, who had his sunglasses propped atop his cap instead of over his eyes, couldn’t locate the ball in the afternoon glare, and it dropped for a double. Dietrich then scored the Marlins’ fourth run off Cain on Miguel Rojas’ sacrifice fly.
“When the ball was hit, I did my best to get it out of the sun, but in that moment the sun was really, really bright,” said Pagan, who said he sometimes takes off his sunglasses in day games to get a better read off the bat.
“I was waiting for the ball to hit me in the mouth. I thought the ball was coming toward me. I didn’t realize the ball kind of sunk away from me. I tried to do the best I could, but the reality was I couldn’t make a play. I’m not going to make any excuses.”
Cain had avoided the fifth-inning pitfall that has defined his early season – he entered this start having allowed all 11 of his runs in that inning – but the Marlins clawed him for single runs in the third through sixth innings, none more emphatic than Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive into the left-field seats to lead off the fourth.
“The sad part is I think he got jammed a little bit,” Cain said.
Cain allowed 10 hits, eight of them singles. In four starts this season, his ERA is 6.43. Cain and manager Bruce Bochy said they believe Cain is still improving, with Bochy calling the right-hander’s outing Sunday “encouraging.”
“He’s a guy I think is going to have a nice year when it’s all said and done,” Bochy said.
Hunter Pence answered Stanton’s home run with an impressive leadoff shot to straightaway center in the fourth that tied it 2-2. The Giants tied the score again 4-4 in the sixth on RBI singles by pinch hitter Brandon Belt and Pagan. The Marlins nosed back ahead in the eighth when Realmuto hit a 2-1 fastball from reliever Josh Osich over the wall in left-center.
That set up perhaps the most frustrating inning of all for the Giants, who loaded the bases in the eighth against Phelps on two walks and Gregor Blanco’s single. The Marlins appeared to be playing their infield back, ceding the tying run for a double play, but they weren’t forced to choose as Pagan hit a bouncer right to Phelps.
“Angel hits that ball anywhere else, we tie the game,” Bochy said. “The double play killed us today.”
The Giants hit into three double plays – including Posey’s to end the third with a runner on third – in a game Bochy termed “one I’m sure we all feel we let get away.”