Angel Pagan showed up, and the Giants went in a time warp. They went back to doing things right.
Made the right pitches. Made all the plays, including a few fancy ones. Made it feel like old times – thanks to the presence of Pagan, who played his first big-league game since May 25, the day he hit an inside-the-park, walk-off home run that pulled the Giants into a first-place tie in the National League West.
That was many forgotten dreams ago.
Tim Lincecum and three relievers combined for a shutout in the Giants' 1-0 victory over the Diamondbacks Friday night, perhaps making their fans wonder what might have been if Pagan hadn't missed 84 games, a stretch in which the Giants went 32-52 and dropped to the cellar.
Pagan wasted no time in his comeback game, smoking the third pitch of the night over right fielder Gerardo Parra's head for a double. Right out of the how-to-manufacture-a-run handbook, Marco Scutaro sacrificed Pagan to third, and Brandon Belt hit a medium-deep fly to center, on which Pagan tagged and scored.
He slid with his left leg extended and quickly popped up, showing no ill effects of his left hamstring surgery, a good sign for a team that failed to find an adequate leadoff hitter in Pagan's absence.
Manager Bruce Bochy's lineup was the one projected in spring training. Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres were to platoon in left field, but Pagan's injury forced Bochy to use both regularly, which exposed the team's lack of depth.
"There's no question we missed Angel," Bochy said.
Asked if the season would have been different with a healthy Pagan, Bochy said, "I don't know. I think it would've made some difference. To say we'd be right there (in contention), nah, I don't think you could say that. We had too many areas where we had our hiccups. Pitching, defense. . ."
While rehabbing, Pagan watched the Giants' slide from afar. He said he texted Lincecum during his no-hitter to congratulate him on the performance.
"My teammates are the reason I worked so hard to be back as soon as possible," Pagan said. "I want to be here for the good and the bad. I want to be here with them and help them. Obviously, this isn't the year that we were expecting, but that's just the way it is. There's nothing we can do about that. The only thing we can do is keep playing hard so we can pick it up next season and have a championship season."
Lincecum threw 99 pitches in six innings and got big assists from his infielders. Second baseman Marco Scutaro made a diving stop to rob Parra in the first inning. The next inning, shortstop Brandon Crawford's made a back-to-the-plate catch of Aaron Hill's popup. In the sixth, Pablo Sandoval's diving backhand and strong throw to first retired A.J. Pollock, ending the inning with the bases loaded.
Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo followed Lincecum, and Romo produced his 23rd consecutive scoreless outing at Chase Field, the most by any visiting pitcher in any ballpark since 1921.
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