Carlos Beltran had been playing with injuries throughout most of the early season. He occasionally had to miss a few games due to these aches and pains, but continued to play his way into the lineup with his hot start. When Beltran could not take the pain anymore in June, he became the latest casualty to the injury bug that was claiming players left and right. Once Beltran was placed on the disabled list, the Mets used a center field by committee approach, trying to find a player who could grab the position and keep it steady until Beltran returned.
Fernando Martinez was given a chance to start in center. He was adequate defensively but unimpressive at the plate and was eventually added to the disabled list. Jeremy Reed started the games not started by Martinez and also did nothing to earn the everyday job. Ryan Church was given a few starts in center as well, but that was never going to stick because he was more suited to be a rightfielder and later on, an Atlanta Brave. Enter Angel Pagan.
Pagan came off his second stint on the disabled list right before the All-Star break and was given the start in each of the last three games before the midseason hiatus. The Mets returned from the break and lost their first two games against the Braves. In the third game of the series, Pagan was the hitting star, picking up three hits, including a triple, an RBI and a run scored. Not surprisingly, the Mets defeated the Braves that night. Pagan hasn’t stopped hitting since.
With a triple in Sunday’s series finale against the Astros, Pagan currently has an eight-game hitting streak. During the streak, he is hitting .353 (12-for-34) and has scored nine runs. Pagan is not just slapping singles. He is hitting line drives into the gaps, utilizing his speed to pick up two doubles and three triples over the past eight games. He is also making excellent contact during the streak, as evidenced by his three strikeouts in those 34 at-bats. This recent production has given the Mets the leadoff hitter they have missed since Jose Reyes went down with his injury and the centerfielder they have needed since the loss of Beltran.
Speaking of Reyes and Beltran, both players are aggressive baserunners. Pagan has followed their lead on the bases as well. His hustle out of the batter’s box has stretched routine doubles into triples and he has shown no fear trying to score on bunts, as witnessed by the run he scored on Luis Castillo’s tapper Sunday against the Astros.
Pagan is not just a one-way player. No one will replace Beltran’s Gold Glove in center, but Pagan is doing his best to try. He has played errorless baseball in center field since he was given the everyday job and has made numerous diving and sliding catches to thwart opposing rallies. He also has a fine arm, picking up his fourth outfield assist (in only 26 games) on Sunday when he threw out Geoff Blum at home plate. He already proved that he is a fearless defender as witnessed by his incredible catch against the Dodgers last year that unfortunately ended his season. That “no fear” attitude has helped contribute to a number of Mets’ victories this season and has somewhat lessened the blow of losing Beltran for such an extended period of time.
Angel Pagan has injected some life into this moribund franchise. With his inspired play and win at all costs attitude, the Mets come back to Citi Field feeling a little better about themselves. Mets fans looking for flaws in Pagan’s game might bring up his lack of power, but he’s a leadoff hitter. It’s the leadoff hitter’s job to get on base so that the middle of the order can drive him in. Keeping that in mind, Pagan is surely getting the job done. This Angel is definitely earning his wings and the Mets are certainly thankful for him.